It’s no secret that increasingly stringent efficiency standards have saved tremendous amounts of energy and money. In fact, some might argue that federally mandated standards and the success of programs like Energy Star are the real reasons the industry has seen such substantial decreases in energy and water use—trends that have more to do with consumer purchases, not their actual usage behavior.

A newly released study from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP) contends that even more can be done on the standards front. While the study’s data clearly show that existing national efficiency standards will have a notable impact on energy and cost savings in the years to come, the authors of the study believe there are product standards categories that could provide further benefits.

“Our research found that a combination of updates for existing standards and first-time standards for products like computers, TV set-top boxes, and street lights would add to the track record of big energy, economic, and environmental benefits achieved by standards,” Amanda Lowenberger, lead report author and senior research analyst at ACEEE, said in a news release.

For example, the study says that current national efficiency standards for appliances and other equipment will save consumers and businesses more than $1.1 trillion. However, the authors contend that updates to existing standards and new standards for other products that can be completed between now and 2015 could net consumers and businesses another $170 billion.

The same holds true for energy and greenhouse emissions, according to the report. While existing standards are estimated to save 200 quads of energy by 2035, the study says that another 42 quads of savings are achievable with new standards. (The U.S. economy uses a total of about 100 quads per year.)

In addition, existing standards reduced U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by about 200 million metric tons in 2010, and the annual reduction level will grow to 470 million metric tons by 2035, or roughly the output of 120 coal-fired power plants. New and updated standards, however, would reduce 2035 greenhouse gas emissions by another 200 million metric tons, or another 50 coal-fired power plants equivalents.

Other interesting findings:

  • Annual electricity savings from existing standards will increase from 7% in 2010 to 14% by 2035 as consumers and businesses purchase new products compliant with the latest standards. New and updated standards that can be completed by 2015 would reduce electricity use by another 7% by 2035.

  • Direct natural gas savings from existing standards will reach 950 trillion BTUs by 2035, or enough to heat about one out of every three natural gas-heated homes. New and updated standards for gas products would add another 240 trillion BTUs in annual gas savings by 2035.

  • New standards could save more than 430 billion gallons of water annually by 2035—enough to supply New York City.

To assess the potential impact of future standards, the ACEEE report evaluates 34 products for which new or updated standards could be adopted within the next four years. Products with the biggest potential additional energy savings include electric water heaters, reflector light bulbs, distribution transformers, electric motors, and computers. The largest net economic savings would come from new clothes washer and outdoor lighting standards.
Access the full report, "The Efficiency Boom: Cashing in on the Savings from Appliance Standards ," and a related fact sheet .