Household Appliances

Role of International Standards in Latin America

By Philippa Martin-King

Over the last 10 years Latin American countries have adopted many International Standards in the field of safety and put into place the corresponding regulations. One example is IEC 60335-1, the International Standard for the safety of household appliances, which has now been adopted by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay as a national standard with others using it as the basis for compliance with their own national safety measures. One of the three IEC Young Professional Leaders, Juan Rosales, comments on the role that IEC International Standards are playing for household appliances in Latin America.

95 % of the washing machines sold in Mexico are top-loading.
95 % of the washing machines sold in Mexico are top-loading.

Global requirements on safety benefit users

IEC Young Professionals' Programme Leader Juan Rosales points out that, as markets clearly make a move into this part of the globe, Latin American householders are benefitting from products that comply with global requirements on safety. Regional standardization organizations such as COPANT, the Pan American Council of Technical Standards, and CANENA, the American Council for Harmonization of Standards, have been encouraging countries to reduce their national deviations in order to get closer to original IEC publications, thereby setting up commercial bridges with other parts of the world that use the same International Standards.

Towards greener and more efficient household appliances

Now, says Rosales, the next step for regulatory bodies in Latin America is a move toward greener and more efficient household appliances. Several governments have made public statements about reducing energy consumption. That is the case of his home country, Mexico, where two years ago the federal government implemented an improved Law for Sustainability, Energy Saving and the Protection of Natural Resources.

Industry has played a large part in responding to the demand. One good example, says Rosales, is the energy savings programme for the replacement of 70 million incandescent bulbs over the period 2009-2018. It is estimated that this will result in a total annual consumption reduction of 4 000 GWh (gigawatt hours), a total of 1 000 MW (megawatts) in power over the entire duration, as well as help reduce peak overloading. Once the programme is fully implemented it is estimated it will produce annual reduction of CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions of around 2 million tonnes and, by 2030, a reduction of roughly 48 % in energy consumption.

The Mexican CONUEE, the National Commission for the Efficient Use of Energy, has already published more than 24 mandatory official national regulations for household appliances. Items include clothes washing machines, freezers and refrigerators, air conditioning equipment, and so on. Industry has responded positively to the requirement to provide greener products. One example is a recently developed water-saving top-loading washing machine. Designed by the Mexican manufacturer, Mabe, it saves up to 120 litres (60 %) of water per wash. Front-loading washing machines already provide equivalent water-saving results, but 95 % of the washing machines sold in Mexico are top-loading, so this new model is expected to provide an estimated saving of 50 000 litres of water per unit per year, in line with a new standard for an eco mark that is to be implemented by the federal government at the end of 2011.

International performance standards for other Latin American countries

Other examples of countries using International Standards for household appliances are Brazil, Argentina and Chile. This is particularly the case for washing machines, and it is expected that by the end of this year all three countries will have adopted IEC 60456, Clothes washing machines for household use - Methods for measuring the performance, as the basic requirement for their official labelling programmes. Not only does the revised IEC publication specify a minimum level of cleaning effectiveness, it also includes various energy saving measures such as new reference programmes for lower temperatures and vertical axis systems, refined rinsing efficiency and the introduction of low-power modes "OFF" and "standby". Brazil has been working on this basis for the last eight years, but now a large part of Latin America has also adopted the updated edition, too. Developed under the global relevance structure, IEC 60456 has taken particular account of technologies and practices from various parts of the world.

Setting limitations for hazardous substances

Latin American countries have now adopted some of the basic safety, performance and energy concepts of IEC International Standards, and governments and industry alike have worked at raising the level of commercial practice and technology, says Rosales. "They have set minimum conditions for users, but now we need to focus on a cleaner future," he says. "Latin American industry has the opportunity to jump on the development bandwagon and start working on topics related to the Smart Grid, RoHS (the restriction of hazardous substances) and eco design."

Some of the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) member countries in Latin America are starting to set down a road map for Smart Grid implementation, says Rosales. "On its own, this concept will open the door to greater investment in electrotechnical products and devices and provide great opportunities for products and markets," he says. "Building transparency and reliability into the electricity supply through Smart Grid technologies will secure long-term investment opportunities for foreign and local companies in Central and South America."

He underlines that the challenge will require more efficient products that have an ability to provide continuous feedback to the energy supplier. "Our next challenge", says Rosales, "should be a policy on RoHS. Unfortunately, there are no standards or requirements applicable in Latin America, despite the fact our markets are expanding continuously. It's vital for the electrotechnical community in the Latin American area to take fast and urgent action."

Click for the video of Juan Rosales, talking about his experience at the 2010 Young Professionals' workshop Click for the video of Juan Rosales, talking about his experience at the 2010 Young Professionals' workshop
95 % of the washing machines sold in Mexico are top-loading. 95 % of the washing machines sold in Mexico are top-loading.
Labelling. Two years ago Mexico introduced a new law to reduce energy consumption. Labelling. Two years ago Mexico introduced a new law to reduce energy consumption.