Posts Tagged ‘eco-friendly’

MN residents: You can get WI stimulus money — now!

January 5, 2010

"Wisconsin Welcomes You"...to get our state stimulus money!

It seems strange, but stick with me here. If you are a Minnesota resident with a second home or cabin in Wisconsin, you also qualify for Wisconsin’s appliance stimulus rebate for appliances you purchase for that property.

Call our Woodbury store at (651)714-9790 to order. We deliver free to Hudson with a $499 purchase and to several other Wisconsin cities for $49.95. Other deliveries can be negotiated, and we ship appliances nationwide.

Wisconsin’s program began Jan. 1. Here are the details of the program, as they differ greatly from Minnesota’s program (which doesn’t start until probably March 1):

  • With mail-in application, rebates available on Energy Star-rated
  • Limited amount of rebates available on a first-come, first-served basis
  • Purchases cannot be made before Jan. 1
  • Applications must be submitted with proof of purchase within 30 days
  • Unlike in MN, rebates aren’t limited to one per household
    • Additional rebates government/utility co. rebates can be found at http://www.dsireusa.org (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency)
  • Refrigerators and freezers must be recycled to qualify for a rebate (many utility companies have programs instituted for appliance recycling)
  • Rebates only offered on existing homes, not new construction

If the program runs out of money before February 2012 (I would be shocked if it didn’t), Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy — which is administering the program — will announce a new end date. From its website: “All qualified purchases made prior to the program end date and submitted within the required time frame will receive a Cash-Back Reward.” Allow 6-8 days to receive a check.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jason-riedy/ / CC BY 2.0

Moving beyond the pop can

December 29, 2009
Wanna see a magic trick?

We turn this:

Into this:

OK, so it’s not exactly magic, but that 2-feet-long area highlighted by the green bar is the product of those three boxes of cardboard waste. Pretty amazing, huh?

We think so. That’s our new densifier, which grinds up the bulk Styrofoam from appliance packaging and converts it into a form that can be reused as another product, while reducing it by a 20:1 ratio. Waste Management used to haul off our 40-yard waste roll-off container about every four days. Now, we’re down to about once per month!

The process is EXTREMELY labor intensive. The Styrofoam must be completely clean for the densifier to work properly. This means no tape, no staples and no cardboard pieces.

Zach loads the clean Styrofoam into the densifier. We're taking video of this very soon.

This is all the Styrofoam we've "densified" since we got the machine in mid-November. Multiply this air space by 20 and that's what the pre-densified material would take up!

Appliance and cardboard recycling have been a part of our mission for many, many years — but we wanted to do more, my uncle Bob Warner said (he’s leading Warners’ Stellian’s recycling efforts). “We’re moving beyond recycling pop cans. Whatever we generate that we can recycle, we’re doing.”

This includes:

  • cardboard
  • paper
  • wood (many appliances still come with wooden pallets)
  • plastic shrink wrap (a local nonprofit hauls it to sell for reuse. Win-win!)
  • plastic/metal banding (miles of it, seriously)
  • screws

We’re proud of the fact that we’re WAY ahead of the curve for an independent retailer of our size.

Last month, a vice president of Frigidaire/Electrolux toured our warehouse here in St. Paul and commented that only two or three facilities on par with ours exist in the independent network nationwide.

“It’s very labor intensive to sort, and it’s not a profitable endeavor — especially at this point — for us,” Bob told me. “But the motivating factor is doing the right thing.”

Why do front-load washers take so long?

December 23, 2009

Many customers seem confused when we explain that front-load washing machines need an hour minimum for a normal wash cycle.

Luckily, for times when I can't wait an hour and a half for a clean outfit (sports uniforms, anyone?), I have the 18-minute wash, 18-minute dry feature from Electrolux (though my laundry room looks nothing like this). In a word: lifesaver.

But front-load laundry machines profess great water and energy savings. How does a longer cycle reconcile with such efficiency?

First, front-load washers don’t fill deeply with water, only to dump it all out a short while later. Rather, they pump in a minimal amount of water (some models use sensors to determine the size of the load).

Water continuously filters in and out throughout the cycle, meaning the water stays clean the entire time. Top-load washers fill with water until the clothes float, and then the clothes just sit in that water for the entire cycle.

Also, heating the water often takes longer in a front-loader. A sanitation wash cycle takes about two hours. But you can be assured the hotter temperature eliminates all the cold and flu germs and dust mites congregating in your clothing and linens.

The good news is laundry still takes the same amount of time because dry times have been cut in half. We used to wait for the hour-long drying cycle to finish long after the washer was done. But now, because front-load washers extract so much water during the spin cycle, the average dryer cycle lasts only about 30 minutes.

Or for me, the skinny jeans (which I refuse to put in the dryer because they may get a bit too skinny) I hang on a drying rack easily dry by morning.

Minnesota’s appliance stimulus rebate program approved

December 15, 2009

The U.S. Department of Energy finally approved Minnesota’s “Trade In & Save Appliance Program” (aka Dollars for Dishwashers, Cash for Appliances, etc.) with a target start date of March 10, 2010.

Part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the program will offer approximately 25,000 rebates for consumers who buy an Energy Star-rated replacement for the following appliances:

Energy Star appliances use 20 percent less energy than the standard model. As shown above, refrigerators and freezers must be recycled to receive the full rebate amount. The reason for this is to encourage consumers to take these energy-suckers completely off the grid, rather than using them as spares or selling them. A fridge purchased in the 1990s carries more than double the energy costs of a new Energy Star model.

Warners’ Stellian recycles (and delivers) appliances for free with minimum purchase ($499).

Rebates are limited to one per household and cannot be applied to previous purchases. Check the Energy Star Web site and the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) for additional rebates.

Don’t overlook the money saved by replacing sooner. A refrigerator, washer and dishwasher bought in the ’90s cost $207 more per year in utility costs than current, energy-efficient models.

Warners’ Stellian has officially partnered with the state Office of Energy Security to offer in-kind services that help keep administrative costs down to ensure the maximum amount of rebates for the approximately $5 million our state will receive.

Sign up for our “Cash for Appliances” e-mail list and we’ll keep you informed of the latest state and federal news about the rebate program.

To sign up, simply e-mail me at stimulus@warnersstellian.com with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line.

10 tips for making the most of your kitchen on Thanksgiving

November 24, 2009
Thanksgiving cooking can be confusing. Especially for those who don’t cook often*. Here are some ways to use what you already have to make the day go a little smoother.

1. Calibrate your oven

Your oven’s temperature could be off, causing you to over- or undercook. If you still have it, check your manual for specific instructions on making sure that your oven’s 350 degrees is really 350 degrees.

EHow’s guide “How to Calibrate an Oven” is also good if you ditched your literature.

Use all three racks without rotating.

2. Load up your oven with convection baking

Many people buy a convection oven with holiday cooking in mind, and then forget to use it! If you have true convection or settings that allow multi-rack cooking (the bake and broil element shut off after the preheat), you can put a dish on each rack without having to rotate them.

Just remember to set the temperature 25 degrees below what’s recommended for normal baking.

3. Use convection — in your microwave

If you have a convection microwave, you have a second oven. The 25-degrees-below-normal-bake-temp rule applies here, too.

4. Think beyond popcorn

Many microwaves come with a sensor you can use to automatically adjust cooking power and temperature based on the amount of moisture in the food. Try it on meat, potatoes and vegetables to save time and ensure a perfect dish. Again, check your manual for instructions of how to use your model’s specific features.

Allow 24 hours for an icemaker to refill.

5. Make extra ice

Empty out your icemaker bin into a large, plastic bag and keep it in the freezer 24 hours before your guests arrive. By the time they do, you’ll have a bin full of ice and a cheap refill once that’s gone.

6. Turn on the oven light

The temptation to open the oven and check on your goodies is high, but the temperature won’t be if you do. The oven temperature can drop 25 degrees in just seconds, increasing cooking times and wasting energy. So keep that door shut, already!

7. Remember that meat probe? How ’bout that warming drawer?

Hopefully just reading this jogs the memory of that stuff you have but never remember to use. Many ranges now come with metal probes to stick into a turkey or ham to monitor the temperature, which should hit 180 degrees.

(Note: The probes usually come packaged next to the manual, so they’re probably waiting for you in that same junk drawer filing system where you left them.)

And, are you sure that drawer under the oven you use to store pots is only for storage? Some range models include warming drawers, which work great to keep early bird guests’ dishes ready while you finish up the bird.

8. Match pots and pans to burners

Having a tiny pot on a large burner wastes energy and a big post on a tiny burner slows cooking time. Cook smart on the stovetop to shorten cooking times and save energy/money.

For those who "only know how to grill" comes a way to contribute to holiday cooking. (Ha!)

9. Fire up the grill

Grilled turkey tastes great and frees up your oven for everything else. Get creative and use your grill for potatoes, biscuits and pie — and I can vouch for the deliciousness of pie made on the grill.

(Bonus tip: We all know those who don’t cook, but only grill. Now there’s no excuse to not help!)

10. Adjust your refrigerator’s shelves

Remember that shelves can be moved up and down to fit tall items like 2-liter bottles and frozen turkeys. And consider making a short shelf for platters that can’t be stacked. That way you won’t be wasting all that space above the trays.

I’d love to hear more tips if you have them. I just really like the number 10.

*Nearly 4 out of 10 say they use their oven only once a week or less throughout the year, according to a poll of about 1,100 Angie’s List members.

DAJTNVKMETZH

A visit to the Idea Farm

November 20, 2009

This Tuesday I had the pleasure of touring architect/builder/remodeler Peter Vujovich‘s Idea Farm in Afton.

A view of the Idea Farm's kitchen

Peter built the Idea Farm — his home — to combine sophisticated architecture with global responsibility. He achieved the highest rating from green building standard and certification program MN Greenstar, but explained to me that he wanted to achieve that Gold Star rating in ways more accessible than just buying solar panels and a gray water recirculating system.

Can you believe that his energy bill is only $300 — for the entire YEAR? And I wish you could see the grounds, because although Peter and his wife, Jill, only finished the house some months ago, the landscape and the age of the trees — which were simply “moved” to accommodate the construction — would indicate that this house has been around forever.

I was absolutely blown away by the simple and smart design of the Idea Farm, but you have to see it to understand. So here’s a video clip from the “Blueprint for Green” interview with Peter and Jill.

(BTW, on an appliance geek note: I was so excited to see that Peter had a Liebherr BioFresh refrigerator, because it’s the perfect pick for him. Not only is it the leanest, greenest fridge, BioFresh stretches the life of his homegrown produce weeks past what a normal fridge could.

This is especially helpful to him because when a certain crop is ready to pick, there’s just a massive influx. So, he is able to stretch that harvest unfrozen over about four weeks.)

Other highlights: petting the horses, hearing Peter recount his moments earlier 5-mile bike race against a horse — seriously,  eating his homemade pickles, my co-worker taking home a pumpkin for Thanksgiving pie, finding out that Peter generally showers outdoors (probably through December, he guesses) or inside (with his plants, which sit on shelves in the shower), the laundry basket that slides through a hole in the wall from his bedroom to his laundry room. The last item, I’m seriously obsessed with — so smart.

Cleaning your washer – 3 tips on how to clean a smelly washer

October 28, 2009

frigaffinityFront-load washers earned the reputation for being high-efficiency, eco-friendly machines with outstanding cleaning power … that smell bad. (My sister/salesperson Angela Warner actually talked to WCCO-4 about the problem with smelly washers about a year ago.)

So why do front-load washing machines sometimes smell? For many of the reasons that they’re generally better machines, ironically enough.

High-efficiency washers use MUCH less water, so more residue and detergent can be left behind after the cycle. Both front- and top-load washers that are high-efficiency can suffer from this, but high-efficiency top-load washing machines are less common.

Constant cold water cycles can also contribute to the stink, as they don’t always fully dissolve dirt and grease from the interior of the wash tub. Also, the tightly sealed door, left closed after a wash cycle, might not dry completely, which leads to the growth of odor-causing bacteria (Think: when you leave wet clothes in the washer for too long).

Luckily, the solution is as easy as 1-2-3. I know it’s cheesy, but if you remember these three easy steps, yo nose will be in the clear.

1. Keep the gasket dry

The crevasses of your washing machine gasket, which is the rubber seal that runs the perimeter of the door and opening, is a favorite place for moisture and residue to hang out. Keep a rag handy to quickly wipe this area dry after you’re done with laundry for the day.

2. Keep the washer door open

After you wipe down the gasket, fight the urge to shut the door. Don’t you hang a wet beach towel out to dry? Same thinking. Let the washer air out so there’s no opportunity for the mildewy smell to develop.

3. Use a washer cleaner

Use a cleaner formulated specifically for the interior of the machine, such as Affresh, once a month to prevent odor. And if your washer already smells, you should use Affresh three times to get back on track. Read more about how Affresh works.

These steps have become second nature for us in using our front-load laundry pair. And it’s worth it for the money savings in utility costs, the huge capacity and the superior cleaning. Are any of you still struggling with this? If not, what worked for you?

Why 300 CFM, Energy Star audit and the upcoming appliance stimulus

October 23, 2009

Faber Rangehoods: Kitchen Ventilation 101, CFM – what is it?

Behold the Faber Inca Smart. A 28" 250 CFM Hood Liner (#630006288)

Behold the Faber Inca Smart. A 28" 250 CFM Hood Liner (#630006288)

Another of the most frequently asked questions in our stores is “What is the maximum CFM I can have on my hood/over-the-range (OTR) microwave before I have to look into a make-up air system?”

The answer is 300 CFM, but why (other than it’s Minnesota code)?

Faber Rangehood‘s blog answered that question, plus offered a good explanation of the misunderstood CFM.

Also, a situation of negative pressure could also occur when too much air is pulled out of the home and it is not replaced by air from the outside. In today’s construction the homes are becoming more and more air tight and when too much air is pulled out of a home, you need to sometimes “make up” for that lost air by pumping outside air into the home. In colder climates this is a huge issue, in most parts of Canada there are laws in place about maximum cfm’s before a make up air system has to be installed (typically 300 cfm is the threshold).

Faberhoods.blogspot.com

Faberhoods.blogspot.com

Sub-Zero / Wolf Drastically Cuts Carbon Output

Rumor mill blog Appliance Advisor reported that Sub-Zero and Wolf ditched their carbon- and platinum-finish lines, along with several handle options. I previously blogged about the distinctive look of carbon.

I know it doesn't look colorful, but look at how much this family loves the distinction of Sub-Zero's carbon stainless steel finish! It's a departure from the ubiquity of SS, yet it retains the much-beloved sophistication. Call it compromise.

I still can't get over how happy this family is about its carbon Sub-Zero appliances.

Guess it’s not for everyone.

Energy Star Appliances May Not All Be Efficient, Audit Finds

energystarThe New York Times reported an internal audit conducted by the Deparment of Energy concluded the Energy Star program needed tighter tracking of appliance manufacturers using the energy-efficient label.

Some believe this wakeup call will lead to tighter standards and perhaps will supply the push needed to create a “super star” program IDing the top 5% of energy-efficient appliances.

Warners’ Stellian, in cooperation with Minnesota Greenstar, already promotes distinction of appliance energy use by tiers.

Declutter and Purge Your Kitchen to the Necessities, the Checklist

Do you really need two garlic presses? If you think you do, you need some serious help. I found just that help on Hello Kitchen (via Lifehacker). Print out the cute and practical kitchen checklist to separate necessity from redundancy. Pull each item to a quilt spread near your kitchen, and donate what remains.

hellokitchen.com

hellokitchen.com

Minnesota to get $5 million for rebates on appliances

Details are still being hashed out by the Minnesota DOE on the $5 million “dollars for diswashers” Energy Star-rated appliance rebate program, funded by federal stimulus program.

Our own operations director/co-owner Robert Warner helped advise the team responsible for state’s plans for the money (which appliances if replaced would make the biggest energy dent, etc.)

The program, which is expected to begin in March, has yet to receive approval, but it probably look something like this:

  • $200 for refrigerators/washers
  • $150 for dishwashers
  • $100 for freezers

The program limits one appliance rebate per household, meaning about 25,000 households will get a rebate.

Some say the months-away start will delay appliance purchase, but with the energy savings lost in waiting several months to purchase (see Energy Star’s savings calculator) and the current low prices characteristic of this season, buying now could be an even better deal — with less-crowded showrooms :)

If you’re contemplating a purchase and you don’t know what to think or if you just want to know more about the program,  please call me at our corporate office (Google it) or contact me at jawarner (at) warnersstellian (dot) com (sorry, don’t want any spammers!) with any questions about the forthcoming program. I’ll e-mail/call you with more details as they’re finalized.

U of M’s ICON Solar House

September 25, 2009

Can modern, solar-powered design be livable? That was the concept behind the University of Minnesota’s ICON Solar House team.

Students from disciplines ranging from business to design to engineering took up the challenge of designing, building, and operating the most attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house. Next month, the team and the house will travel to Washington, D.C. for the U.S. Department of Energy‘s Solar Decathlon contest, in which the house will be displayed on the National Mall for three weeks along with 19 other houses from competing colleges.

It’s called a decathlon because the students’ house will be judged from a set of 10 criteria (including appliances — we love these people!).

The Icon Solar House’s Dan Handeen was gracious enough to give a tour of the project Wednesday, so we could see how far the house had come since we got involved some months ago when the house didn’t even have walls!

Mary Stage (Web administrator) and Carla Warner (director of sales) pose with Dan Handeen outside the U of M's Icon Solar House.

I took this photo of Mary Stage (Web administrator) and Carla Warner (director of sales) with Dan Handeen outside the U of M's Icon Solar House.

The combination of livable design and airtight engineering impressed us. We all laughed at the concept of a “sleeping alcove” — which is basically a room sized to the dimensions of a full-size bed — but the high ceilings and amenities (towel warmer?) surpassed our expectations for a 800532-square-foot home. (Update: Dan said the finished floor area of the house was even less than I had read about in other stories about the house.)

Dan Handeen shows us the energy meters.

Dan Handeen shows us the energy meters.

Dan said the team wants the ICON Solar House to stand out from the sterile-type designs they witnessed at the last contest. Rather, the students want to create something that people can actually see themselves living in. (See more on the team’s ideas for the ICON Solar House.)

Solar panels help power the house, Dan explained. But the house is already super energy-efficient, so teams that roll the meter backward — producing more energy than they consume — are awarded 100 points. The team that produces the most energy gains an extra 50 points, Dan said.

Obviously, we’re cheering for them. We’re so proud to be a part of such an inspiring project and help select the right appliances to help the team score the trophy and the bragging rights. All of the appliances in the ICON Solar House have the highest Energy Star ratings.

Kitchen-in-progress.

Kitchen-in-progress

dw

It's a cabinet! It's a drawer! No, it's a DishDrawer!

Dan startled me when he pulled out that wide, far-right cabinet to reveal a dishwasher, which is embarrassing because I work for Warners’ Stellian and knew all about the Fisher & Paykel DishDrawers. But these were so well-integrated (re: paneled) and perfect for the small kitchen space that I confused them for cabinets.

The 24-inch-wide Liebherr refrigerator (left) will also be paneled and was cooling lunch for the crew in the meantime.

It's too bad this cooktop will only be used to boil water. That's some lucky water...

That's some lucky water...

Perhaps the most strategic choice of appliances in the kitchen was the Wolf 30-inch induction cooktop. Each team competing in the Solar Decathlon must perform the same set of tasks, which mimic things people do in every day life.

One task is to boil 5 pounds of water. Induction cooking is extremely efficient because energy is only supplied to the pot. And no wasted heat means water generally boils faster on induction cooking surfaces.

Dan says the team was planning on selling the house, but the U of M has been so impressed with the project it might want to keep the house all to itself. I certainly would.

Dan Handeen shows us the energy meters.

Dan Handeen shows us the energy meters.


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