IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

6.4.11 Household appliances, consumer electronics and office equipment

Energy use by household appliances, office equipment and consumer electronics, from now on referred to as ‘appliances’, is an important fraction of total electricity use in both households and workplaces (Kawamoto et al., 2001; Roth et al., 2002). This equipment is more than 40% of total residential primary energy demand in 11 large OECD nations[8] (IEA, 2004f). The largest growth in electricity demand has been in miscellaneous equipment (home electronics, entertainment, communications, office equipment and small kitchen equipment), which has been evident in all industrialized countries since the early 1980s. Such miscellaneous equipment now accounts for 70% of all residential appliance electricity use in the 11 large OECD nations (IEA, 2004f). Appliances in some developing countries constitute a smaller fraction of residential energy demand. However, the rapid increase in their saturation in many dynamically developing countries such as China, especially in urban areas, demonstrates the expected rise in importance of appliances in the developing world as economies grow (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 2004).

On a primary energy basis appliances undoubtedly represent a larger portion of total energy use for residential than for commercial buildings. In the United States, for example, they account for almost 55% of total energy consumption in commercial buildings. Miscellaneous equipment and lighting combined account for more than half of total energy consumption in commercial buildings in the United States and Japan (Koomey et al., 2001; Murakami et al., 2006).

The most efficient appliances require a factor of two to five less energy than the least efficient appliances available today. For example, in the USA, the best horizontal-axis clothes-washing machines use less than half the energy of the best vertical-axis machines (FEMP, 2002), while refrigerator/freezer units meeting the current US standard (478 kWh/yr) require about 25% of the energy used by refrigerator/freezers sold in the USA in the late 1970s (about 1800 kWh/yr) and about 50% of energy used in the late 1980s. Available refrigerator/freezers of standard US size use less than 400 kWh/yr (Brown et al., 1998). However, this is still in excess of the average energy use by (generally smaller) refrigerators in Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy in the late 1990s (IEA, 2004f).

Standby and low power mode use by consumer electronics (i.e., energy used when the machine is turned off) in a typical household in many countries often exceeds the energy used by a refrigerator/freezer unit that meets the latest US standards, that is often more than 500 kWh/yr, (Bertoldi et al., 2002). The growing proliferation of electronic equipment such as set-top boxes for televisions, a wide variety of office equipment (in homes as well as offices) and sundry portable devices with attendant battery chargers – combined with inefficient power supplies (Calwell and Reeder, 2002) and highly inefficient circuit designs that draw unnecessary power in the resting or standby modes – have caused this equipment to be responsible for a large fraction of the electricity demand growth in both residential and commercial buildings in many nations. Efforts are underway especially at the International Energy Agency and several countries (e.g., Korea, Australia, Japan and China) to reduce standby energy use by a factor of two to three (Ross and Meier, 2002; Fung et al., 2003). Electricity use by office equipment may not yet be large compared to electricity use by the HVAC system, but (as noted) it is growing rapidly and is already an important source of internal heat gain in offices and some other commercial buildings. The biggest savings opportunities are: 1) improved power supply efficiency in both active and low-power modes, 2) redesigned computer chips that reduce electricity use in low-power mode, and 3) repeated reminders to users to turn equipment off during non-working hours.

The cooking stove, already referred to in Section for heating, is a major energy-using appliance in developing countries. However, there is particular concern about emissions of products of incomplete combustion described in that section. Two-and-a-half billion people in developing countries depend on biomass, such as wood, dung, charcoal and agricultural residues, to meet their cooking energy needs (IEA, 2006e). Options available to reduce domestic cooking energy needs include: 1) improved efficiency of biomass stoves; 2) improved access to clean cooking fuels, both liquid and gaseous; 3) access to electricity and low-wattage and low-cost appliances for low income households; 4) non-electric options such as solar cookers; 5) efficient gas stoves; and 6) small electric cooking equipment such as microwaves, electric kettles or electric frying pans. Improved biomass stoves can save from 10 to 50% of biomass consumption for the same cooking service (REN21 (Renewable Energy Policy Network), 2005) at the same time reducing indoor air pollution by up to one-half. Although the overall impact on emissions from fuel switching can be either positive or negative, improved modern fuels and greater conversion efficiency would result in emission reductions from all fuels (IEA, 2006e).

  1. ^  Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.