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Personal: Residential

Improvements in Appliance Efficiency: By Product

Significant improvements have been made to major electrical appliances due to more efficient components, but improvements in efficiency has been spurred by regulatory requirements and a more competitive marketplace.

Average annual energy consumption of major appliances(in kWh/year)

  1984 1990 1997 1999 2002
Top-mounted (16.5–18.4 cu. ft.) 1457 1044 664 664 514
ENERGY STAR qualified - - - - 440
Standard 1213 1026 649 640 592
ENERGY STAR qualified - - - - 492
Clothes washers
Top-loading 1243 1218 930 860 779
ENERGY STAR qualified; Top-loading and front-loading - - - - 299
Clothes dryers
Standard 1214 1103 887 908 916
Compact - - - - 896
Standard chest 813 714 376 383 368
Ranges (30-inch)
Self-cleaning 790 727 759 742 735
Non-self-cleaning 786 780 770 784

Source: National Energy Use Database(NEUD).
* Not a weighted average.
Note: All figures were updated in 2004

Refrigerators and Freezers

Energy efficiency improvements have been particularly dramatic for refrigerators and freezers. The energy efficiency of refrigerators has improved over the past 15 years by close to 190 percent, and freezer efficiency has improved by 138 percent as a result of more stringent energy efficiency requirements in Canada and the USA. Among the technology developments that have contributed to these advances are improved condensers, compressors, evaporators, fan motors and door seals, and the use of foam insulation.

ENERGY STAR® qualified models are 15 percent more efficient than standard models. Compact refrigerators must achieve energy efficiency levels that are at least 20 percent higher than the minimum regulated standards in order to be ENERGY STAR qualified.


Over the past 10 years, a 62 percent efficiency gain for dishwashers is due largely to improved spray arms and filtering systems that provide better movement and wash action, resulting in decreased hot water use due to more stringent energy efficiency requirements and a desire by many jurisdictions to reduce water use. In addition, the air-dry cycle, which bypasses the electrical mode, saves energy.

Dishwashers that display the ENERGY STAR mark are at least 25 percent higher than the minimum regulated Canadian standard.

Clothes Washers

The energy efficiency of clothes washers has improved by 56 percent over that past two decades because of:

  • regulatory requirements
  • better technology, which has resulted in more front-loading models
  • better product design, which has resulted in reduced water and energy use because most of the energy used is to heat the water
  • more cold water rinse options
  • the use of less hot water and more cold water during the warm setting
  • better mixing valves

ENERGY STAR qualified clothes washers use sensors that match water use to the size of each load. Qualified clothes washers also use advanced high-speed motors that reduce the length of spin cycles while removing more water, further reducing the energy needed for drying. The result is a 50 percent decrease in energy use and a 35 to 50 percent decrease in water use.

Clothes Dryers

Although clothes dryers offer little opportunity for energy efficiency improvements, automatic termination controls and moisture sensors have eliminated the human error of over-drying. In the case of gas dryers, the electric ignition systems now found on all units have eliminated energy-wasting continuous pilot lights. More effective extraction of water by the washer has also shortened drying times.

Ranges and Ovens

Given the minimal opportunities to reduce the energy consumption of ranges, ovens and microwave ovens, which are already energy efficient, data has not been collected on these products. Nevertheless, additional oven insulation and tighter-fitting oven door gaskets and hinges are known to have improved the energy efficiency of these appliances.

Air Conditioners

Improvements have also been noted in the energy efficiency of central and room air conditioners, new coil designs, more efficient compressors and better air circulation systems have contributed to a 51 percent gain in efficiency. The EnerGuide label has been a requirement since 1995.

ENERGY STAR qualified room air conditioners use at least 10 percent less energy than conventional models, and ENERGY STAR qualified central air-conditioning systems are about 20 percent more efficient than standard models.