California, U.S. 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 vote, the California Energy Commission approved standards to be phased in starting in 2006 that will require all televisions, VCRs, and DVD players sold in the state to run on 1 to 3 W.
Even when idle, most models of such home entertainment devices currently use 2 to 10 W. Power adapters will be required to draw a half-watt or less.
The average California household has 10 to 20 of the appliances, which, according to estimates, cost consumers up to U.S. $75 a year in wasted electricity. The requirements will save commercial and residential users more than $3 billion throughout 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."
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 U.S. federal government already has adopted energy-efficiency standards for different appliances, including residential refrigerators, clothes washers, and dishwashers; the new state regulations do 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 most populous state in the U.S. and a crucial consumer market. (Newsday.com)
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