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Energy Consumption of Major Household Appliances Shipped in Canada, Trends for 1990–2008

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Chapter 1 Background

As is demonstrated throughout this report, many of the major household appliances have experienced significant improvements in energy efficiency during the past two decades. Changes in the energy efficiency of each appliance are based on standardized energy consumption ratings – labelled “average annual unit energy consumption (UEC)” and measured in kilowatt hours per year (kWh/yr). While these values are useful for comparison, they may not reflect the actual energy used by a given appliance because of the manner or frequency of use.

Generally, improvements in the energy efficiency of major household appliances can be attributed to one or more of the following:

  • the minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) contained in the Energy Efficiency Regulations (the Regulations) and ongoing amendments
  • information programs to help consumers identify energy-efficient products, such as the EnerGuide for Equipment program and the ENERGY STAR® Initiative in Canada (the initiative)
  • the research and development carried out by the appliance manufacturers
  • consumer demand for more energy-efficient products

This chapter provides some context to the rest of the report, describing the Regulations (Section 1.1), the initiative (Section 1.2) and the role of the members of the Canadian Appliance Manufacturers Association (CAMA) (Section 1.3).

1.1 Energy Efficiency Regulations

Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan’s) wide range of energy efficiency initiatives includes standards, labelling programs and Canada’s Energy Efficiency Regulations.8 Through these initiatives, NRCan works with stakeholders to accelerate the market penetration of high-efficiency equipment.

The Energy Efficiency Act (the Act) of 1992 gives the Government of Canada the authority to make and enforce regulations on performance and labelling requirements for energy-using products, including major household appliances imported into Canada or shipped across provincial or territorial borders.

The Regulations came into effect in February 1995, following extensive consultation with provincial and territorial governments, industry, utilities and environmental groups. The Regulations refer to national consensus performance standards developed by accredited standards-writing organizations, such as the Canadian Standards Association. Such standards include testing procedures that must be used to determine a product’s energy performance. Regulated products that fail to meet the MEPS identified by the Regulations cannot be imported into Canada or traded among provinces/territories.

Table 1 outlines the chronology of amendments to the MEPS and ENERGY STAR specifications for each major household appliance. For more information about the Regulations, visit

Table 1 MEPS and ENERGY STAR® specifications for major household appliances

Appliance Introduction
to MEPS*
ENERGY STAR qualified models available in
Revisions to
ENERGY STAR specifications**
Refrigerators Feb. 1995 Jul. 2001 Jan. 2001  
Dec. 2002 Jan. 2004
Dec. 2005 (Type 5A) Apr. 2008
Dec. 2009 (Type 19 and Type 20)
Freezers Feb. 1995 Jul. 2001 Jan. 2003 Jan. 2004
Dec. 2005 (Type 10A)
Dishwashers Feb. 1995   Jan. 2001 Jan. 2007
Jan. 2004 (new test) Aug. 2009
Jan. 2010 Jul. 2011
Electric ranges Feb. 1995 Oct. 2003 (new test) N/A N/A
Clothes washers May 1995   Jan. 2001 Jan. 2007
Jan. 2004 Jul. 2009
Jan. 2007 Jan. 2011
Electric clothes dryers May 1995 Dec. 1998 (compact) N/A N/A

Note that some of the amendments reflect changes to testing or other elements of the standards and do not reflect changes to the stringency of the MEPS: the December 2005 amendment to freezers added a new freezer category; and the January 2004 amendment to dishwashers and the October 2003 amendment to electric ranges changed the testing procedures for these appliances. For more details, visit

The Act and Regulations also support labelling initiatives. These initiatives require that an EnerGuide label be displayed on major electrical household appliances, showing the estimated annual UEC of the product in kilowatt hours and comparing the product with the most efficient and least efficient models of the same class and size. EnerGuide directories with energy ratings for appliances are published every year and distributed to consumers, retailers and appliance salespeople.9

1.2 The ENERGY STAR® Initiative in Canada

The internationally recognized ENERGY STAR symbol is a simple way for consumers to identify products that are among the most energy-efficient on the market. The ENERGY STAR initiative began in the United States (U.S.) through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and has expanded internationally. NRCan’s Office of Energy Efficiency is the official custodian of the initiative for Canada.

In this section, the ENERGY STAR criteria are summarized by appliance. Then, the penetration of ENERGY STAR qualified shipments are examined over time and among regions in Canada. Lastly, the energy consumption of ENERGY STAR qualified shipments is compared with that of non-ENERGY STAR qualified shipments.

ENERGY STAR specifications

The ENERGY STAR specifications for each appliance are summarized in the following sections.10 Note that ENERGY STAR specifications do not exist for ranges or clothes dryers because few energy savings are possible since most of these products consume similar amounts of energy.


April 28, 2008, marked the introduction of a more stringent ENERGY STAR specification for standard-size refrigerators. After that date, the energy efficiency of standard refrigerators with a refrigerated volume of 7.75 cubic feet (cu. ft.) and greater must exceed Canada’s minimum regulated standard by at least 20 percent.

The specification for compact refrigerators remains unchanged, requiring an efficiency level of at least 20 percent above Canada’s minimum regulated standard.


To be ENERGY STAR qualified, standard-size freezers must have energy efficiency levels that are at least 10 percent above Canada’s minimum regulated standard. Compact freezers must exceed the standard by at least 20 percent.


ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers use 20 to 50 percent less energy and 35 to 50 percent less water than standard models. To qualify for the ENERGY STAR symbol, dishwashers must achieve energy efficiency levels that are at least 41 percent higher than Canada’s minimum regulated standard.

Until August 10, 2009, the specification for the minimum ENERGY STAR energy factor (EF), or cycles per kilowatt hour, for standard dishwashers was 0.65. The minimum EF for compact dishwashers was 0.88.

As of August 11, 2009, ENERGY STAR qualified standard dishwashers must meet a maximum total annual energy consumption (TAEC) of 324 kWh/year (kWh/yr) and a maximum water factor (WF) of 21.96 litres/cycle (L/cycle) (5.8 gallons/cycle [gal./cycle]). Compact dishwashers now require a maximum TAEC of 234 kWh/yr and a maximum WF of 15.14 L/cycle (4.0 gal./cycle). The TAEC takes into consideration the annual energy use and standby energy.

Many ENERGY STAR dishwashers use “smart” sensors that match the wash cycle and the amount of water to each load. Some also have an internal heater to boost the temperature of incoming water.

Clothes Washers

To be ENERGY STAR qualified, clothes washers must be standard size – with a minimum tub capacity of 45 L (1.6 cu. ft.) – and at least 36 percent more efficient than Canada’s minimum energy performance standard.

There is no ENERGY STAR specification for compact clothes washers.

To be ENERGY STAR qualified, a clothes washer must have advanced design features that use less energy and 35 to 50 percent less water than ENERGY STAR qualified washers made before January 1, 2007. Features include a spin cycle that extracts more water from clothes, thus shortening time in a clothes dryer and reducing the amount of energy needed for drying.

Until June 30, 2009, ENERGY STAR qualified residential clothes washers and residential-style commercial clothes washers needed a minimum modified energy factor (MEF) of 48.45 L/kWh per cycle (1.72 cu. ft./kWh per cycle). The MEF includes a calculation that takes into account the amount of energy used by an electric clothes dryer. As well, the clothes washers must have a maximum WF of 1.07 L/cycle per litre of tub capacity (8.0 gal./cycle per cu. ft.). The WF is the number of litres of water per cycle that the clothes washer uses per litre of tub capacity. The lower the WF, the more efficient the washer.

Effective July 1, 2009, ENERGY STAR qualified residential clothes washers and residential-style commercial clothes washers must have a minimum MEF of 50.97 L/kWh per cycle (1.8 cu. ft./kWh per cycle) and a maximum WF of 1.0 L/cycle per litre (7.5 gal./cycle per cu. ft.).

Penetration of ENERGY STAR qualified appliances over time

Figure 1 summarizes the penetration rate of ENERGY STAR qualified appliances since they began appearing on the market in early 1999 (influenced by U.S. activity spilling over into Canada). In 2001, Canada officially adopted the ENERGY STAR registered label to designate the most energy-efficient appliances. By 2008, 89 percent of dishwashers, 64 percent of clothes washers and 53 percent of refrigerators shipped in Canada were ENERGY STAR qualified.11 Because the data for freezers is less representative of the Canadian market, their share of ENERGY STAR shipments is not shown.

Penetration of ENERGY STAR qualified appliances among regions

Figure 2 shows the breakdown by region/province for each appliance category covered by the ENERGY STAR initiative in 2008 (excluding freezers). The portion of ENERGY STAR qualified shipments was generally similar in Quebec, Ontario and the Prairies, while it was somewhat lower in the Atlantic provinces. In British Columbia, the penetration of ENERGY STAR clothes washers was higher than the Canadian average, while that of refrigerators was lower.

Figure 1 Distribution of shipments of ENERGY STAR qualified major household appliances, 1999–2008.

Figure 2 Distribution of shipments of ENERGY STAR qualified major household appliances by region/province, 2008.

Energy consumption of ENERGY STAR qualified appliances

Table 2 shows the average annual UEC of ENERGY STAR qualified appliances from 2000 to 2008. In 2008, the average ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator, dishwasher and clothes washer consumed 5 percent, 9 percent and 54 percent less energy than the average non-ENERGY STAR qualified appliance of each category, respectively. These differences have generally decreased over time, indicating that the energy consumption range for these appliances is diminishing.

Table 2 Average annual UEC of ENERGY STAR qualified major household appliances, 2000–2008

  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Total Refrigerators 639 559 506 487 478 469 481 483 467
  Non-ENERGY STAR qualified   refrigerators 567 505 491 482 469 485 486 479
  ENERGY STAR qualified   refrigerators 495 509 481 469 470 475 480 457

Total dishwashers 637 634 592 524 457 396 373 354 343
  Non-ENERGY STAR qualified   dishwashers 639 644 635 617 606 568 402 377 374
  ENERGY STAR qualified   dishwashers 553 534 492 452 422 378 365 347 339

Clothes washers  
Front-loading clothes washers 274 287 301 275 258 219 203 184 179
  Non-ENERGY STAR qualified   front-loading clothes washers 316 362 321 276 282 241 382*
  ENERGY STAR qualified   front-loading clothes washers 300 274 258 217 201 183 178
Top-loading clothes washers 923 905 871 827 702 609 555 415 387
  Non-ENERGY STAR qualified   top-loading clothes washers 916 892 746 636 581 425 399
  ENERGY STAR qualified
  top-loading clothes washers
287 337 302 317 301 311 290
Total clothes washers 838 810 779 708 573 444 390 287 261
  Non-ENERGY STAR qualified   clothes washers 915 891 746 627 575 422 399
  ENERGY STAR qualified   clothes washers 299 294 267 228 211 191 185

* Non-ENERGY STAR qualified units accounted for less than 1 percent of shipments of front-loading clothes washers in 2008. Therefore, the average annual UEC is based on a very small number of shipments.

Note that in 2002 and 2005, the average ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator actually consumed more energy than the average non-ENERGY STAR refrigerator. This seemingly counterintuitive result most likely occurred because ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerators tended to be larger, on average, than non-ENERGY STAR refrigerators.12

1.3 Role of the members of the Canadian Appliance Manufacturers Association

CAMA members understand the important role they play in minimizing the effects that household appliances have on the environment. Developing, producing and marketing more energy-efficient products to help reduce consumer energy use and harmful greenhouse gas emissions is one of these roles.

Energy-efficient, ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerators, clothes washers, dishwashers and freezers are major drivers of reductions in Canadian energy use. CAMA members also acknowledge the importance of recycling and properly disposing of white goods and their packaging.

The recycling rate for end-of-life appliances in Canada is very high. A recent CAMA study on the recycling of appliances in the province of Ontario13 found that between 95 percent and 99 percent of end-of-life appliances were collected for recycling and that between 83 percent and 89 percent of the component materials were diverted from landfills. These recycling rates make Canada one of the most successful countries in the world in diverting white goods.

The success of the appliance recycling system is due largely to the significant amount of valuable materials that comprise most household appliances, such as steel, aluminum, copper and zinc. This makes end-of-life appliances unique when compared with virtually all other waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) in that the recycling of appliances is actually a profitable activity that does not require government or industry subsidy.

The value of the materials contained in appliances has enabled municipalities, retailers and private scrap metal dealers to profitably collect and sell end-of-life appliances into a market-driven appliance recycling industry where the metals are recovered for re-manufacturing into new metals-based products.

The significant reduction in appliance energy consumption over the years has resulted from the combined efforts of the appliance industry, governments, retailers and consumers. The minimum efficiency standards have contributed to a decrease in peak electricity demand and an increase in cost savings to consumers.

Appliance manufacturers have invested significantly in research and development to produce more energy- and water use-efficient appliances at more affordable prices. The benefit to society of more efficient appliances will increase as the existing stock of appliances in Canadian homes is replaced.

According to the 2007 Survey of Household Energy Use, in 2007, approximately 911 000 Canadians did not dispose of their previous refrigerator when they acquired a new one. Because of this, appliance manufacturers continue to actively participate in the development, design and promotion of programs that encourage consumers to dispose of their previous refrigerator, removing it entirely from the grid when they acquire a more efficient replacement model.

CAMA and its member companies take environmental issues seriously. They have taken significant steps to minimize the impact household appliances have on the environment while still meeting consumer needs. Examples of improvements implemented by the appliance manufacturers, in conjunction with their material and component suppliers, are as follows:

  • refrigerators and freezers – improved condensers, compressors, evaporators, fan motors, door seals and foam insulation
  • dishwashers – better insulation, spray arms and filtering systems; and the availability of an air-dry cycle
  • electric ranges – improvements in insulation and venting
  • clothes washers – upgraded sensors, motors and mixing valves; the promotion of a cold water wash; the addition of front-loading clothes washers to manufacturers’ product lines; and more effective water extraction, resulting in a shorter drying time
  • electric clothes dryers – automatic termination controls eliminating excessive drying

8 Natural Resources Canada, Improving Energy Performance in Canada, Report to Parliament Under the Energy Efficiency Act for the Fiscal Year 2007–2008, (Ottawa: 2008), p. 21,

9 Up-to-date searchable lists of models are available at

10 Source: Natural Resources Canada, 2009 EnerGuide Appliance Directory, pp. 193 and 224.

11 Possible reasons for the higher penetration rate of ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers are that many of them were made available to the consumer and that they were being offered at affordable prices. Dishwasher manufacturers met the specifications quickly, and the incremental cost to meet ENERGY STAR qualifying levels was decreasing. The increase in stringency of the ENERGY STAR specification for dishwashers introduced in January 2007 explains the slight decrease of their penetration rate shown in Figure 1. Similarly, the increase in stringency of the ENERGY STAR specification for refrigerators introduced in January 2004 explains the slight decrease of their penetration rate at that time.

12 Refrigerators meet the ENERGY STAR criteria by exceeding energy efficiency standards relative to other units of a given class or size. Thus, although a large ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator would consume less energy than other refrigerators of its size, it may consume more energy than a smaller non-ENERGY STAR qualified unit.

13 This study was undertaken by SBR International on behalf of CAMA and was concluded in March 2009.

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