Setting Appliance and Equipment Standards

A Review of Methods Used by the U.S. Department of Energy for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

January 10, 2022

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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The National Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering, and medicine. 

The National Academies appointed the Committee on Review of Methods for Setting Building and Equipment Performance Standards to peer review the analytical methods employed by the U.S. Department of Energy in setting “standards regulations” for the performance of buildings and associated equipment and products.

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  • Linda Cohen, University of California, Irvine, Chair
  • Charles Culp, Texas A&M University
  • Susan Dudley, George Washington University
  • Clark Gellings, Electric Power Research Institute
  • W. Michael Hanemann, Arizona State University
  • Dalia Patino-Echeverri, Duke University
  • Anand Patwardhan, University of Maryland
  • James Sallee, University of California, Berkeley 


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issues “standards regulations” for energy conservation pursuant to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA), as amended, and other authorities. These standards regulations apply to certain consumer products and commercial and industrial equipment. These can include air conditioning and heating systems, washing machines, and commercial refrigeration, among numerous other examples. DOE issues standards regulations by rulemaking and includes quantitative maximum water and energy use or minimum energy conservation standards. There are currently standards regulations for more than 70 product classes (i.e., a specific type of consumer product or commercial or industrial equipment).

This study of the Committee on Review of Methods for Setting Building and Equipment Performance Standards is a review of the assumptions, models, and methodologies (“analytical methods”) that DOE uses in setting the quantitative portion of the standards regulations following the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) guidance on the use of scientific information. The EPCA includes a list of statutory criteria DOE must consider in setting these standards. In conformance with these statutory criteria, DOE has evolved a set of analytical methods it currently uses when setting a standard for a specific product class.

The analyses under review construct cost-efficiency relationships for products in a class to arrive at quantitative trial standard levels (TSLs) for the product class under consideration. The analyses also consider downstream effects of different quantitative standards on consumer life-cycle cost, manufacturer impact, employment impact, and impact on small entities. The committee’s task was to consider the methods employed in each analysis.

DOE provided the committee with the full suite of analyses for standards regulations for each of the following three product classes in the Appliance and Equipment Standards Program: (1) residential dishwashers, (2) commercial refrigeration equipment, and (3) residential furnaces. DOE had developed the analyses for these product classes to support specific rulemaking efforts (i.e., the administrative process of setting standards regulations). The three rulemakings provide examples of product categories in wide deployment. The three product categories are diverse in the type of energy service delivered, the novel issues they instantiated, and the consumer behaviors of relevance to each. Nonetheless, the committee found commonalities among them, and many of the committee’s findings and recommendations proved robust across all three illustrative product classes. DOE also discussed other standards from its Appliance and Equipment Standards Program—there are more than 70—in response to the committee’s queries.

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