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The way we use energy around the home is not something we’re now taking for granted in the 21st Century. Our appliances are key areas that come to mind when we think about energy consumption.  Yet, more and more demand from the public for appliances, large and small from washing machines to iPods, are also a sign of our times.

How is the appliance industry responding to our new paradigm of energy efficiency? Writer, and domestic appliance expert Halit Bozdogan is here to present a take on where we’re headed  …

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Is there a breaking point when it comes to our planet? Are advancements in technology and science actually going to help when it comes to the big picture of energy conservation?

Looking at the planet as a whole, the global population in 1970 was estimated to be 4 billion. In the 40 years since, we have seen a steady increase due to better health care and increasing standards of living. In 2012, the population stands at approximately 7 billion, with the forecast of another 2 billion added by 2040.

That’s a lot of people using the resources available to us. It’s not difficult to see that this results in an adverse negative effect when it comes to the environment. Of course it does. More people mean more strain on those resources. More waste products, more materials used. Looking at the United States and China alone, it’s remarkable that they account for a massive 41% of the total annual global emission of CO2 each year.

Common sense and domestic appliance use

It’s probably no surprise to hear a leading cause of energy usage is domestic appliances. In the US, over 20% of the total electrical energy consumption used comes from the home. It’s pretty obvious when you think about it. There’s at least one appliance in almost every household. We use them on a daily basis and often multiple times in one day.  It’s clear to see that this impact cannot be underestimated.

Even in smaller countries, the effect is staggering. In the United Kingdom during 1970, the electrical consumption from domestic appliances was thought to be the equivalent of almost 3,000 tonnes of oil. Today, this estimate has reached a staggering 7,000 tonnes. Lighting alone consumes up to 33% of the household consumption rate, closely followed by cooking (32%) and cooling (14%).

The appliance market as it stands

So where is this heading? Well, according to a recent retail report from analysis company GfK, the appliance industry is proving to be a formidable beast that shows no sign of stopping. In 2011 it was noted that although the market was in slight decline in places such as America, there was a 30% increase in sales throughout Saudi Arabia and Africa. Eastern Europe also reached some of the highest levels of appliance sales, mainly due to the internet providing lower prices for units.

So the bottom line is we are using more appliances than ever.  It’s not difficult to see what consumers actually want; convenience and practicality. Most people want something that does the job it is supposed to, and do it well. The highest quality for the lowest cost.

Appliances are convenient, but initially, it did come at a cost. Over the long term, they haven’t been particularly energy efficient, which wasn’t a concern at the start.

Appliance industry response: efficiency and sustainability in balance

Due to the limitations of technology initially, it meant that damage to the environment wasn’t really at the top of the priority list. For example, the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and hydro fluorocarbons (HFC) in cooling appliances were common for years, but it wasn’t until the ’70s that they were deemed to be harmful to the environment. And it wasn’t until much later, in 1987, that the Montreal Protocol was sanctioned, which eventually sought to phase out these substances.

The appliance industry has tried to respond since then when it comes to energy saving. Now, energy efficiency is seen as one of the foundations of product development for manufacturers in residential, commercial and industrial sectors.

There is a minimum level of energy performance that must be adhered to now, with the state of California being a major contributor to getting this process standardised throughout the industry in the US.

The European Union also issued a similar energy efficiency directive in 2011, which also includes maintaining current and increasing future domestic appliance efficiency as part of the directive.

Communication is key

Even if the issue of energy usage is being addressed, consumers still want to have appliances that make life convenient right? It’s a great thing that they won’t damage the environment as much, but at what cost? Will we have to sacrifice the easy life for a safe one? Some manufacturers don’t think so. Companies such as LG have created energy efficient products that also provide the cutting edge technology which is expected today.

At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, LG unveiled their innovative ThinQ™ range of domestic appliances. Providing device to device connectivity and energy management tools, you can now use your phone or computer to control how and when you use appliances.

For example, your washing machine could scan local electricity rates and inform you of the most ecological time to start a laundry cycle, taking advantage of the lowest prices. The fridge freezer would also work in this regard, readjusting environmental settings to reduce energy usage at night-time to conserve power. It could even inform you via your smart phone if the door is left open accidentally.

Samsung have also followed suit, with a similar development of ‘smart’ appliances that communicate with each other.  They feel that once communication throughout the home is possible, then changes to energy usage can be much more effective and efficient.

It’s clear to see that the domestic appliance market is taking steps to reduce the impact made on the environment. The question is will it be enough to make the difference needed.

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Thanks, Halit!

Halit Bozdogan is a writer for Appliances Online. They are currently running a green survey to give you the chance to voice your concerns and opinions regarding eco-information given about appliances.

{Kitchen image via luxury-interior.org}

{Sources: ENEA, Agency for new technologies, energy and environment. GfK.com, ec.europa.eu, LG, and greentechadvocates.com}

Cheers,

Rob.

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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.