They analyze the optimal lifespan of household appliances to reduce environmental impacts

To what extent do “renewal plans” make sense to replace existing devices with new, more efficient equipment? A group study Life Cycle Think Tank there Ecopol of the UPV/EHU concludes that the use of renewable energy in household appliances would delay the need for change for environmental reasons until almost 30 years of use.

The high energy consumption of the society in which we live leads us to propose solutions to reduce CO2 emissions thanks to new, more efficient technologies. But, can the environmental impacts be reduced during the use phase? To what extent do “renewal plans” make sense to replace existing devices with new, more efficient equipment? Until now, little attention has been paid to knowing the optimum operating time of household appliances in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to fill this gap that existed until now, the Life Cycle Thinking Group and Ekopol of the UPV/EHU, through the Master in Circular Economy and the Master in Project Management, are analyzing the CO2 equivalent impact of three devices representative household appliances, such as the microwave, dishwasher and washing machine throughout the life cycle. For this, it is envisaged from its manufacture, its subsequent use and its end of life, including dismantling and recycling. “For all three cases, we calculated the necessary efficiency that new electrical appliances must have to replace existing ones for environmental reasons of reducing impacts,” explains Ortzi Akizu-Gardoki, researcher of the UPV’s Life Cycle Thinking Group. /EHU and one of the authors of the book.

“To provide the appropriate guidelines for reducing impacts, we analyzed the current situation and compared it to four hypothetical scenarios focusing on material efficiency, recycled materials, renewable electricity and responsible consumption,” explains Akizu. We were thus able to quantify the possible reduction of impacts either in the manufacture, use and end of life of the product; evaluate more effective alternatives.

A new “class A” device facing renewable energies

“In the comparative analysis that we have carried out – says Ortzi Akizu – we have observed that the consumption of electricity during the use phase is the main factor that contributes to the greenhouse gas emissions of household appliances”. In addition, “we have seen that the application of measures framed in the circular economy can potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions from household appliances. Specifically, CO2 emission reductions of up to 68% can be achieved for a microwave, 76% for a dishwasher and 61% for a washing machine. These improvements are achieved through the combination of a renewable energy mix in the use phase and a 10% reduction in energy consumption through responsible use,” adds the UPV/EHU researcher.

However, “the environmental improvements achieved are accompanied by an increase in the number of years of use of the existing appliance before it is replaced by a new energy-efficient appliance. Indeed, when a 100% renewable energy mix is ​​applied during the use phase, replacing it with a microwave, a dishwasher and a “class A” washing machine would not be preferable from a environmental only after 24.4, 19.3 and 28.5 years, respectively,” says Akizu. “If the energy consumed during use is reduced by 10% thanks to responsible consumption patterns, these periods extend to 30.3, 26.2 and 33.9 years respectively”, underlines Ortzi Akizu.

Thus, this study shows that to move towards the reduction of CO2 emissions, it is more effective (from an environmental point of view) to invest in renewable energies than in “renewal plans” for household appliances. “All these results can help the manufacturing sector, political leaders and citizens to promote ecologically sustainable production and consumption models,” concludes Ortzi Akizu.

Leave a Comment