In part one of this blog series, we identified two clashing trends when it comes to consumers purchasing domestic appliances: Sustainability and Performance. In this post, we’ll try to better understand the interaction of these two core trends and explore their impact on energy efficiency.
A disputed increase in energy efficiency
Between 2014 and 2018, the average energy consumption of refrigerators has actually decreased by 2%. This represents a mix effect of different product segments which vary massively in their energy consumption. Side-by-Side fridges consume about 50% more energy when compared to Two-Door Combi fridges with No Frost technology. The trends towards larger and more energy-hungry appliances has almost offset the increase in the energy efficiency within comparable product segments (only 2% average energy reduction remains with this mix effect).
Apart from the average energy consumed, if we look at the annual energy consumption of all sold refrigerators in 2018, the total sum of kWh even increased by 7% compared to 2014 (at a unit growth rate of 9%). This means that choosing larger and more energy-hungry appliances (performance/convenience related benefits) eats up almost all the technological efforts put into energy efficient innovations.
Promising opportunities to save more energy in the future
Within MDA 5*, almost 60% of energy is consumed by washing machines and refrigerators sold in 2018, which implies a big impact if such markets are subject to a change. Consequently, regulation standards bear quite a potential. For washing machines, the loading capacity plays a pivotal role: A+++ washing machines with 9kg+ capacity consume 18% more energy than a 6kg washer with the A+++ label.
Scientific consumer research carried out by the University of Bonn** suggests that “consumers do not put more laundry into their bigger washing machines, but wash (almost) the same amount of laundry independent of the washing machine’s rated capacity.” Hence, these additional 18% of energy consumption is a potential for additional savings in the future.
Some countries also present more potential in saving energy than others. In Germany, average energy consumption of A+++ washing machines is below the European average. Meanwhile in Great Britain, an average A+++ machine sold has used 19% more energy compared to the European benchmark.
Besides regulatory approaches, there is also hope to stimulate awareness of energy efficiency when it comes to smart home appliances. In case transparency of real energy consumption increases (e.g. via live monitoring), this may stimulate more educated consumer behavior when deciding on a new appliance.
As sustainability becomes more and more important to consumers, however, there is also a potential for the industry players to address such “energy savvy” consumers with products highlighting the best absolute energy consumption along with a reasonable capacity (e.g. 5-6kg). Differentiation can be achieved via the lifetime energy savings as well as a lower carbon dioxide footprint during production and lifetime.
An opportunity arises
There is a clear battle going on between the consumer demand for performance (capacity) and the need for sustainability. While the rise of Best-in-Class energy labels suggest that energy-efficient appliances are being sold more than ever before, almost all the improvement is lost because consumers continue to purchase larger appliances.
It seems that even with low-involvement products like washing machines, the benefits of larger capacity (convenience) can beat the need for sustainability. This holds especially true when energy labels lead consumers to believe that they act responsibly while absolute energy consumption increases.
The great thing about this “issue” is that another opportunity arises for brands to target “energy-savvy” consumers with solutions that truly advocates of energy efficiency. Smaller appliances can be promoted to them as an honest energy-saver for the good of our planet.