Posts Tagged ‘Energy Star’

Get a second chance at an appliance stimulus rebate

November 17, 2010

The State of Minnesota Trade-in & Save Appliance Rebate Program relaunched today to hand out about $717,000 in unused funds to customers who didn’t get a rebate reservation in March.

If you bought an ENERGY STAR appliance on or after March 1, you could be eligible for a rebate of up to $200 from the State of Minnesota!

To get your rebate, go to www.mnappliancerebate.com or call 1-877-230-9119. Funds will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, but you cannot apply for a rebate until you have made an eligible purchase. So you better hurry, before you miss out for the second time! (At the time of this blog, more than $500,000 in rebate funds remained, with about one-quarter being used.)

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

Top-load washing machines replacing front load washing machines?

July 28, 2010

The buzz in laundry appliance circles (trust me, they exist) these days for washers is all front load, front load, front load.

Or is it?

Whirlpool Cabrio front-load washer and dryer in black

The Whirlpool appliance crew came in last week to show our sales staff its new line and argued that many of today’s customers want top load laundry again. But these customers aren’t replacing a top-loading washer with a top-loading washer; They’re replacing front-loading washers with top-loading washers.

True, some of the earliest front-loading washing machines came fraught with mold issues and vibration and noise problems. Those early kinks have pretty much, ahem, come out in the wash. But apparently, not everyone’s convinced.

Without an agitator, Whirlpool's new top-load washer has tons of capacity -- up to 5.2 cu. ft.

Plus, Whirlpool’s high-efficiency top-load washer offers many of the same features front-loaders became popular for:

  • extra-large capacity
  • high spin speeds
  • less water and detergent used

Also available are features such as steam cleaning and drying, allergen-eliminating cycles and precision detergent/bleach/fabric softener dispense.

All Whirlpool’s new washers are rated are at the peak of energy efficiency ratings — Tier 3 — by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (see “Energy Star not sole guide for energy-efficiency”). The Cabrios sense the size of the load and only use as little as 14 gallons per wash, as much as 31 gallons fewer than a traditional top-load washing machine.

I’m a huge front loader snob, but I have to admit that the features are pretty darn similar and who wouldn’t rather reach down than bend down. I think they’re definitely a good machine for the customer who wants quality but not another front loading washing machine.

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.

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!

Outdoor kitchen ideas: 3 sleek kegerators

May 4, 2010

I can’t imagine much I like better than enjoying a draft beer in my outdoor kitchen in the summer. But I can imagine that if I had my own kegerator in my outdoor kitchen — even if that were the extent of my outdoor kitchen — I wouldn’t leave my backyard.

If “kegerator” conjures up images of frat party ragers or that jury-rigged clunker your brother has in his basement, think again. Today’s beer dispensers are sleek and sophisticated, an some can spend nearly all year outdoors.

Here are three kegerators for your consideration.

DCS 24″ Outdoor Beer Dispenser

DCS, an extension of Australian appliance brand Fisher & Paykel, offers an entire suite of outdoor kitchen appliances.

This sleek, stainless steel outdoor kegerator (RF24T) is free-standing, but it can be slid under a counter and put between cabinetry as long as it’s given proper clearance on all sides.

At $2,499, it’s probably the most affordable in UL-rated outdoor beer dispensers.

Perlick Beer Dispenser

Perlick, known for commercial refrigeration, makes the only 3-tap beer dispenser available for homes, meaning you can serve up to three beers at a time (from a commercial-grade unit).

It’s UL rated for outdoors and can come either in a free-standing or built-in configuration. You can integrate it into your cabinetry, if you don’t like the look of stainless, with the optional wood panel overlay kit.

And green beer isn’t just for St. Patrick’s Day. Would you believe that it’s Energy Star rated? It is.

This is a special order item, so call for pricing.

Marvel Outdoor Keg Beer Dispenser

Marvel is another brand known for its commercial-grade refrigeration and claims it has “the only cooling system capable of keeping a half keg of beer frosty cold, from start to finish, right out of the tap.”

Temperature controls are adjustable for serving different styles of beer, and this UL-rated outdoor beer dispenser can also be used for indoor applications.

But what I really like about this Marvel, are the casters. Liquid Meals on Wheels, anyone? You can wheel this puppy all around the backyard.

This is also a special order item, so call for pricing.

Bosch dishwasher is best-selling model

April 30, 2010

I stress to customers the importance of selecting a product based on individual personal needs, rather than simply following Consumer Reports or a friend’s suggestion.

These sources can help validate a decision, but ultimately, your lifestyle is not your friend’s lifestyle — and I’m sure it’s certainly not Consumer Report’s lifestyle.

Saying that, I think it’s interesting to know what we sell the most of in each category. And in dishwashers, it’s the Bosch Evolution 300 series (models SHE43P02UC white or SHE43P05UC stainless steel).

It makes sense for the value. This European dishwasher is packed with features for $600 (stainless costs $100 more):

  • Energy Star qualified
  • Engineered to be super quiet (52 dBa)
  • 14-place setting capacity, with adjustable upper rack for taller pots, etc.
  • 4 wash cycles, including 30-minute Quick Wash
  • OptiDry for spotless drying
  • NSF Certified – Eliminates 99.9% of Bacteria

Of course there are a ton more features, but I’m only highlighting the ones I found most interesting.

And some features require more explanation, mostly because they’re branded (note the ™) with names that don’t really explain what they do, like AquaStop™.

So, for those keeping score at home, AquaStop™ detects leaks in the solid molded base of the dishwasher, shuts down operation and automatically pumps out water before contact with floors. Some won’t understand why this is important. And the rest of you had to replace an entire kitchen’s worth of hardwood floors and cabinetry due to leaking. Trust me: it’s important.

The Flow-Through Heater™ warms water (up to 161 degrees) more efficiently by having it flow through a heating chamber. Other manufacturers use conventional heating elements where water falls randomly onto a coil, warming it inefficiently. This is bad.

And, for the smart feature with the stupid name win: EcoSense™. Standard dishwashers constantly bring fresh water into the dishwasher, which could be completely unnecessary — the water might not be that dirty. So Bosch, being the energy efficient thinker it is, put a sensor in that checks to see how clean or dirty the water is and decides whether a fresh water refill  is necessary and will customize the selected cycle to the individual load of dishes.

Again, this might not be the dishwasher for you, but there are a ton of different Bosch dishwashers so perhaps you might find that works best for you.

10 sneaky ways you’re wasting money in your kitchen

March 23, 2010

This is among posts I prewrote to be published in my absence while I took vacation time. I will respond to all comments when I return. Thank you!

You bought your kitchen appliances on sale. Bonus: they’re Energy Star, so you’ll save money in water and energy costs.

But did you ever think that the way you use your appliances can really affect your utility bills?

Here are 10 energy-wasting choices to avoid:

1. Making your dishwasher heat up cold water

Run hot tap water before you run your dishwasher it doesn’t have to heat up the water as long.

2. Setting your refrigerator and freezer too cold

Your fridge section should be set at 37 degrees to 40 degrees, and your freezer section should be set at 5 degrees. A deep freeze should be set at zero degrees.

3. Using an uncovered pot to boil water

Think of all the heat  — and time — lost without a cover on  a pot of heated water. Instead, a cover traps the energy in.

4. Selecting “Heat Dry” on your dishwasher

If you don’t wash a lot of plastic dishes, or lots of dishes in general, choose the “Air Dry” setting or simply prop your dishwasher door open after the rinse cycle.

5. Leaving foods uncovered in the refrigerator

Uncovered foods release moisture, causing the compressor to work harder. Instead, cover all liquids and foods.

6. Prewashing your dishes

Not only will it decrease the effectiveness of your dishwasher detergent, prewashing your dishes is unnecessary and wastes water. Just scrape off the big pieces of food.

7. Ignoring the gasket on your refrigerator

Close your refrigerator door over a piece of paper or dollar bill so it’s half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull it out easily, your door seals aren’t airtight.

Try moistening the gasket with a thin layer of Vaseline, which should create a better seal. If that doesn’t do the trick, you might need to replace the gasket altogether.

8. Cooking with dirty burners and drip pans

Clean burners and drip pans will reflect the heat better, cooking your food faster and saving you energy.

9. Placing small pans on bigger burners

Match pans to the size of the element. Otherwise, you’re using energy to heat a bigger burner only to let it escape around the sides of the smaller pot or pan.

10. Barely stocking your refrigerator

It seems backwards, but a full refrigerator holds temperature better than a poorly stocked refrigerator. Just don’t pack food so tight as to block the airflow.


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