Press Release: New Report Explores Ways to Encourage Consumers To Buy Energy-Efficient Home Appliances

For Immediate Release:
October 31, 2000

Contact: Katie Mandes, 703-516-4146
             Dale Curtis, 202-777-3530

New Report Explores Ways to Encourage Consumers To Buy Energy-Efficient Home Appliances

Washington, DC - Public policies to encourage turnover of aging home appliances and purchases of more efficient models could help reduce the emissions linked to global warming, according to a new report released by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

"The economics are generally attractive for consumers to upgrade to energy-efficient models when they replace old or broken appliances," said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. "But without targeted public policies, consumers may be unaware of the potential cost savings and environmental benefits of doing so."

"This important Pew Center report illustrates how the use of energy-efficient appliances can help combat climate change," said Jeff Fettig, President and CEO, Whirlpool Corporation. "At Whirlpool, we believe that sound policy can stimulate companies to produce more energy-efficient products and encourage consumers to buy them."

"At Maytag, the extraordinary consumer acceptance of our Neptune washer provides clear evidence that consumers will purchase environmentally friendly appliances if those products also provide superior performance," said Lawrence J. Blanford, President, Major Appliance Division, Maytag Corporation. "Consumer education programs, such as the recent Boston washer study conducted by the Department of Energy and Maytag, bring the message to consumers that they and the nation benefit when they replace their older, less efficient appliance with a newer, high efficiency model."

Lessons On What Works, What Doesn't

The report, entitled "Global Warming and Appliances: Increasing Consumer Participation in Reducing Greenhouse Gases," was written by two leading experts in the field: Everett Shorey of Shorey Consulting, Inc. and Tom Eckman of the Northwest Power Planning Council.

The paper frames the policy issues by identifying the major home appliances that require the most electricity, such as refrigerators, clothes washers, and room air conditioners. Then it analyzes the economic ramifications for consumers of various appliance purchase options. Next it identifies important consumer characteristics to be considered at different stages in the appliance purchase process. Finally, it reviews past attempts to influence consumer choice through public policy initiatives and suggests how new initiatives could be targeted more effectively.

Experience from these past programs has demonstrated that:
  • Well crafted programs including rebates, publicity, and assistance in disposing of old appliances appear to motivate consumers to replace refrigerators before the end of the expected life of the appliance. It is likely that the refrigerator experience can be generalized to other appliances.
  • There is little or no evidence that consumer tax credits are effective in influencing a significant number of consumers to change their purchasing behavior.
  • Energy labels and the US EPA's Energy Star logo are good indicators of cost-effective and energy-efficient appliances, but the labels in themselves are insufficient to cause substantial change in consumer purchasing practices.

The more successful programs offer insights that should drive the development of any future programs:

  • It is much easier to influence consumers who are actively engaged in appliance purchases than to influence the general public.
  • Retail appliance salespeople have significant influence on consumer choice. Incentives aimed at the salesperson, coupled with simple sales tools, can steer consumers in the direction of energy-efficient appliances.
  • Direct financial incentives for consumers may not be necessary.
Continuation of Solutions Series

The appliance report is the second in a new series of reports aimed at identifying solutions to the challenges presented by climate change. Other Pew Center series focus on domestic and international policy issues, environmental impacts, and the economics of climate change.

A complete copy of these and other Pew Center reports can be accessed from the Pew Center's web site,

About the Pew Center: The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by the Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States' largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment. The Pew Center is a nonprofit, non-partisan and independent organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, leads the Pew Center. The Pew Center includes the Business Environmental Leadership Council, a group of large, mostly Fortune 500 corporations all working with the Pew Center to address issues related to climate change. The companies do not contribute financially to the Pew Center; it is solely supported by contributions from charitable foundations.