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Energy Efficiency Legislation Coming Home

Governments at both the state and federal levels have been hard at work passing legislation to make the things we use every day more energy efficient. Whether it’s the lowly light bulb, wall chargers for the most cutting-edge tech gadget, or the swimming pools we enjoy in the summer, new laws are in the works to help reduce energy usage and utility bills.

The California Energy Commission, generally a leader in energy efficiency regulation, recently made a unanimous ruling requiring battery chargers to consume less energy while still maintaining performance levels. The chargers – used for everything from tablets to toothbrushes – are called ‘vampire’ devices because they suck up energy while not in use, wasting up to 60 percent of the total power they draw. When the new law goes into effect February 1, 2013, consumers should save around $306 million annually and enough energy to power 350,000 homes.

Swimming pool maintenance just got more economical in Arizona. In a state where places to cool off during the summer are a must, a law requiring newly-installed pool pumps to be energy efficient went into effect this year. New pumps for swimming pools and portable spas must now have at least two speeds. Older, single-speed models waste energy by only running at the high levels needed to run waterfalls, pool cleaners, and other accessories when the vast majority of the time only a slower speed is needed to keep water circulating. While new units can be expensive – running upwards of $1,000 with installation – they often cut energy usage by up 90 percent, more than paying for themselves within a few years.

Finally, new light bulb legislation lands this month. Signed into law by President Bush back in 2007, the first tier of the Energy Independence and Security Act prohibits the manufacture or import of 100-watt and higher incandescent bulbs (specialty bulbs excepted). The act is designed to force consumers to switch to more energy-efficient halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), and LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs. Although these new lights are more expensive than the old incandescent models up front, long-term money savings comes from reduced power use and long lifetimes – sometimes upwards of 20 years.

In these days of climate change and international energy issues, reducing the amount of power we consume makes sense both politically and economically. Though some of these new laws may mean more hassles now, the future returns are well worth the investment.

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