Posts Tagged ‘energy efficiency’

When to break up with your refrigerator

June 17, 2011

The average refrigerator lasts about 12 years, but what if yours is still humming along?

A week ago, we got an email from the sweetest lady EVER (don’t even try to debate it). It began:

My husband purchased a General Electric refrigerator on May 20, 1949, 6 days after our brand new daughter, Mary, was born.  One of the features I liked about it was a “butter conditioner”.

This Model MF8F General Electric refrigerator is still running.  But there is the possibility, it could seize to function one day.

The ‘butter conditioner’ in the door is intended to keep butter at the temperature I desire.

Thus far, I don’t know where to look for a refrigerator with this feature.  I’m almost sure you can help me.

Clearly, this woman — bless her heart — should’ve replaced her refrigerator decades ago. That wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing butter conditioner, though source of such creamy deliciousness, really is just a black hole of energy.

That thing probably runs on $300-$400 worth of electricity per year, versus $50 or so of a new Energy Star refrigerator.

I’m not hating on this woman (on the contrary; I want to adopt her), as it’s hard to tell when to just break up with a “perfectly good” refrigerator.

The New York Times mused on the topic in 2008, and decided that 15-years-old is a pretty safe retirement age for your refrigerator.

What if you inherited appliances from the previous owner? If you’re like me and your home was sold to you with so-called updated appliances, you can use Energy Star’s Refrigerator Retirement Savings Calculator, a handy tool that lets you input the model number of your current fridge to see how much more you’re spending on energy use annually versus a new, Energy Star refrigerator.

6 tips to reduce your energy use and energy bill

May 9, 2011

The biggest step toward making your house energy efficient is choosing Energy Star appliances. Energy Star appliances offer 10-50% energy savings compared to standard, new appliances.

So, I’m not even talking how much energy savings you’ll get from unplugging your decade-or-so old refrigerators, washers, freezers and dishwashers.

But just because Energy Star only rates those four appliance categories, doesn’t mean you can’t be energy efficient on your stove and dryer, for instance.

Here are six ways to further reduce your energy bill by staying mindful of ways you can save on home energy use.

1. Stop rinsing your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, which  wastes up to 20 gallons of water. Energy Star dishwashers use only 4 gallons of water on average.

2. Water heating consumes about 90% of the energy it takes to operate a clothes washer. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut energy use in half. Using the cold cycle reduces energy use even more.

3. Use the moisture sensor option on your dryer, which automatically shuts off the machine when clothes are dry, saving energy and reducing wear and tear on your clothes caused by over-drying.

4. Choose the right-sized pot on stove burners and keep it covered to cook more efficiently and keep your kitchen cooler.

5. Move your refrigerator away from the stove, dishwasher, or heat vents. Make sure the door seals are airtight. Also, keep your refrigerator and freezer stocked to hold temperature better and operate more efficiently.

6. Microwaves only use about half as much electricity as regular ovens, so using them is already a smart alternative. But you can save even more energy if you defrost food in the refrigerator instead of the microwave and cook food in its serving dish save the cost of the water used to do twice as many dishes.

Induction cooktops work like a gas cooktop, using electric power

May 2, 2011

Induction burners heat only magnetic surfaces (like cookware) and nothing else.

While visiting a home in my neighborhood on the Minneapolis – St. Paul Home Tour yesterday, a tour representative said this homeowner’s renovation included switching from an electric stove to a gas stove and how much the representative wished she had a gas stove top in her own home.

“Well, what about induction?” I asked her.

It’s no longer just a choice between gas or electric stoves; homeowners with electric hookups can enjoy all the power of gas plus more responsiveness.

What do you lose with induction? All the wasteful energy loss. Cooking with induction is 70% more efficient than gas and 20% more efficient than electric.

Clean up is easier than smooth top gas ranges because spills don’t burn onto the surface. You can stick a hundred-dollar bill between an induction burner element and a pot of boiling water without worry

Why? Induction burners only heat magnetic surfaces (so you’ll know if your pots and pans are compatible if a magnet sticks to the bottom!), which also make induction cooktops popular choices for kid- and pet-safe kitchens.

Due to its recent rise in popularity (induction has been around since the ’70s but only took off recently), brands now make induction ranges in addition to induction cooktops.

More chefs and gourmet cooks are choosing induction; we put a Thermador induction cooktop in Midtown Global Market’s Kitchen in the Market just this year. I can’t wait to see more people delight in the ability to cook like they’re using gas without the cost and hassle of switching from electric.

Visit Energy Efficient Homes on Tour for your Warners’ Stellian coupon

March 16, 2011

Those who’ve been on the Parade of Homes tour know the fun of imagining their own dream home, and perhaps even building it.

Hanley Wood just rated three Minnesota counties within its top 10 of 25 counties for remodeling potential in 2011, but there’s something to be said for new homes.

Not only are they just plain new with style and amenities unavailable elsewhere, they offer unparalleled options for energy efficiency.

From the tour:

All Minnesota new homes are constructed to some of the strictest energy standards in the nation. But some go a step beyond. That’s what our new Energy Efficient Home Tour is all about. The Parade of Homes is showcasing those homes that are proven energy savers, in which the builder has taken an added measure to ensure that they perform to even tighter energy standards.

While some are certified ENERGY STAR®, MN GreenStar, LEED-H, or Wisconsin Green Build, all have been rated by an independent firm to verify that they are, indeed, energy-efficient homes.

Energy efficient doesn’t mean inaccessible. EEHT homes begin as low as a $138,000 townhouse in Rosemount.

And, if you visit an Energy Tour home, pick up a special coupon good at Warners’ Stellian for 10% off Select ENERGY STAR appliances and cooking appliances. Offer good on orders $499.95 through April 30 (restrictions apply). ENERGY STAR appliances use up to 50% less energy and water than standard new appliances, saving you money in the long run even though they usually cost a little bit extra at the time of purchase.

Energy Star refrigerators save $50/year over 1990s fridges

December 13, 2010

This is an outdated picture of my kitchen, but you get the idea.

I’m replacing my 15-year-old refrigerator this month with a more roomy, smarter-designed and better-looking new fridge.

Best of all, it’s an Energy Star refrigerator, which means that it uses at least 20 percent less energy than a non-Energy Star fridge. Plus, although Energy Star refrigerators generally cost more upfront, you should consider overall cost of the appliance — which includes how much energy it uses compared to other models.

Energy Star estimates that over the lifetime of your refrigerator, you will cut your energy bills by $165 versus if you used an non-Energy Star model.

So think of how much you save when you unplug the refrigerator you’re using right now? Actually, see the handy chart below.

So my fridge from the ’90s costs about $97 per year compared to an Energy Star refrigerator, which uses an average of $48, according to this chart. (And actually, my new fridge is 10 percent better than the Energy Star standards; its energy use is estimated to cost about $43 per year.)

Obviously, I have to buy the new fridge, but I’ve budgeted for that. Now, what will I do with the $50? Better question: what will do with the $600 in usage cost savings I’ll realize over the average life (12 years) of my refrigerator?

Refrigerators, freezers will use 25% less energy, DOE says

September 29, 2010

Energy Secretary Steven "I'm lookin' out for" Chu announced he will bite the straw of the one of the biggest power-suckers in the home in two years.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Tuesday a 20-25 percent increase in the minimum energy efficiency standards of new refrigerators and freezers by 2014.

The news release goes on to talk about billions of dollars saved for consumers over 30 years, which kind of makes my eyes glaze over. What the heck does that mean for me?

Look at it this way: today’s fridges already best their 1970s counterparts’ energy use by one-third, and back then annual operation cost  an average of $259 versus an average of $54 per year for today’s standard-efficiency unit. An Energy Star unit currently costs an average of $43 to operate annually.

Energy Star refrigerators already use 20 percent less energy than the federal standard, so basically, new fridges in 2014 will become at least as efficient as today’s Energy Star fridges, meaning annual operating costs will drop about $11. And if Energy Star standards increase alongside minimum standards in response (using a conservative 20 percent efficiency increase), average operating costs of an Energy Star refrigerator will look more like $34 per year. That’s of course assuming energy costs remain constant, but I just wanted to make savings concrete rather than throw this at you (from the release):

According to the Department’s analysis, the proposed standards could save nearly 4.5 quads (quadrillion BTUs) over 30 years, equivalent to three times the amount of energy used in refrigerators and freezers in American homes in one year.  The standard, as proposed, would also eliminate the need for up to 4.2 gigawatts of generating capacity by 2043, equivalent to 8-9 coal-fired power plants nationwide.   The savings would reduce cumulative carbon dioxide emissions by 305 million metric tons between 2014 and 2043.

(Come again?)

Also, standards didn’t necessarily account for how many consumers actually used their refrigerators. From a spokesman for an energy-efficiency advocacy group:

“Even though refrigerators have become much more energy efficient, they still account for about 10 percent of household electricity use,” observed Alliance to Save Energy Vice President for Programs Jeffrey Harris. “With the new standards, consumers will not only save energy, they’ll also have a better picture of total energy use, because the ratings will include automatic ice makers.”

Over the next year, the DOE also plans to evaluate standards for central air conditioners, room air conditioners, furnaces, clothes washers, clothes dryers and dishwashers.

My fridge is 15 years old, so I expect huge improvements when I replace it. How old is your refrigerator? Will new improved energy efficiency motivate you to replace your unit faster, because of faster payback? More importantly, did reading this article make you feel guilty about using your “but it still runs” fridge from the 70s to cool a couple of beers in your basement?

Related: Warners’ Stellian’s commitment to sustainability

5 Energy Star washers that almost pay for themselves

September 24, 2010

Appliances aren’t cheap. And Energy Star appliances cost even more than standard, new appliances.

But that’s just the sticker price. I’ve blogged before about how the long-term savings of Energy Star washers will not only end up costing less than regular washers in the end, they’ll pay for a dryer.

An Energy Star washer costs an average of $258 more at purchase time, but saves about $481 in energy and water costs over its lifetime.

Now, unless you get it at heavy discount or as part of a government stimulus/utility rebate program, $481 won’t pay for an Energy Star washer. But it comes close.

Here’s a roundup of the least-expensive Energy Star washing machines to prove that energy efficient appliances can be accessible to all.

GE 4.1 Cu. Ft. Energy Star Washer (EWA5600KWW)

Frigidaire Front-Load Washer (FTF530FS)

Maytag 4.0 cu. ft. Energy Star Washer (MVWC6ESWW)

Whirlpool 4.3 Cu. Ft Energy Star Washer (WTW5500XW)

MY PICK: Fisher & Paykel EcoSmart 4.2 cu.ft washer (WA42T26GW1)


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