Assuming that the energy use could be cut radically by 50 per cent by using only the best available technology, the annual energy use for household appliances in Sweden would decrease from 19.6 TWh to 9.8 TWh. If everyone who had to invest in a new household appliance would choose the most energy efficient product available, this decrease in energy use could be a reality within the next 15 years, assuming that this is the average lifetime of household appliances and that the use of electrical appliances would be the same as today.

Reduction of peak load

Using energy-efficient household appliances also has a positive effect on the electrical grid because it can be dimensioned for a lower peak load. The peaks appear mostly during winter, in the morning hours and in the late afternoons when people are at home using their electrical appliances. The less installed power a household has, the less it influences the total load on the electrical grid. Today there are no limits on how many watts a household is allowed to have installed. A regulation might help to avoid extreme peak situations where fossil fuels have to be used as additional sources of energy. A vision into the future might show solutions where electricity providers are given the possibility of deciding by remote control when water is heated or laundry is dried in order to even out the power load. This way, the electricity provider will be able to optimize their production system. This could result in a new kind of contract between electricity providers and consumers, where the remote control option for the electricity provider gives lower energy costs for the consumer. Similar solutions affecting only the electrical space heating of houses is already in use in Germany.

Alternative energy sources

Using alternative energy sources for household appliances can help to reduce the load on the electrical grid. Under certain circumstances, it will also help to reduce CO2 emissions and the primary energy use. On the European market for white goods, there are, for example, washing machines with two water connections that can be connected to the domestic hot and cold water (Spargeräte website, 2005). If the DHW is provided by non-electric renewable energy sources, there will be an improvement in environmental performance. The DHW can be heated by either solar collectors, biomass or by environmentally friendly district heating. Some appliances on the market also use natural gas, which can be an alternative to electricity if it is available. The use of natural gas will again help to reduce the load on the electrical grid; but the environmental gains are limited on the Nordic market since the electricity generation is not based on fossil fuels.

A massive reduction of installed power in a household makes the use of standalone solar photovoltaic systems interesting for covering at least parts of the electricity use of appliances. With a minimized load, the battery backup of a solar PV system can be dimensioned to cover not only the dark period of a night, but also longer periods of darkness during winter months. Many of today's appliances can be run on direct current (DC) so that there are no conversion losses necessary to convert the solar electricity to alternating current (AC). Today, ventilation fans for apartments or single family houses can run on DC (Ziehl-ebm website, 2005) and there are several DC products on the market for lighting, refrigerators and freezers.

Investment costs and payback time

The question is when an investment in energy-efficient household appliances can be justified. From a consumer's perspective, if an old appliance in an existing house is to be replaced with a new appliance, it can generally be justified when the price level of efficient appliances is the same as for standard appliances. Unfortunately, the market situation does not always make best available technology a good choice economically. Due to higher investment costs for developing such a product, the producers tend to offer the product at a price that is higher than a standard appliance. The increase in price largely corresponds to the cost savings due to the lower energy use. The payback time for the most energy efficient appliances on the market can be extremely long though. No customers, except perhaps enthusiasts, would buy a tumble dryer that is three times as expensive as a standard one that costs about €540. A standard tumble dryer, presented on the Swedish Consumer Agency's homepage (www.konsumentverket.se), uses 3.53 kWh for one drying procedure. The most efficient tumble dryer uses 1.75 kWh. If a tumble dryer is used three times a week and if the price for electricity is calculated as €0.11 per kWh, including taxes, the yearly savings will be (3.53-1.75) x 3 x 52 x 0.11 = €30.50 and the resulting payback time is €1080/€30.50/a = 35 years (€1080 is the difference in price between a standard tumble dryer and the most energy efficient one). Unfortunately, this makes the most efficient tumble dryer a very bad investment since its payback time is much longer than its expected lifetime. It has to be emphasized that despite this negative example, there are many energy efficient appliances that are offered at a reasonable price level. So, even for a household with an average or low income there are possibilities of saving energy by choosing products at a low price level. The price of durables does, of course, not only depend on their energy performance, but rather on the quality or the prestige of the brand. The competition among retailers on the national market is limited and a few producers of white goods dominate the market. Mostly, the same products as on the Swedish market, but also many appliances using natural gas or washing machines with two water connections, can be found at a lower price level in neighbouring European Union countries. Alone, the differences in value-added tax could make it interesting for a private consumer to import the product from another European country.

Responsibility for investment

The problem, especially in the Swedish housing market, is that the building contractors of new homes primarily offer turnkey projects with all white goods already included. It is in the builder's interest to simply buy the cheapest products available to increase their margin of profit. The buyer, on the other hand, should be interested in the product with the lowest energy use since this will affect their energy bill for the next decade or even longer. When investing in a new home, it should, therefore, be the buyer and not the builder who decides on which appliances are to be installed. In other European countries, as, for example, Germany, it is common that the buyer of a house is responsible for the appliances since the houses are generally sold without any household appliances at all. In Sweden, a conflict also occurs with rental apartments. The house owner usually lets the apartment with all white goods already installed, having an interest only in investing in the cheapest equipment. The tenant then has to pay the electricity bill without being able to affect energy use.

14.3.6 Conclusions

On a large scale, the use of energy-efficient household appliances together with a general reduction in installed power in dwellings will have a positive impact on our energy system. This change could allow us to either use the available energy and power for other purposes or to close down energy plants that could be harmful to the environment. In addition, energy efficient appliances help to keep a comfortable indoor climate with less overheating in modern, well-insulated buildings.


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Institut, Darmstadt, Germany Feist, W. (2001) Energieeffizienz, Passivhaus Institut, Darmstadt, Germany, www.passiv.de Fung, A. S., Aulenback, A., Ferguson, A. and Ugursal, V I. (2003) 'Standby power requirements of household appliances in Canada', Energy and Buildings, vol 35, pp217-228 GEMIS (2004) Global Emission Model for Integrated Systems, Öko-Institut, Germany,

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Building Design, Lund University, Lund, Sweden Lövehed, L. (1995) Villa '95, Report TABK-95/3029, Institutionen för byggnadskonstruktionslära, LTH, Lund, Sweden

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Konsumentverket: www.konsumentverket.se Spargeräte: www.spargeraete.de Ziehl-ebm: www.ziehl-ebm.se

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