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Don’t just press the button! – Why appliance settings increasingly matter for efficiency delivery and rulemaking

Panel: 7. Appliances, product policy and the ICT supply chain

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Stamatis Sivitos, European Commission, Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME), Belgium
Edouard Toulouse, Consultant, France
Christoforos Spiliotopoulos, ECOS, Belgium
Rainer Stamminger, University of Bonn


Appliances and energy-using products are getting more energy efficient, but they also tend to become more and more sophisticated with a multiplication of programmes and auxiliary features. The way they are set and used becomes a critical determinant of their real life energy consumption, which can vary greatly depending on a single initial setting or usage routine.

Irrational or poorly informed behaviour with respect to appliance energy consumption may be a tangible setback in the path towards a lower energy consuming world. This should be an area of interest and concern for those who seek to achieve energy savings.

Yet, user behaviour regarding several energy-using appliances, is still relatively understudied and overlooked. Experience shows that it is often a weak spot in the preparatory work underpinning energy efficient product policies and programmes, and this can hamper their development and adequacy. The recent controversial dispute over the way people use vacuum cleaners in real life and the energy impact of this, during the preparation of EU’s regulations, is an illustration.

One particularly interesting aspect is the growing development of so-called ‘eco-modes’. These operating modes are meant to showcase a product’s environmental excellence, but are users actually going for them? In some appliances, ‘Eco-modes’ may be so artificial and far from convenient (e.g. washing machine programmes that last many hours) that in reality they will not be desired and actual energy use will be much higher than claimed.

This can have serious policy implications. For instance, if manufacturers are allowed to use these artificial ‘eco-modes’ as the basis for assessing their products’ energy performance, energy labels may mislead consumers, minimum efficiency requirements may become too easy to meet, and a fair and honest comparison between products and manufacturers would be hindered. Insights on current processes to develop measurement standards for EU efficiency regulations show that this is a real threat.

This paper discusses these issues, and illustrates them with recent examples. It then provides recommendations to better take product use aspects into account, so that product energy efficiency does not just remain on paper but becomes reality.


Download this presentation as pdf: 7-323-15_Sivitos_pre.pdf

Download this paper as pdf: 7-323-15_Sivitos.pdf