American Chemistry MattersA Blog of the American Chemistry Council

American Chemistry Matters

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What are MELs and why are they using so much energy?

Many popular devices in U.S. homes and businesses don’t fit into typical energy-use categories like refrigeration, HVAC or lighting, but they still take a toll on our energy supply — comprising a “miscellaneous energy load,” or MEL, for short.

Equipment like TVs, computers and other electronics, microwaves, printers, servers, transformers, elevators, medical imaging technology, and vending and ice machines all make up MEL.

And in the U.S., their energy consumption can exceed that of many countries’ primary sources, including Mexico, Australia and New Zealand, according to a new report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). [Check out this Fierce Energy article for more information about the report.]

The report says MELs are one of the largest category of building energy consumption (second only to space conditioning). That means MELs are major contributing factors to the enormous amount of energy — 41 percent of all energy consumption in the U.S. each year — consumed by our commercial and residential buildings.

If we could saving 50 percent of the energy consumed by MELs, that would be almost equivalent to eliminating U.S. oil imports from the Middle East, the ACEEE report noted.

The report also offered promising news for the future: We can improve the energy efficiency of MELs by 40 to 50 percent simply by using existing technology.

According to Sameer Kwatra, the ACEEE report’s lead author, “If consumers upgraded to the most efficient products on the market today, we could save as much energy as Argentina uses in an entire year.”

Chemistry can already be found in many of today’s more energy efficient MELs (computers are 10% chemistry by material, for example). Combined, products of chemistry save up to 11.1 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, according to an ACC study – enough to power, light, heat and cool up to 56 million homes or power 135 million vehicles annually. And they save Americans up to $85 billion every year.

And since nearly every energy-saving technology, today and in the future, depends on innovations in chemistry, chemistry will play a big part in reducing our entire U.S. energy load.

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