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Smart Appliances May Not Elude Energy Efficiency Regulations (1)

Sept. 14, 2018, 7:08 PM; Updated: Sept. 14, 2018, 8:22 PM

The Energy Department is asking whether the energy usage of internet-connected home appliances, such as Samsung Family Hub refrigerators that can report the weather and play music, should be regulated.

The department is requesting public feedback on how it should approach regulating the energy efficiency of home appliances such as refrigerators, televisions, dishwashers, and clothing washers and dryers that are wifi-connected.

Energy efficiency advocates welcomed the agency assessing how it handles the growing field of appliances that are internet connected. But appliance manufacturer groups advised that DOE not to issue new regulations that could stifle innovation in the home appliance space.

The Energy Department is asking for comment by Nov. 16 on whether and how it should go about measuring the energy usage of smart features on appliances and equipment for the purpose of energy efficiency standards.

“Most of DOE’s test procedures and regulations today do not yet account for the incremental energy use caused by adding internet connectivity,” Noah Horowitz, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Center for Energy Efficiency Standards, told Bloomberg Environment.

Avoid Stifling Innovation

But the agency made sure to note its intent to gather information is “to ensure that DOE does not inadvertently impede such innovation in fulfilling its statutory responsibilities.”

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers “strongly opposes changes to the test procedures that would try to account for energy from connected functions,” Jennifer Cleary, vice president of regulatory affairs at AHAM, told Bloomberg Environment in an email.

That association represents home appliance manufacturers such as Samsung Electronics America Inc., LG Electronics, and Whirlpool Corp.

John Taylor, senior vice president government affairs at LG Electronics, said he believes his company sells the most wifi-enabled devices on the market today.

“We’re looking forward to working with DOE on this,” he told Bloomberg Environment. “We do share their concerns on not impeding innovation and we see the need for collaboration with industry and across the other parts of the federal government.”

Cleary also said internet-connected appliances can end up saving consumers electricity costs in the end, citing an example of a consumer receiving an alert if the refrigerator door is left open. Also, some smart appliances can communicate with utilities on energy usage.

“These are not small contributions and must be considered,” she said, although the industry still doesn’t have meaningful data on consumer usage of the smart appliances since its still early in the stages of developing such products.

Standby Power Mode Adds Up

Horowitz said one smart home appliance in most homes today is a smart television, such as an Apple TV, that is connected to the internet. He said smart TVs currently are included in the agency’s test procedures to measure standby power, and as such, don’t capture the high levels of standby power that poorly designed TVs use.

“We need to make sure that industry keeps their eye on the prize and makes sure their internet connected devices don’t consume excessive amounts of energy while in standby mode,” he said. “Even small increases in standby power can really add up as there are billions of devices in our homes that are, or soon will be, connected to the internet.”

(Adds comment from LG Electronics starting in the ninth paragraph)

To contact the reporter on this story: Rebecca Kern in Washington at rkern@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bloombergenvironment.com

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