Advancing Efficiency Product by Product

Advancing Efficiency Product by Product



In 1993, the newly formed CEE looked at home appliances to see what could be done to create a supply of highly efficient products. Two years after the founding of CEE in 1991, no American manufacturers were making energy efficient clothes washers, so CEE members identified the strategy of developing a mutually agreed-to and understood specification that would change that.


Two important events occurred in 1996. First, CEE members adopted the CEESM Home Appliances Initiative. The process took stock of manufacturer feedback and established multiple tiers of energy efficiency for home appliances: refrigerators, clothes washers, dishwashers, and room air conditioners. Establishing multiple tiers of efficiency based on market and product analysis allowed each program administrator to promote the level of efficiency that best met local conditions, while offering manufacturers a nationally consistent definition. Tier 1 became the base level of advanced efficiency, with higher tiers indicated for programs with a need for greater savings.

Second, the US government opted to expand ENERGY STAR® to include home appliances. Now programs had a national marketing platform that would identify efficient products in the market and build support behind local efforts.

CEE tiers are instituted as the result of a painstaking process, where multiple factors are scrutinized and input is welcomed. Because of the care CEE members take in establishing the precise definitions of efficiency for a product, programs that voluntarily adopt these definitions can have a real market impact.


Remember that in 1993 there were no efficient clothes washers. Due to the power of well-vetted information and program promotional dollars, by 1999 70 high efficiency models were available and one million energy efficient clothes washers had been sold.

It is even more instructive to look at what's happened to efficiency tiers over the years the CEESM Home Appliances Initiative has been in effect.

  • Tier 1 for clothes washers moved from a modified energy factor of 1.26 in 2001 to a more efficient 2.38 today, more than an 80 percent increase. Today's Tier 3 has advanced to a modified energy factor of 2.92.
  • A similar story exists for dishwashers, which have moved from a Tier 1 energy factor of .52 in 2000 to .75 today, increasing energy performance by 40 percent.
  • During this same period, both the clothes washer and dishwasher specifications also evolved to include water efficiency requirements.

Energy efficiency is a distinguishing characteristic of any product that plugs into the wall or attaches to a gas pipe. It takes time and focus to ferret out the appropriate levels to apply within each product category. But when programs agree on common definitions, such as those in the Home Appliances Initiative, tremendous gains can be made.

CEE seeks opportunities to create market infrastructure supporting efficiency.
Carefully establishing and advancing multiple tiers of efficiency, adopted by program administrators in both the United States and Canada, is an important tool for driving greater efficiency through market mechanisms.

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