International Experience in Standards and Labeling Programs for Rice Cookers

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China has had an active program on energy efficiency standards for household appliances since the mid-1990s. Rice cooker is among the first to be subject to such mandatory regulation, since it is one of the most prevalent electric appliances in Chinese households.

Since first introduced in 1989, the minimum energy efficiency standard for rice cookers has not been revised. Therefore, the potential for energy saving is considerable. Initial analysis from CNIS indicates that potential carbon savings is likely to reach 7.6 million tons of CO2 by the 10th year of the standard implementation. Since September 2007, CNIS has been working with various groups to develop the new standard for rice cookers. With The Energy Foundation's support, LBNL has assisted CNIS in the revision of the minimum energy efficiency standard for rice cookers that is expected to be effective in 2009. Specifically, work has been in the following areas: assistance in developing consumer survey on usage pattern of rice cookers, review of inter-national standards, review of international test procedures, comparison of the international standards and test procedures, and assessment of technical options of reducing energy use. This report particularly summarizes the findings of reviewing international standards and technical options of reducing energy consumption.

The report consists of an overview of rice cooker standards and labeling programs and testing procedures in Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Thailand, and Japan's case study in developing energy efficiency rice cooker technologies and rice cooker efficiency programs. The results from the analysis can be summarized as the follows:

Hong Kong has a Voluntary Energy Efficiency Labeling scheme for electric rice cookers initiated in 2001, with revision implemented in 2007; South Korea has both MEPS and Mandatory Energy Efficiency Label targeting the same category of rice cookers as Hong Kong; Thailand's voluntary endorsement labeling program is similar to Hong Kong in program design but has 5 efficiency grades; Japan's program is distinct in its adoption of the "Top Runner" approach, in which, the future efficiency standards is set based on the efficiency levels of the most efficient product in the current domestic market. Although the standards are voluntary, penalties can still be evoked if the average efficiency target is not met.

Both Hong Kong and South Korea's tests involve pouring water into the inner pot equal to 80% of its rated volume; however, white rice is used as a load for its tests in Hong Kong whereas no rice is used for tests in South Korea. In Japan's case, water level specified by the manufactures is used and milled rice is used as a load only partially in the tests. Moreover, Japan does not conduct heat efficiency test but its energy consumption measurements tests are much more complex, with 4 different tests are conducted to determine the annual average energy consumption.

Hong Kong and Thailand both set Minimum Allowable Heat Efficiency for different rated wattages. The energy efficiency requirements are identical except that the minimum heat efficiency in Thailand is 1 percentage point higher for all rated power categories. In South Korea, MEPS and label's energy efficiency grades are determined by the rice cooker's Rated Energy Efficiency for induction, non-induction, pressure, non-pressure rice cookers. Japan's target standard values are set for electromagnetic induction heating products and non-electromagnetic induction heating products by different size of rice cookers. Specific formulas are used by type and size depending on the mass of water evaporation of the rice cookers.

Japan has been the leading country in technology development of various types of rice cookers, and developed concrete energy efficiency standards for rice cookers. However, as consumers in Japan emphasize the deliciousness of cooked rice over other factors, many types of models were developed to improve the taste of cooked rice. Nonetheless, the efficiency of electromagnetic induction heating (IH) rice cookers in warm mode has improved approximately 12 percent from 1993 to 2004 due to the "low temperature warming method" developed by manufacturers.

The Energy Conservation Center of Japan (IEEJ) releases energy saving products data-base on the web regularly, on which the energy saving performance of each product is listed and ranked.

Energy saving in rice cookers mostly rest with insulation of the pot. Technology developed to improve the energy efficiency of the rice cookers includes providing vacuum layers on both side of the pot, using copper-plated materials, and double stainless layer lid that can be heated and steam can run in between the two layers to speed the heating process.

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