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The Top Ten Way(s) to Slow Climate Change

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A significant part of the solution to climate change is sitting on every retail shelf in America, waiting for consumers to notice. Every year, we replace hundreds of millions of everyday appliances and electronics at or near the end of their useful lives. In general, thanks to a combination of regulation, programs like Energy Star, and the general progress of technology, we replace those products with more energy-efficient models.

And that's where we make our mistake.

If, instead of replacing those products with more efficient models, we bought the most efficient ones, we'd save mind-boggling amounts of energy and all of the climate-altering gases released in producing that energy.

It's really pretty simple.

An American household with a television, a computer, a clothes washer, a refrigerator, a freezer, and a dishwasher toward the end of their typical lives (estimated by Energy Star at six to 12 years, depending on the category) uses about 3,600 kilowatt hours of electricity to run those appliances each year. Replace all those devices with new ones that meet current Energy Star standards, and that household will need about 2,300 kilowatt hours to power them.

But replace them with products that are the best in the market right now -- the ones already sitting there on the shelves at Sears and Best Buy and Amazon.com and Abe's of Maine -- and the power consumption drops to 1,200 kilowatt hours.

3,600 kilowatt hours (older products) to 2,300 kWh (new Energy Star models) to 1,200 kWh (those among the ten most efficient current models). Multiply that times 100 million American households, and the savings are astonishing. Carbon savings are in the tens of billions of pounds annually. Electric bill savings are in the billions of dollars. And consumers could achieve these gains with products that in most cases use no breakthrough technology and cost no more than the less efficient models surrounding them.

How do I know all this? I've spent this year working with TopTen USA, a nonprofit created to help consumers find and choose the most efficient devices on the market. Part of an international alliance of TopTen organizations devoted to consumer energy efficiency, TopTen USA has just released its first lists of the 10 most efficient options in a variety of categories -- those mentioned above and several more.

Buying products that are among the most efficient is a big step toward energy savings that consumers can take right now. And the savings would start immediately. Appliance industry data shows that U.S. sales of the six products listed above total about 175 million units per year -- nearly two per household. When your household is making one of those purchases, don't settle for more efficient when the most efficient model is right there, too, just waiting to help save the climate.

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