Why setting energy standards for appliances will help businesses and save consumers

Frank: Business-friendly environment for energy efficiency will help drive additional investments from companies planning to expand in N.J.

In line with the leadership role they are playing on energy and climate policy to reduce New Jersey’s reliance on fossil fuels and expensive out-of-state energy, Gov. Phil Murphy and the Legislature can take another positive step that requires no increases in taxes or utility bills.

Setting common-sense appliance standards will save energy and money — and help drive additional investments from companies planning to expand to New Jersey in response to its business-friendly environment for energy efficiency.

We all have a lot on our minds right now, and no one wants to add comparative research on kitchen faucets or HVAC systems to the to-do list. By setting the right benchmarks for water and energy use, appliance standards do away with the guesswork for all New Jersey consumers. The Legislature is considering bills (A5160 and S3324) that would update appliance standards for the first time since 2005, making it easier for businesses and consumers to save energy and focus on what’s most important.

The bill, co-sponsored in the Assembly by Wayne DeAngelo (D-Hamilton), Herb Conaway (D-Delran) and Andrew Zwicker (D-Monmouth Junction) and sponsored in the state Senate by Bob Smith (D-Piscataway) would establish minimum energy and water efficiency standards for certain products sold, offered for sale or lease in the state.

Updating the standards could save New Jersey households and businesses over $130 million per year in 2026, rising to nearly $400 million per year in 2035, according to a report from the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. Homeowners would be able to more easily purchase the best, most energy-efficient technology available, and there are even greater benefits for renters at the mercy of landlords who are not always focused on energy efficiency. Under these standards, appliances that have reached their end of life would be replaced with more energy-saving devices, helping to relieve the disproportionately higher energy burden shouldered by low- and middle-income families. That will be a welcome help, especially since we all rely on our homes for so much right now — to stay working and to keep our families warm and safe.

I welcome this sensible legislation because appliance standards are good for homes and businesses in New Jersey. Many companies (representing tens of thousands of jobs) work with homeowners to design and install energy-efficient upgrades, including insulation, electrified heating and cooling upgrades and smart thermostats. These upgrades not only save energy, but also make homes comfortable, healthy, safe and sustainable. Appliance standards ensure that homes and businesses across the state save as much energy as possible when it is time to upgrade from old, inefficient appliances to modern appliances.

And not only do energy savings boost local economies, these standards also mean that, when local businesses are ready to replace their commercial dishwashers or food fryers, they will choose from only the best technology available. The $835 million the Appliance Standards Awareness Project anticipates that businesses will save in water and energy costs can be put to better use creating jobs and hastening New Jersey’s economic recovery.

By locking in these standards, New Jersey will follow our neighbors, including New York and Washington, D.C., and join the ranks of energy-saving states as far-flung as Hawaii. But this is not just about keeping up with the Joneses. It is about making sure that, as other states say “no, thank you” to outdated and inefficient appliances, New Jersey does not become a dumping ground for what cannot be sold elsewhere.

Breathing clean air takes on new importance in 2021 as we learn more and more about how vital it is to our health. (And, yes, New Jersey appliance standards will even cover home air purifiers.) But that is not their only benefit to our air quality. More efficient appliances demand far less power. The less power we produce, the less pollution we add to our air and our atmosphere, protecting health and climate.

We rely on our homes and root for our local businesses like we have never needed to before. We can help them both work better by saving money and the natural resources we depend upon. Appliance standards make that easy for all energy consumers in New Jersey. They are good for all of us.

Andy Frank is founder and president of Sealed, which helps homeowners affordably improve the comfort, health, safety and value of their home via energy efficiency upgrades that are financed through energy savings.