Search eceee proceedings

Thinking Outside the Refrigerator: Shutting Down Power Plants with NAECA?

Panel: Panel 11. Appliances and Equipment

Reuben Deumling, University of California, Berkeley


Refrigerator energy efficiency standards and derivative programs such as product rebates, early replacement incentives, and the ENERGY STAR label are credited with dramatically increasing the efficiency of new refrigerators over the past few decades. This improvement has contributed to a reduction in total energy consumption of US domestic refrigerators relative to the peak in the mid-1980s. However, per household, US refrigerators still consume more energy than in any other country, and nearly three times as much as when refrigerators first achieved ‘saturation’ in the US. This paper distinguishes two conceptual frameworks in which refrigerators circulate: one focused on technical—product-level—efficiency improvements, the other on averting global climate change through large absolute reductions in energy consumption. This paper argues that success in the first realm does not guarantee success in the second.

Technical insights gained in the course of eighty years of refrigerator design have not managed to offset the increased overall energy demand due to growth in the number of households. What makes absolute reductions difficult is the compatibility of energy efficiency standards and programs with continuing growth in refrigerator size, in the number of refrigerators per household, and in their average level of energy-consuming features. Together these three non-demographic trends make up about 75% of the nearly five-fold increase in total refrigerator energy consumption since the late 1950s. Without recognizing and reversing the growth in this portion, reducing GHG emissions from refrigerators in line with IPCC goals will not be possible.


Download this paper as pdf: Paper

Panels of

Panel 2. Residential Buildings: Program Design, Implementation, and Evaluation

Panel 1. Residential Buildings: Technologies, Design, Performance Analysis, and Building Industry Trends

Panel 3. Commercial Buildings: Technologies, Design, Performance Analysis, and Building Industry Trends

Panel 4. Commercial Buildings: Program Design, Implementation, and Evaluation

Panel 6. Market Transformation: Designing for Lasting Change

Panel 5. Utility Regulation and Deregulation: Incentives, Strategies, and Policies

Panel 7. Human and Social Dimensions of Energy Use: Trends and Their Implications

Panel 9. Efficient Buildings in Efficient Communities

Panel 8. Energy and Environmental Policy: Changing the Climate for Energy Efficiency

Panel 10. Roundtables: Thinking Outside the Box

Panel 11. Appliances and Equipment