Hail to the Chief who enacted tougher energy standards

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With the 2012 Presidential campaign kicking into high gear, we decided to field a bonus question to our Energy IQ Quiz on the Consumer Reports Facebook page. Here it is: The first federal standards to make appliances more efficient were signed into law under which president? So far, 45 percent of respondents have identified the correct Commander-in-chief. Care to hazard a guess?

If you guessed Ronald Reagan, you're right. The 40th President signed the first standards into law as part of the National Appliance Energy Conservation Acts of 1987 and 1988. Those initial standards covered several major appliances, including refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines. Additional standards were adopted under George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. As a result, today some 55 product categories are covered.

Appliance efficiency standards have done a lot to offset other increases in residential energy consumption, including those brought on by a rapid and robust increase in home electronics. As we report in the energy IQ quiz, today's refrigerators use about 70 percent less energy than those manufactured in the 1970s. Energy consumption for central air conditioners is down about 50 percent, and it's down about 25 percent for gas furnaces.

The standards have been a boon for consumers, according to an analysis by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. The advocacy group found that a typical household replacing its major appliances every 15 years will save more than 180 megawatt-hours of electricity and over 200,000 gallons of water between 1995 and 2040 by purchasing products that comply with minimum standards. Total dollar savings over this 45-year period will exceed $30,000.

That's a big win for the Gipper.


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