Under the pump
While everyone was busy with the swim season in late 2018, the COAG Energy Council’s agreement to the Decision Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) on pool pumps was released 19 December, greenlighting mandatory energy rating labelling.
The Australian Government has been working towards a national product energy efficiency since the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (GEMS) Act 2012 came into effect. The GEMS Act is what underpins the Equipment Energy Efficiency (E3) program and its public face — the instantly recognisable Energy Rating Label (ERL), which has been affixed to an ever-increasing number of household items since its inception.
The E3 program has three fairly clear objectives:
- To reduce energy bills for households and businesses in a cost-effective way by driving improvements to the energy efficiency of new appliances and equipment sold.
- To improve the energy efficiency of new appliances and equipment that use energy and to also improve the energy performance of products that have an impact on energy consumption.
- To reduce appliance- and equipment-related greenhouse gas emissions through a process which complements other actions by jurisdictions.
ERL works hand in hand with MEPS — Minimum Energy Performance Standards — which establish a minimum level of energy performance that products must meet before they can be sold to consumers. They improve the average efficiency of products available on the market by raising the performance of the least efficient products.
The government suggests that the cost to households of running a pool pump is around 18% of the total energy bill. It deems these costs as unnecessarily high because people continue to buy, install and use pool pumps that are not the most energy efficient on the market. Based on current household pool ownership numbers (which it puts at around 1.1 million nationally), it is estimated between 90,000 and 120,000 new pumps are sold each year to service the market.
The new regulations aim to address barriers and behaviours preventing the pool pump market from moving naturally to more efficient technologies. The regulations will contribute to lowering unnecessarily high externality costs from swimming pool pumps, such as greenhouse gas emissions, peak loads on electricity distribution networks and residential noise pollution.
From 2020 on, pool pumps available for sale in Australia will be required by law to meet MEPS and to display an energy rating label.
In the first half of this year, the E3 program will develop a Determination under the GEMS Act, ahead of introducing MEPS levels and labelling. E3 is also working with Standards Australia to revise AS 5102.1‑2009, Performance of household electrical appliances – Swimming pool pump-units, Part 1: Energy consumption and performance.
The following recommendations have been accepted by COAG Energy Ministers:
- Apply minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) and mandatory labelling to pool pumps that fall within the range of:
- Update the Australian standard that measures the energy efficiency of swimming pool pumps to:
- More fairly compare pump types by using a weighted energy factor.
- Change the scope, as shown in the table, to capture residential filtration pool pumps and exclude pool pumps used for other purposes.
- Amend the definition of pump classifications of single-, two-, multi- and variable-speed pumps.
- Make technical amendments to improve the robustness, reliability and repeatability of the test method.
- Introduce a curved line star rating with higher requirements for smaller pumps and lower requirements for larger pumps to ensure that pool pumps are rated fairly.
- Update the pool pump energy rating label and require the labels to be displayed either on the product, if displayed in store, or on the packaging.
Out with the old
Since 2010, the E3 program has incorporated a Voluntary Energy Rating Labelling Program (VERLP) for pool pumps.
According to the Decision RIS document, the VERLP was regarded as a transitional step, with mandatory MEPS and labelling originally anticipated to come into effect in 2012. VERLP was seen as a means to:
- establish an independent and credible energy rating label scheme for pool pumps;
- use the government-backed star label to promote the uptake of energy-efficient pumps by providing comparative information to consumers on the relative energy efficiency of pumps being sold in Australia;
- introduce a new testing method (AS 5102) for pool pumps;
- obtain detailed market and performance information, through the registration process, which would assist in the development of MEPS for pool pumps.
The report goes on to concede limitations with the program including limited consumer benefit owing to low participation rates (around 70% of available pumps were unlabelled under the voluntary scheme). Additionally, the program predated the GEMS Act and thus operated under different administrative arrangements. The practical effect is that the rating label is not backed by independent compliance and reporting requirements. E3 found this to present a broader risk, allowing “industry to gain the advantage of an energy rating label, which is less rigorous and robust than normally applies to labelled products”.
The extensive (80+ page) report found that limited investment by consumers in energy-efficient pool pumps stems from a range of factors including: a lack of quality information on comparative energy efficiency, consumer reliance on industry professionals and retailers who have uneven knowledge levels, split incentives where decision-makers’ interests are not aligned with the user and externalities (greenhouse emissions, peak loads) which are not associated in the cost to purchase. The move from a voluntary to mandated labelling scheme intends to remove many of these issues, paving the way to greater uptake of energy-efficient options.
The VERLP has now closed for registrations. According to the ERL website, this allows time for products registered under the voluntary program to transition to regulations. All products currently covered by the regulations will need to be retested and reregistered and required to display the mandatory label from commencement date. If a pump registered under the VERLP falls outside the scope of regulation, it can no longer be registered.
Pool pumps that are registered under the voluntary program will no longer be valid. However, registered VERLP products can continue to display the voluntary label up to six months after the regulations have commenced.
The rating scale for pump units is from 1 to 10, with every star representing a 25% improvement in efficiency. Based on these numbers, a 7-star pump will be up to 25% more energy efficient than a 6-star pump, and an 8-star pump up to 43% more efficient than a 6-star pump.
Many pump-units also report noise levels on the label, allowing consumers to factor in nuisance noise if they are intending to take advantage of off-peak tariffs and run the pump at night.
Consumers will be encouraged to compare how much energy different units used based on the energy consumption figure on the label, which indicates the energy required to pump 50,000 L of water every day for a year (as determined under test conditions in accordance with Australian Standard AS5102).
We’ll report further developments as new information comes to light. In the meantime, you can access a full copy of the Decision RIS document from the energyrating.gov.au website.
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