Archive for the ‘Energy Efficiency’ Category

Beware of pet hair in your kitchen

August 31, 2010

Manufacturers say that most people don’t need to regularly clean their refrigerators’ condenser coils.

But, you should clean the condenser coils on refrigerators in greasy, dusty environments — and homes with “significant pet traffic” (which just sounds like a kitten parade, right?) — every two or three months.

What’s that? Cleaning stuff is a pain in the butt? Yeah, well so is replacing stuff. Regular maintenance not only ensures your refrigerator runs efficiently (aka for less money) but it will help it run for longer.

I’m betting it’s been about the suggested time span (times 10?) since you have cleared out what lies beneath, so here’s a refresher course:

1. Unplug refrigerator or disconnect power. (We don’t need any heroes, people.)

2. Take off the kick plate, or “grille.” How you do this depends on the configuration of your fridge (e.g. top freezer, side by side), but the “wiggle and pull” method seems pretty universal. For more help, consult your Use & Care manual or (do what I do and) ask a family member for help.

3. Clean the kick plate, the open area behind it and the front surface area using either a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment or, my sister’s favorite, a baby bottle brush duct-taped to a stretched-out coat hanger.

Things I Want: Washers

August 24, 2010

Behold, the laundry room.

This post is the second in a new series, “Things I Want” for my new house. Be impressed with my previous post about refrigerators.

While taking turns bashing our antique dishwasher last week, my roommate mentioned how much water it wastes.

And it does.

We can hear the 12-gallon tsunami rage against the Cuisinart and CorningWare.

But, I told her, the washing machine is muuuuuch worse.

Her jaw nearly dropped at the news that while our dishwasher probably wastes about 8 gallons of water per cycle due to its age, our washing machine wastes about 30 gallons.

And for what? A puny capacity and agitator-worn blouses.

Desirable: Electrolux Perfect Steam Washer

(I also aspire to a design aesthetic that accommodates the whimsy of children's doodles.)

Oh, how I long for the days when I had an Electrolux steam washer and dryer. The steam dryer quickly unwrinkled dresses without me unloading the ironing board. And with the 18-minute wash/18-minute dry feature (the next generation laundry shortens the wash-dry time to 30 minutes total!), my running clothes were ready before I was on Saturday mornings.

Everything came out of the washer super clean– even when I stuffed it full and ran the cold cycle — and nearly dry. Plus, I got to do the Kelly Ripa-hipcheck-to-open-the-door move. Sweet.

However, at nearly $2,600, I wouldn’t have any clothes left to wash.

Acquirable: Frigidaire Affinity Ready Steam Washer

Gotta love promo shots: "Gee, this laundry pair saves me so much time, I've started dabbling in abstract expressionism!"

Frigidaire is made by Electrolux, so the washing machines bear many similarities. The Affinity washer‘s capacity of 4.4 cubic feet is only 0.3 cubic feet less than the Electrolux.

What’s that? A pair of shorts?

The quick cycle time bumps up a smidgen to a 25-minute wash/25-minute dry (time is money, people).

You’ll also lose a bit in the engineering, but a steam washer and steam dryer for $1,800 is a steal.

Plus, you can get a $100 Visa gift card through Sept. 26.

Watch for up to $200 in instant rebates from your electricity company

August 18, 2010

Look for this coupon inside your electricity bill or on your bill envelope.

From September 1 – October 31, 2010, you can get instant appliance rebates for replacing your inefficient appliance with a new Energy Star qualified refrigerator or clothes washer.

Plus, Energy Star appliances use much less energy and water than your old appliances, possibly saving you up to $150 per year on your energy bills.

Warners’ Stellian customers of participating electricity providers can use the coupon (many sent out in bill statements) to get:

So that’s a potential $200 instant savings, plus Warners’ Stellian will deliver and recycle your replaced appliances for free (on purchases $499 and up).

We are always willing to deliver for a fee outside of the metro Twin Cities area, but with your coupon, you can waive that fee.

Electricity providers providing instant rebates to Warners’ Stellian customers include:

And if they shop from Sept. 1-7, customers of those electricity co-ops will pay no interest if paid in full within 18 months on purchases of $499 or more (restrictions apply, of course). Also, select qualifying Energy Star appliances will be offered at discounts of 25% or more.

>>See more details and a complete list of participating electricity cooperatives here.

Not a customer of any of these? Check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency for a full list of energy efficiency rebates offered in Minnesota.

Hurry! Electricity companies’ ‘Fridge Farewell’ program ending soon

August 13, 2010

I’ve blogged before about the expense of keeping an elderly refrigerator or freezer in use simply because it still works.

I bet you wouldn’t be doing that if you realized you were paying up to $150 per year in energy costs to keep it humming.

Well, it’s the last month many energy providers, including Connexus Energy and Dakota Electric Association, not only will haul away and recycle your refrigerator for free but give you $35.

image courtesy Arca Inc.

But there are still plenty of ongoing refrigerator and freezer “bounty” programs (Xcel’s program is ongoing, as far as I can tell) though your ability to participate depends on your utility company.

Is your utility company offering a bounty?

Check here and here.

Loud refrigerator? We hear ya

July 7, 2010

Image: maxabout.com

If you’ve replaced your refrigerator within the last several years, your shiny new model might be making its presence known in noisier way.

Why?

For one, foam insulation — often used to make these appliances more energy-efficient — lacks the sound-baffling capabilities of fiberglass insulation incorporated into previous energy hogs.

Here’s some other “normal” sounds to expect, along with their abnormal counterparts:

Evaporator coil

A boiling, surging or gurgling sound as the compressor starts and stops. Also, a pop as the evaporator expands and contracts after defrosting.

Evaporator fan

The sound of air being forced through the unit is normal, but a continuous ticking or even intermittent squealing is abnormal.

Defrost heater

Sizzling or hissing sound from water dropping onto the heater during defrost cycle

Compressor

Newer fridges’ compressors are much more efficient and run much faster, giving off a high-pitched hum, whine or pulse. But watch out for clicking during start up (especially if the lights dim), banging or knocking during start or stop, a ping or snap followed by the compressor stopping.

Cold control and defrost timer

A snapping or ticking sound as the refrigerator turns on and off

Plastic liner

Cracking or popping as the temperatures change

Drain pan

Running water during or after the defrost cycle

Water valve

Buzzing, clicking or running water as the icemaker fills or water is dispensed

Icemaker

Cracking of ice and cubes dropping into the bin

Condenser fan

Air being forced over the condenser is normal, but squealing from the motor is abnormal.

Condenser

You should hear a surging or gurgling sound from the flow of refrigerant when the compressor runs, but an improperly placed drain pan could cause rattling.

If the normal sounds bother you, consider a piece of rubber-backed carpet for underneath the fridge. You could even put sound absorbing materials inside the cabinet if the refrigerator sits in an enclosure.

New blog series: Things I Want

June 4, 2010

I’ll be moving into my new house this week and — more importantly — I’ll be inheriting another’s appliance choices.

The kitchen, as pictured in the listing.

Right now, that consists of:

One by one (or two), I’ll replace each of the appliance, either to improve efficiency and performance or because one simply konks out. And in the case of the fridge, that could be sooner rather than later…

Appliances don’t come cheap, and though I get a discount on them, they’re still an investment. So I’ll have to decide where to spend my money and where to save.

Because it’s dominating my thoughts the last few days, I’m going to channel my forthcoming appliance purchases into a series of blog posts called “Things I Want.” I’ll write them based on what I’d pick if I were going shopping today.

My criteria considers performance, features, aesthetics, durability, efficiency, price and warranty — not equally, however. And they all must be sold at Warners’ Stellian, obviously. But there’s really nothing I’d want that we don’t sell.

I’ll split it into two categories,  one aspirational and the other more achievable. I’m trying to think of what to call each category, and I keep thinking I’m ripping “Desired/Acquired” from something. But until I find out for sure…

Look for the first “Things I Want” post Monday.

Get paid to have your second fridge hauled away

June 2, 2010

How much are you paying for your pop fridge?

When I closed on my house last week, I asked the former homeowners question that wrinkled their noses.

“How old was that fridge in your basement?”

They looked confused but told me, “We probably shouldn’t be using anyway, I guess. It was such a pain to move. I don’t know…1960s, I think.”

My jaw DROPPED.

My energy stat knowledge doesn’t go back farther than ’70s models, which cost about $278 per year to run. So a fridge from the ’60s must cost at least $300 to run. That’s some pretty expensive beer they’re cooling.

I think many people don’t unplug their ancient second fridge because they don’t know how to get rid of it.

And certainly most homeowners don’t know that many utility companies pay them money to come pick it up!

Xcel Energy is among the local utility companies with a refrigerator recycling program that offers $35 to pick up a working second refrigerator. Some also run this program for freezers. Of course, you must be a customer of the utility to participate.

Some utilities, like Minnesota Power, up the ante to $50 to get you to give up that beer fridge. Even if you use the money towards a new refrigerator (if you use Rochester Public Utilities, you can get up to $75 for replacing and recycling a refrigerator), your energy usage on the new unit will likely be significantly reduced.

Here’s a complete list of refrigerator bounty programs from the Office of Energy Security.

Are stainless steel appliances an environmental no-no?

May 19, 2010

Stainless steel has become the standard finish for many when replacing kitchen appliances.

The growing popularity of commercial ranges like Viking and Wolf ranges introduced stainless steel to the kitchen.

And soon homeowners wanted to coordinate the clean, contemporary look with refrigerators, dishwashers and microwaves.

But environmental concerns wisely also influence purchasing decisions today.

The Star Tribune’s Fixit columnist, Karen Youso, posed the question of whether stainless steel appliances should worry eco-conscious consumers.

Her answer, happily, is no:

Stainless steel can be — and is — recycled. (According to the International Stainless Steel Forum, new stainless-steel products are made from about 60 percent recycled stainless.) Its alternative, enameled steel, also is recyclable, so stainless steel isn’t significantly better or worse for the environment.

But materials aren’t all that important when trying to determine how earth-friendly home appliances are. What matters most is energy efficiency, said Lise Laurin, founder of EarthShift, a Vermont company that works with corporations and institutions on sustainability.

Of course, we recycle replaced appliances for free on most purchases, so you can feel comfortable about upgrading to stainless steel. Just make them Energy Star appliances.

The bad habit that can waste 20 gallons of water

May 17, 2010

You might not wash your dishes before you wash your dishes, but even rinsing is completely unnecessary.

Energy Star, a joint program by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, cautions people to scrape, not rinse. Pre-rinsing dishes can waste up to 20 gallons of water.

Energy Star dishwashers and today’s detergents are designed to do the cleaning so you don’t have to pre-rinse.

And if your dirty dishes are going to sit overnight, use your dishwasher’s rinse feature. It uses a fraction of the water needed to hand rinse.

Speaking of a using a fraction of the water, a dishwasher built before 1994 wastes about 8 gallons of water per cycle compared to owning a new Energy Star-qualified model. So if you replace one of these old dishwashers with an Energy Star dishwasher, you’re saving enough water each week to wash two loads of laundry in an Energy Star qualified clothes washer.

So be lazy: scrape, don’t rinse!


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