A retrospective investigation of energy efficiency standards: policies may have accelerated long term declines in appliance costs

Publication Type

Journal Article

Date Published



We perform a retrospective investigation of multi-decade trends in price and life-cycle cost (LCC) for home appliances in periods with and without energy efficiency (EE) standards and labeling polices. In contrast to the classical picture of the impact of efficiency standards, the introduction and updating of appliance standards is not associated with a long-term increase in purchase price; rather, quality-adjusted prices undergo a continued or accelerated long-term decline. In addition, long term trends in appliance LCCs—which include operating costs—consistently show an accelerated long term decline with EE policies. We also show that the incremental price of efficiency improvements has declined faster than the baseline product price for selected products. These observations are inconsistent with a view of EE standards that supposes a perfectly competitive market with static supply costs. These results suggest that EE policies may be associated with other forces at play, such as innovation and learning-by-doing in appliance production and design, that can affect long term trends in quality-adjusted prices and LCCs.


Environmental Research Letters



Year of Publication






Short Title

Environ. Res. Lett.