Power-hungry devices use $70 billion of electric power annually

The good news is that these devices could be made to use 40-50 percent less energy with existing technology

The amount of energy consumed by devices and appliances in average U.S. homes and businesses is more than some countries use to power their entire economies.

Household devices, such as TVs, computers and ceiling fans, and commercial equipment, such as elevators, icemakers and MRI machines, use 7.8 quadrillion Btus each year — more than the primary energy use of Mexico, Australia, New Zealand or 200 other countries, and is more than the amount of oil that the U.S. imports from the Persian Gulf and Venezuela each year.

The findings come from a new report, Miscellaneous Energy Loads in Buildings, released today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

The good news is that these devices could be made to use 40-50 percent less energy with existing technology.

All together, these devices are referred to as miscellaneous energy loads, or MELs, because they do not fit into traditional energy-use categories such as refrigeration, HVAC, or lighting. This diversity has also meant that attempts to increase MELs' energy efficiency have varied, with some products having little or any efficiency measures in place.

While some of the devices, like ceiling fans and icemakers, are covered by federal energy efficiency standards, and others like TVs and computer monitors are covered under voluntary efficiency specifications like Energy Star many more products in the MEL category continue to waste energy.

However, interest in improving standards is currently running high. Earlier in the week President Obama identified establishing new goals for energy efficiency standards as a top priority in his plan to tackle the growing threat of climate change. Equipment like elevators and escalators, and medical devices like MRIs and CT scanners, present a huge energy savings opportunity.

Besides establishing standards, the report recommends approaches include encouraging manufacturers to upgrade their products so that the best-performing ones now on the market become common. Utilities and other program administrators can also include MELs in their energy efficiency portfolios and behavioral initiatives can be developed to raise awareness and modify consumption habits.

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