Appliances and Equipment

More efforts needed
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About this report

Energy consumption by appliances and equipment continues to grow, driven largely by increasing numbers of buildings and expanding ownership and use of energy-consuming devices, especially in emerging economies.

To get on track with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, most appliances and equipment being sold in 2030 need to match today’s best available technology. Despite improvements in efficiency resulting from stricter minimum energy performance standards in many regions, further gains are needed and must be accompanied by shifts in user-centred behaviour to reduce household electricity needs. Governments need to enhance current efforts to realise this goal.

The appliances and equipment covered in this section are main electricity plug-in loads. The major appliances are refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, dryers and televisions, while the remaining plug load comprises other consumer electronics and small miscellaneous appliances. Appliances and equipment used for heating, cooking, cooling and lighting are treated separately.

CO2 emissions

In 2021 emissions from the appliances and equipment rebounded slightly. Improvements in the carbon intensity of electricity have counteracted the upward pressure from increasing activity and energy demand. To get on track with the Net Zero Scenario a further increase in energy efficiency is required along with continued reduction in the carbon intensity of electricity. Prioritising the use of stronger minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) and further decarbonising of electricity production will be key to achieving this objective.

CO2 emissions from, and emissions intensity of, appliances in the Net Zero Scenario, 2010-2030


In 2021 energy consumption by appliances grew by nearly 4%, which also drove the increase in emissions.

Despite improvements in energy efficiency, increasing ownership of appliances drove up consumption, particularly in large emerging economies such as China. To get on track with the Net Zero Scenario, most appliances and equipment placed on the market and sold in 2030 would need to match today’s best technology. More effort is still needed by governments to realise this goal.

Electricity consumption by appliances and equipment in the Net Zero Scenario, 2000-2030


As the world becomes wealthier and energy-consuming devices become relatively cheaper, householders – especially in less affluent countries – are able to afford more major appliances over time. For example, most households now own a refrigerator, whilst ownership of more than one television is common.

The stock of appliances is also rising due to the increasing number of households, which continues to grow as people live in smaller household units and as the global population also continues to increase.

All these substantial upward activity pressures are driving up increased energy consumption and emissions.

Worldwide average household ownership of appliances and number of households in the Net Zero Scenario, 2000-2030

Technology deployment and innovation

The technology of many major appliances, such as refrigerators and freezers, is now relatively mature. Even so, appliances with widely differing efficiency are available on the market. Moving sales towards the most efficient of the available products will realise significant energy savings.

For example, tumble dryers being sold in Europe increasingly use heat pump technology, which substantially lowers the energy consumption in use – consuming around half as much energy as a conventional vented or condensing tumble dryer. Historically, the cost of these was very high, but as their production and sales volume have risen, so the purchasing cost has continued to fall.

The Net Zero Scenario sees all available products reach the present best performance by 2035. However, there are further opportunities to reduce demand, for example:

Heat pumps can also be included in dishwashers to reduce energy consumption. These have been recently introduced into a commercially available machine available on the Swiss market.

Time-of-use control of some of the major appliances could be used as distributed resources to help manage the electricity grid and reduce the need for back-up generators. In 2022, the United Kingdom launched a programme on energy smart appliances to test interoperable demand response, including through smart meters and energy management systems.


Mandatory MEPS establish the minimum energy efficiency requirements for new products being placed on the market. They have been shown to be highly effective policy tools that governments can use to increase the efficiency of products sold. Recent global evidence shows that appliance efficiency policies have helped to halve the energy consumption of major appliances such as refrigerators, televisions and washing machines. They do not necessarily incur higher purchase prices and in most cases have lower life cycle costs thanks to lower energy running costs. These huge efficiency gains have been achieved even as the purchase price of the appliances has fallen by an average of 2-3% per year.

MEPS are increasingly being used by countries around the world for a wider range of appliances. For example, around 80 countries currently employ MEPS for residential refrigerators and freezers, meaning that around 80% of the final energy consumed globally for residential refrigeration is covered. However, policy coverage is smaller for other appliances, such as washing machines (just over 50 countries, 78% energy coverage), televisions (fewer than 50 countries, almost 75% energy coverage) and monitors (fewer than 40 countries, 43% energy coverage).

Worldwide, countries are introducing and revising MEPS for appliances. For example, in February 2022 Thailand set out MEPS for household washing machines. New energy efficiency indicator ranges for refrigerators and freezers will be implemented in Colombia as of 1 September 2023.

Proportion of final energy use covered by MEPS, 2000-2022


Mandatory comparative energy labels are usually used in conjunction with MEPS, to provide consumers with consistent and reliable information on the new appliances they are purchasing. They can also form the basis of other policy options, such as offering rebates for consumers, or used as the basis for setting requirements for government procurement.

The number of number of countries applying mandatory labelling is increasing, with almost 80 countries using labels for refrigerators, 60 for washing machines, and over 40 for dishwashers.

Countries around world are implementing new and updated labels for appliances. In 2022 New Zealand moved to align its market with Australia’s regulations on residential refrigerators.


International collaboration

The principal organisations and initiatives involved in facilitating international collaboration on energy-efficient electrical appliances include: 

Energy-Efficient End-use Equipment (4E), established in 2008, is the IEA’s technology collaboration programme (TCP) where 15 countries from Asia Pacific, Europe and North America have joined together to share information and transfer experience to support good policy development in the field of energy-efficient appliances and equipment.

The Super-Efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) Initiative, launched in 2010 at the Clean Energy Ministerial, is a collaboration of more than 20 governments, the IEA and other partners to accelerate and strengthen the design and implementation of energy efficiency policies for appliances and equipment. SEAD provides knowledge and tools to improve policies, raise awareness on the importance of high-efficiency appliances, identify energy-saving technologies and offer technical expertise.

Under the SEAD umbrella, and in the run up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26), the IEA, with the UK government, set up the Product Efficiency Call to Action, which aims to double the efficiency of key appliances sold globally.

CLASP, launched in 1999 as the “Collaborative Labeling and Appliance Standards Program”, became an international non-profit organisation in 2005 and has expanded its activity on appliances to include access to clean energy through off-grid appliance energy performance and quality.

United for Efficiency (U4E), originating in 2010, is a global effort supporting developing countries and emerging economies to move their markets to energy-efficient appliances and equipment. U4E is a public–private partnership led by UNEP, the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations Development Programme, the International Copper Association, CLASP and the Natural Resources Defense Council, with the support of other international partners.

Recommendations for policy makers

Governments need to work together and with key stakeholders to ensure that markets around the world send effective signals to consumers and manufacturers to maximise efficiency while limiting the cost of future changes. Establishing common international targets for applying MEPS can help market participants plan and deliver cost-effective, highly efficient appliances.

Better co‑ordination could be realised through programmes such as the G20’s Energy Efficiency Hub, which was launched in 2019 and has a new secretariat as of this year. One of the first task groups to be formed (in September 2021) was the Super-Efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) Initiative.

Around 120 countries are now using or are considering using minimum energy performance standards and energy labelling for improving the efficiency of appliances and equipment sold in their markets, with over 60 appliance types now covered.

Countries not using MEPS or labels should consider introducing them and where possible aligning with regional requirements, allowing simpler and lower-cost implementation to realise the benefits. These can be based on established ones (such as those in the European Union) or follow templates (such as those provided by U4E).

For those countries with experience of MEPS, consideration should be given to revising and upgrading the performance levels over time. Consideration should also be given to widening the scope of these regulations, both in terms of different types and including policies for integrated products to be broadened to cover certain equipment systems.

Standards and labelling programmes have been the backbone of the most successful appliance efficiency policies, but they can have the highest impact as part of a more comprehensive policy package. For example, a high-efficiency performance standard can define a threshold above which a product is identified as highly efficient (often by carrying an endorsement label, such as the ENERGY STAR in the United States). The sale of highly efficient products and equipment can then be promoted through policies or other initiatives.

For example, on-bill or on-wage financing (such as EcoFridges in Ghana) makes it easier for consumers to buy highly efficient products by spreading the purchase cost over many energy bills or salary deductions.

  • Mark Ellis, 4E TCP, contributor