Kohls-small-AppliancesTo many people, an appliance is just an appliance, but hardworking taxpayers and homeowners know there are critical differences between appliance categories. Household goods are often classified as small or major, and while these terms seem simple enough, their meanings are more complex than you think. Here’s how to distinguish between categories and what they might mean for your home or business.

What Makes an Appliance Small?

Hamilton Beach 22811 Keep Warm 2-Slice Toaster

Appliance designations aren’t as basic as measuring their physical sizes. While the volume and weight of different goods do have an impact on how they’re marketed, governments in different nations have actually standardized their definitions. For instance, the fact that a microwave oven, espresso brewer or toaster can easily be moved around isn’t the only thing that makes it small, and an appliance doesn’t automatically become major if it’s heavy and typically mounted on the floor.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, small appliances must meet a couple of key standards.[1] These include:

  • Being completely manufactured, charged, and hermetically sealed in a factory, and 

  • Containing no more than five pounds of refrigerant.

Furthermore, these EPA rules only apply to certain devices. While many small refrigerators and freezers count, those that aren’t intended for residential use fail to qualify. Air conditioners designed to cool rooms from a window or terminal and terminal heat pumps meet the small guidelines if they also adhere to the manufacturing standard and refrigerant limit. The same goes for drinking water coolers, ice makers that mount beneath counters and vending machines.

When Do the Regulations Matter?

ChefmanThe EPA’s small appliance rules commonly come into play when consumers or businesses attempt to dispose of their old assets. It may be necessary to follow special recycling or disposal procedures for a given item instead of just throwing it in a dumpster.

For appliance manufacturers and retailers, the definition of small could have an impact on the way products are allowed to be sold. For instance, Underwriters Laboratory maintains different certification, testing and environmental sustainability validation rules for various products that fall under its own small appliance designation.[2]

UL’s small appliance categories seem a bit more inclusive than the EPA’s, but they’re no less important. Small appliances that employ motors, electricity, ultraviolet radiation and other features all have to meet stringent inspection standards to earn their UL marks. Because getting a product certified is imperative to being able to sell it in international and domestic markets, manufacturers need to understand the specific rules that apply to their goods.

Finally, small appliance classifications play a role in how end-consumers spend money. Small devices that meet Energy Star requirements, for example, may be eligible for tax breaks, and of course, they’re known for their ability to reduce power bills.

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[1] http://www3.epa.gov/ozone/title6/608/608defns.html

[2] http://industries.ul.com/appliances-and-hvac/small-appliances