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Maryland, Connecticut and New Jersey are among the few states out in front approving energy efficiency standards for household and commercial appliances not fully covered by federal regulations, but California is ahead of the pack with sweeping energy-efficiency rules for appliances that are likely to have national impact.

Late last year California's Energy Commission approved new rules, effective in 2006, that in many cases will force manufacturers to build appliances with nearly half their appetite for electricity.

With expected kicking-and-screaming reluctance manufacturers say the extra cost to build appliances on an energy diet will have to be passed onto consumers, but the commission says the savings will more than offset the added cost of building svelte appliances.

Manufacturers say low end, smaller, rechargeable-type energy efficient products could cost approximately $3 more while an additional 5 to 15 percent could be tacked onto larger appliances. The commission says the new rules will save consumers an estimated $2 billion by 2020 and businesses 1.6 billion over 15 years.

While standards haven't been set for all household appliances covered by the new rules, appliances included are whole house fans, residential exhaust fans, unit or space heaters, pool pumps, portable electric spas, dishwashers, and those typically electronic products that are always on standby, slowly sucking juice even when they aren't being used.

The typical household is stocked with 10 to 20 standby appliances -- cell phone chargers, electric shavers, laptops, desktop computers, cordless vacuum cleaners, printers, scanners, DVD players -- costing utility customers an average $75 a year.

Larger commercial walk-in refrigerators, vending machines, water dispensers, air conditioners, evaporative coolers, traffic signals, hot food cabinets and other commercial appliances are also included.

Swimming pool pumps that circulate and filter swimming pool water will provide one of the biggest boosts in energy conservation.

Manufacturers will be required to build two-speed pumps that cut the current average annual energy consumption from 2,600 kilowatt hours to 1,040 kilowatt hours. The commission says 143,000 pool pumps are sold every year in California where there are approximately 1.1 million installed pool pumps.

Statewide, the first-year energy savings from the proposed two-speed pool pump design standards is estimated at 148.7 million kilowatt hours, the commission says.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy's average monthly household electricity use, that's enough electricity to power approximately 12,500 homes for a year.

Wherever you live, energy savings are likely to come to appliances near you because California's regulations typically have far-reaching effects.

California's 34 million residents represent about 10 percent of the household appliance market -- purchasing power manufacturers can't ignore.

Also, before federal Energy Star regulations California was the first state to require appliances to meet minimum energy saving standards and led the way with stiffer vehicle emissions laws and other money-saving rules for consumer products.

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