Water Conservation Program Demonstrates Reduction in Household Use

May 19, 2000

Preliminary results of a 6-month study sponsored by the United States Department of Energy show that households that switch to the latest water- and energy-efficient home appliances can save substantial amounts of water and electricity.

The study's results also indicate that water-starved communities can significantly reduce water demand by encouraging residents to switch to these appliances and sponsoring serious community water and energy conservation efforts, such as conservation fairs.

The scientific research project is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy with the support of Frigidaire Home Products, Portland General Electric -- one of Oregon's largest electric utilities and the Caroma Company.

Preliminary results show that the homes in Lafayette, Ore., where the first set of data was collected were able to save an average of 16,600 gallons of water a year, just by switching to the energy-efficient Frigidaire clothes washers and dishwashers and Caroma toilets. Savings results from efficient showerheads, and faucet aerators are not yet available. If all the households in this town of 2,240 were to achieve these savings with efficient clothes washers, dishwashers and toilets, water savings would amount to about 14 million gallons per year. Wastewater needing to be treated by the city's sewage treatment plants would be reduced the same amount.

"This is like turning our households into virtual water reservoirs," said Theresa Syphers, Mayor of Lafayette, "the water saved by our residents can contribute to alleviating our water supply problems. The fact is that tapping conservation as a new source of water is more viable and cost effective than ever before."

"This consumer research is quantifying the exceptional savings both in dollars and resources that can be realized when efficient products like those with the ENERGY STAR label are widely incorporated into communities," said U.S. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. "We believe the final results will show that the efforts of Lafayette and Wilsonville, Oregon, should be duplicated across the country."

The study continues with 25 additional households in Wilsonville. The new ENERGY STAR appliances and efficient fixtures are being installed this week.

Part of a two-phase program that began in Lafayette, Ore. in November 1999, the study is designed to determine how the typical household can help save millions of gallons of water per year, one household at a time. The early results show how new energy- and water-efficient appliances and fixtures add up to water savings for parched communities -- especially good news for the Western and Midwestern states facing droughts once again this summer.

Study Details

Conducted by the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the study features two fast-growing cities near Portland, Ore. to gauge the actual water and energy that can be saved by households and communities in real life use. The program, called SWEEP (Saving Water and Energy Program Education Program) involves changing out the clothes washers, dryers, dishwashers, toilets and showerheads in 25 households in Lafayette and replacing them with some of the most efficient products on the market. Actual water and electricity use of the old and new products was metered and recorded for scientific analysis over the test period.

Because of their rapid growth, both Lafayette and Wilsonville suffer from water shortages and strain on their local water supply, which is based on wells. Wilsonville has imposed restrictions on water use during the summer months. The city's water rates will increase 200 percent over the next two years to help pay for a new water treatment plant. Lafayette has also raised water rates to pay for water and sewer improvements to accommodate growth. Both cities prefer to avoid having to tap into the Willamette River, and spending millions of dollars in treatment plants and pipelines.

Frigidaire Home Products donated a total of 50 sets of Frigidaire ENERGY STAR appliances to the study -- Frigidaire Tumble Action clothes washers and matching dryers and Frigidaire Precision Wash dishwashers -- to each community. Caroma Company contributed high-performance water closets and Portland General Electric made the showerheads available.

The Frigidaire ENERGY STAR clothes washer uses a tumbling action rather than immersing clothes in a traditional large tub of water. Preliminary data from the study indicate that it used 43 percent less water and saved 25 gallons per load. Annualized water savings are projected to be 8,500 gallons. The Frigidaire clothes washer also used 73 percent less electricity than the machines they replaced, resulting in annualized average savings of 330 kilowatt hours.

"Frigidaire has supported this study because it demonstrates how people can reduce their own water and energy use," said Tony Evans, vice president, corporate communications for Frigidaire's parent company. "They also have better control of utility bills to benefit the entire community thanks to advanced products like the Frigidaire clothes washer and dishwasher."

Frigidaire's ENERGY STAR dishwasher also contributed to the savings. The unit's special wash system, which alternates spray arm action, reduced water use by 25 percent in the study, using only 6 gallons of water per load (8-12 gallons is typical for older models) and adding an additional 330 gallons to the household water savings annually. It also reduced energy use by 25 percent.

The second part of the SWEEP Program is a high-profile education and incentive program aimed at encouraging citizens and businesses to replace their existing appliances and to adopt water and energy saving behaviors in everyday life.

The community-wide information campaign will offer educational materials and neighborhood events centered on saving water and energy in homes and businesses. Local schools are including projects on raising awareness of water and energy savings, and civic leaders are planning community conservation fairs.

Incentives are being offered to help residents change to the new appliances. This includes low-interest loans, special purchase incentives or rebates from the city and income tax credits from the state. The Oregon Office of Energy is providing $400,000 in low-interest loans to the cities. In turn, the cities are loaning the money to residents and businesses to buy the appliances and fixtures that have created these impressive savings. Frigidaire is also offering special purchase rebates on their appliances

"Some of the best opportunities to save energy are when the measures not only help the environment and save money, but solve other problems too," said John Savage, director of the Oregon Office of Energy. "We'd like to see other communities in Oregon try this innovative approach to saving water and energy."

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