What’s the most energy-consuming household appliance?

household appliance, energy efficiency, stanby mode, electricity consumptionThe average electricity consumption of European households shrunk by 7% between 2005 and 2010. The reason for this telling figure is that they tend to equip themselves with more and more “sustainable” home devices, which are increasingly electricity efficient. Nevertheless, household appliances are still a significant burden on our power bills. Which appliances consume the most? To what extent does the latest innovative technology yield electrical efficiency and cut global consumption?

French households very well equipped

Household equipment in French homes has significantly improved in the last years, especially if you look at a few landmark devices. For instance, 99% of households own a fridge (compared to 80% in 1970) and 52% own a dishwasher (3% in 1970). More recent devices have proven quite successful: 85% of households own a microwave oven (12% in 1990) and 65% owned a computer in 2009 (9% in 1990).

Heating and cooling: two essential needs and the biggest home energy users

The latest technology does not use that much energy. On the contrary, fridges and freezers account for 32% of an average French household’s power bill, excluding heating. Next are dishwashers and dryers which represent 14% of the home’s electricity use, audiovisual equipment 12% and washing machines 7%.

Remarkably, TV-sets do not follow the energy efficiency trend of most household equipment. Their average power consumption more than doubled between 1995 and 2008, from 140 to 307 kWh per year. The reason for this increase is the success of plasma screens, which use up over 500 kWh per year. Small electrical appliances – kettles, coffee machines – also consume a lot of electricity but have a moderate impact on electricity bills. Finally, the least energy-efficient new technology is the internet set-top box, whose electricity consumption costs as much money as its monthly subscription. Such devices are turned on 24/7 and rarely come with a standby mode.

Energy efficient household appliances using power only when in service

Unfortunately, this is still rarely the case. Many devices don’t have a LED showing that they are switched on or don’t have a standby mode. A video-recorder permanently connected to the wall socket, but barely in use a couple of hours a day at the best, will consume much more energy than if it were turned off when not in service. Every year, “sleeping” devices in an average household are responsible for an estimated 450kWh overconsumption worth around 60€, the same as the energy needs of a fridge in the same period.

Over two thirds of the people in France say they are concerned with how much power their home appliances use. A European directive from 2010 ensures that every new device has an energy efficiency label going from A+++ (best energy efficiency rating) down to G. Both the role of manufacturers (for example, by offering products fitted with an automated and genuinely efficient standby mode) and consumer awareness are key to optimal and efficient household appliances.

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