Luxury or Necessity?

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A study by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project from April 2009 reveals that Americans are paring down the list of familiar household appliances they say they can’t live without.

No longer do substantial majorities of the public say a microwave oven, a television set or even home air conditioning is a necessity. Instead, nearly half or more now see each of these items as a luxury. Similarly, the proportion that considers a dishwasher or a clothes dryer to be essential has dropped sharply since 2006.

These recession-era reevaluations are all the more striking because the public’s luxury-versus-necessity perceptual boundaries had been moving in the other direction for the previous decade. For example, the share of adults who consider a microwave a necessity was just 32% in 1996. By 2006, it had shot up to 68%. Now it has retreated to 47%. Similarly, just 52% of the public in the latest poll say a television set is a necessity — down 12 percentage points from 2006 and the smallest share to call a TV a necessity since this question was first asked more than 35 years ago.

Read an overview of the 2009 study here, with graphs!

Read the full report here.

Read an overview of the 2006 study here.

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Major Appliance Efficiency Agreement

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

A few days ago, appliance manufacturers and energy efficiency advocates announced an agreement to call for new national minimum efficiency standards to improve energy and water efficiency standards for refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, dishwashers, and room air conditioners. The coalition of major appliance manufacturers, their trade union, and the energy efficiency advocates propose that the new national minimum efficiency standards and tax credits be instituted through action by the Department of Energy and by Congress.

According to the press release, the recommended standards and tax credits would save more than 9 quads of energy over 30 years. The recommended water efficiency standards and tax credits for clothes washers and dishwashers would save about 5 trillion gallons of water over 30 years.

Below, I’ve put together a rough timeline of how the proposed standards would take effect:

  • January 2013 – dishwashers would see 14% energy savings and 23% water savings
  • January 2014 – new refrigerator and freezer energy reduced up to 30%
  • June 2014 – room air conditioners would increase in efficiency 10-15%
  • 2015 – top loading clothes washers would have 26% energy savings and 16% water saving compared to current standards
  • 2015 – front loading clothes washers would have 43% energy savings and 52% water savings compared to current standards
  • 2015 – clothes dryers will increase in efficiency 5%
  • 2018 – top loading clothes washers would have 37% energy and water saving compared to current standards

An overview of the agreement is here.

The agreement was signed by major appliance manufacturing members of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) and by major energy and water efficiency organizations, consumer groups and environmental organizations including the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Alliance for Water Efficiency, Alliance to Save Energy, Appliance Standards Awareness Project, Consumer Federation of America, National Consumer Law Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northwest Power and Conservation Council, and Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships.