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Take refrigerators, for example. In 1998, there was a technology leap. Inverters doubled energy efficiency, cutting energy consumption in half. At prices for electricity and fridges in Japan, you could throw out your old fridge, buy a brand new one and break even on that investment in seven years. I did.
That efficiency is more than free. Beyond the break-even time it pays dividends.
Now, did people mildly interested in a new fridge run out and buy a new one? No, they didn't. Why? Few understand the implications when the label says the product consumes 600 kWh per year when measured according to XYZ standard. My prior fridge would have consumed 1200kWh, had it been measured to the same standard. These 600kWh saved each year is what pays for the new fridge - if you keep it for seven years or longer.
Which is the right efficiency product for you right now depends on your specific life circumstances, and a lifetime cost of ownership calculation, plus a risk factor because your life plans may change or new technology may leapfrog prior achievements and offer even more efficiency.
It takes more than branding and marketing to get people to switch. It takes a network of trusted friends and acquaintances, truly independent media and a few more brilliant ideas I am sure the readers could add here.
What may be obvious to the trained mind is not at all obvious to others trained in other disciplines. This may serve to illustrate the very real need to pair marketing with education and trust. While textbooks may lament the consumer's "overly emotional" or irrational decision-making process and even offer studies to "prove" this, they miss out on the "curse of knowledge". Yes, please google that.
Q & A
What are they telling me when the label says the product consumes 600 kWh per year when measured according to XYZ standard ?
They give you a reference to other models, all of which are tested to the same standard, so you can figure out the best buy for you.
What does it mean ?
Your lifetime cost of ownership amounts to 600 kWh times the price you pay per kWh of electricity, times the years you expect to use the fridge plus the purchase price. Also, each kWh causes emissions of 0.23kg CO2 (the figure the utilities publish in Japan, your country may be slightly different). Different models become easier to compare as for cost and environmental impact.
What does it mean for me ?
Fewer kWh means you pay less for electricity. In my case, almost $200 savings each year.
Do I have the money to buy it now ?
No, if you are close to the edge. But you will hardly find a better return on investment. Heck, it may be worth buying on credit and you break even in 8 years instead of 7. In this example, efficiency is more than free, it gains you. Such technology jumps are rare.
What other need will I postpone ?
Yes, do a personal priority assessment.
Is 7 years of payback time shorter than the life of a fridge ?
How old is your current fridge? Or your friend's? Consumer associations have historic and average figures on this. Like 10 years or more.
What is the remaining life of my actual fridge ?
Does that matter if you give it away or sell it? Might help someone more cash-strapped than you.
Will this message still be there once I'm in the mood/need of changing it ?
If the opportunity figures out like this with your numbers the best time to change is yesterday.
What are they doing with my actual fridge ?
Interesting that this question comes up now. Was it a concern when you bought the current fridge?
Where do I throw it ?
Never into the landscape. If no friend or second-hand shop takes it you return it to the shop where you buy the new fridge.
Is it recyclable ?
Good question for the new fridge. Moot point for the old one, its design cannot be changed now.
Is there anyone in my tribe doing it ?
I did it in 1999. The fridge still works great if you clean the coils each year. The device is fully paid off by the energy it saved over the old one. By now the fridge earned me enough in addition to get an iPad virtually for free. The big model.
There are a few other technologies with similar or bigger earnings, but only for those who are willing to calculate and take the risk to invest. I do not sell any of these nor do I hold stock in any related company. But I gladly take a 10% cut should savings materialize in your case.