Landmark Agreement Reached to Improve Clothes Washers


Tuesday, May 23, 2000
11:00 a.m., EST

Andrew DeLaski at (617) 363-9470 or Howard Geller at 429-8873

Consumers to Save Over $25 Billion

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Appliance manufacturers, energy efficiency advocates, and public officials will announce a landmark agreement to improve household appliance energy efficiency on Capitol Hill today. The agreement, covering appliance efficiency standards, incentives, and information programs, culminates months of negotiations between appliance manufacturers and a broad coalition of public interest advocates. The agreement includes joint recommendations for:

  • new minimum efficiency standards for clothes washers,
  • tax credits for manufacturers who produce washers or refrigerators that exceed the efficiency standards, and
  • new qualification levels in order for these products to obtain the voluntary Energy Star label designation.

"America's laundry ‘load' will get a lot lighter thanks to this agreement. Specifically, the agreement will reduce the load on consumers' wallets, the load on utility power plants and water systems, and the load on the environment," said Howard Geller, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and a participant in the negotiations.

"The clothes washer standards that manufacturers have agreed to will reduce hot water use and the total energy consumption associated with clothes washers by about one-third. As a result, consumers will cut their energy, water, and detergent purchases by over $25 billion during the next 30 years," noted Geller. A typical family now spends about $200 per year on energy, water, and detergent for doing laundry. The new efficiency standards, which will be phased-in starting in 2004 and affect all new washers sold in the U.S., are expected to be issued by the Department of Energy by the end of this year.

To encourage even higher levels of efficiency than required by the standards, public interest groups join manufacturers in supporting tax credits for highly efficient washers and refrigerators. "The tax credits will speed up the production of state-of-the-art products, providing additional energy and water savings while helping manufacturers to offset their investment costs. We urge the Congress to enact these tax credits this year," added Geller.

"This is a significant victory for the environment," said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project and another participant in the negotiations. "The water savings will reach up to 11 trillion gallons, meaning less water needs to be pumped from America's aquifers and rivers, and less strain on already overtaxed water and sewer systems," deLaski added.

The energy savings will reach over 4 quadrillion Btus – equivalent to the annual energy use of about 21 million households – meaning less fuel needs to be burned to generate electricity and heat water. This in turn reduces local and regional air pollution and cuts emissions of the gases causing global warming. The agreement is expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 310 million metric tons over the next 30 years. Carbon dioxide, released from burning coal, oil, and natural gas, is the main gas causing the warming of the earth's atmosphere that is now occurring.

"This is a ‘win-win agreement' — it will benefit consumers, manufacturers and the environment. We commend the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers and its members for accepting it. We also applaud the efforts of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and Assistant Secretary Dan Reicher for helping to ‘bring the parties to the table' and for supporting the negotiations," commented Steven Nadel, Deputy Director of ACEEE and coordinator of the public interest groups that participated in the negotiations.

The new clothes washer standard is one of several standards the Department of Energy has committed to upgrade this year. The Department proposed new standards for water heaters last month and is expected to propose new central air conditioner standards this summer. Improving air conditioner efficiency is especially important because of the strain cooling equipment places on the electric system as evidenced by power outages in Chicago, New York, New Orleans and other regions of the country last summer. "The Energy Department can more than double the energy savings achieved with today's agreement and reduce the likelihood of future power blackouts by setting a strong new air conditioner standard," deLaski noted.

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The Appliance Standards Awareness Project is dedicated to increasing understanding of and support for national appliance and equipment energy efficiency standards. ASAP is sponsored by leading environmental groups, consumer groups and state government and utilities.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is a non-profit organization established in 1980 and dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of promoting both economic prosperity and environmental protection. A diverse group of foundations, private companies, utilities, and federal and state agencies provide funding for ACEEE's work. For more information, visit the ACEEE web site at