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Beware Energy Scrooges This Holiday Season

Dec. 23, 2016

Photo via iStock.com

This holiday season, miscellaneous electric loads (MELs) can lead to unexpected energy use.

In a recent blog, Marina Sofos, sensors and controls technology manager for the U.S. Department of Energy, wrote about MELs and some of the steps you can take to avoid higher energy costs.

Purchasing new electronics might be as much of a holiday tradition as eggnog, fruit cake, and ugly sweaters. Thirty-two percent of people recently surveyed by the National Retail Foundation said consumer electronics were at the top of their holiday gift list. Even with technological advancements aimed at reducing their energy consumption, including improving the efficiency of charging (e.g. wireless phones, fitness trackers, cameras) and continuous power operation (e.g. treadmills, televisions, gaming systems), it’s no wonder, as an increasingly integral part of our daily lives, that these popular devices are growing more and more to become a sizeable portion of a household’s energy demand each year. 

While devices and equipment other than heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, water heating, and major appliances do not consume much electricity individually, these miscellaneous electric loads (MELs) collectively add up to be just as important. The popularity of miscellaneous devices and equipment also means that they will account for a significant and growing portion of building energy consumption without additional gains in the energy efficiency of these products. According to the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) 2015, the contribution of MELs to the overall share of energy consumption in homes is projected to grow from 30% in 2016 to 34% in 2030, assuming a business-as-usual scenario and without additional technological advancements.

Significant technological advancements (e.g., reducing standby power), as well as voluntary agreements between industry and the Energy Department’s Building Technologies Office (BTO) Appliance Standards Program (e.g., cable boxes), are already reducing the electricity consumption of MELs. We can do more, though. Recognizing their importance and building on this solid foundation, BTO is turning greater attention to innovative research and development strategies to unlock additional energy savings from increasing use of MELs in our homes and buildings. Cross-cutting technological solutions that can maximize energy savings across all types of MELs—as has been demonstrated through reductions in standby power losses—will be most impactful. As with any technology, no doubt, there will be new solutions developed, and the only thing you need to feel guilty about during the holidays is that third cookie – not the impact on your electricity bill from jumping on your new treadmill.

Key Facts about MELs

  • Miscellaneous electric loads (MELs) represent equipment and devices in buildings other than heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, water heating, refrigeration, or major appliances. These devices include televisions, cable boxes, DVD players, video game consoles, and spas.
  • Consumer electronics, a common holiday gift, are one category of MELs.
  • Leveraging technological advancements that have already reduced the energy consumption of MELs, the Energy Department’s Building Technologies Office (BTO) is turning greater attention to innovative research and development strategies to unlock additional energy savings from increasing use of MELs in our homes and buildings.

Topics: Appliances, Connected Homes / Smart Homes, Cost of Ownership, Energy Audits, Energy Star, Kitchen, Lighting, Sustainability Trends & Statistics

Companies: U.S. Department of Energy


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