From: Don Thompson, Associated Press
Published December 16, 2004 12:00 AM

California Energy Regulators Require More Efficient Appliances

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California regulators are forcing manufacturers of household electronics such as TVs, DVD players and cell phone chargers to make their products more energy efficient under new rules that could spark a nationwide trend toward wattage-thrifty small appliances.

In a 5-0 Wednesday vote, the California Energy Commission approved standards to be phased in starting in 2006 that will require all televisions, videocassette recorders and DVD players sold in the state to run on a stingy one to three watts.

Even when idle, most models of such home entertainment devices currently use two to 10 watts.

Power adapters -- those little black boxes you push into the socket to power phones, razors, computer components and the like -- will be required to draw a half-watt or less. Left plugged in, many adapters become warm to the touch, a sign that they're wasting juice.

The average California household has 10 to 20 of the appliances -- nicknamed "energy vampires" -- which, according to estimates, cost consumers up to $75 a year in wasted electricity. The requirements will save commercial and residential users more than $3 billion over 15 years, the commission calculated.


Commissioners adopted the regulations after extensive negotiations with manufacturers in the U.S. and major supplier nations such as China and Australia, said commission spokesman Rob Schlichting. Manufacturers were granted delays in phasing in the requirements on some appliances, largely muting the opposition.

The standards will mean the state can avoid building the equivalent of three new power plants in the next decade, said Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, who chairs the commission's efficiency committee.

Put another way, once the standards are fully phased in by 2008, they'll save more electricity than is used by the 350,000-plus households in San Francisco, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, which promoted the regulations.

"Consumers don't have to sacrifice anything. The soda will still be cold from the vending machine, the swimming pool pump will still circulate the water," said Noah Horowitz, a scientist with the group. "We're substituting new, more efficient technologies ... rather than building new power plants."

Pacific Gas & Electric backed the regulations on behalf of the utility industry, citing the savings to consumers, the environment and the power supply.

Among the appliances affected: incandescent lamps; audio and video equipment; residential pool pumps and portable electric spas; evaporative coolers; ceiling fans, exhaust fans and whole house fans; commercial ice makers, refrigerators and freezers; vending machines; commercial hot food holding cabinets and water dispensers.

The federal government already has adopted energy efficiency standards for different appliances, including residential refrigerators, clothes washers and dishwashers; the new state regulations does not affect those.

California is the first state to impose the regulations; proponents hope the move will force others to follow suit, since California is the nation's most populous state and a crucial consumer market.

Source: Associated Press

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