About Warners' Stellian · Energy Star · Sustainability

Nothing says Happy Earth Day like reducing your wastestream

Saving 20% sounds like a good deal to lots of us. Save half? Even better, right?

So you can bet that around here we get pretty excited about the fact that we save about 75% of the waste we generate from entering landfills.

And we’re not the only ones pumped up about our appliance packaging recycling program.

Recognize the guy on the left?

Left, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman Bill Warner, Carla Warner, Jeff Warner, Zach Shields and Robert Warner. At right is our Councilmember Lee Helgen.

Just in time for Earth Day, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman honored Warners’ Stellian with a Sustainable St. Paul Award for our efforts to reduce waste and recycle.

So, when you do your part to reduce your environmental impact by using Energy Star appliances, we do ours, by savings hundreds of tons of packaging from clogging our local landfills. Thanks to all our customers for their support in helping us make this crucial commitment.

Appliance Design · Dishwashers · Energy Efficiency · Energy Star · Sustainability

How long does a dishwasher last?

This post is the latest in the series “How long do appliances last?” They’re written in a style I learned in journalism, called “By The Numbers,” which was often just another way to say “I need to take up space and do something visual.” Voila.

10

The number of years in the average dishwasher’s lifespan, according to data published by Appliance Magazine in 2010. The life span reflects how long the first owner of a dishwasher owned it, which doesn’t necessarily mean that it broke down.

215

The number of cycles washed annually by the average dishwasher, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That’s a little over four cycles per week.

4

How many gallons of water an Energy Star dishwasher uses per cycle.That’s 860 gallons annually.

6

How many gallons of water a standard dishwasher uses per cycle. That’s 1,290 gallons annually.

20

Up to this many gallons of water are wasted by well-meaning homeowners still stuck on pre-rinsing their dishes. Repeat after me: scrape, don’t rinse!

$550

Average price of an Energy Star dishwasher, according to national retail data from 2009.

$538

Average price of a standard dishwasher in 2009.

1.5

Amount of years it takes for the lower operations costs (assuming gas water heating) of an Energy Star dishwasher to make up, or “pay back,” for the initial sticker price difference.

10%/$54

Overall savings of an Energy Star dishwasher over its expected lifetime (assuming electric water heating).

Budget-wise · Energy Efficiency · Energy Star · Refrigerator · Sustainability

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

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?

Budget-wise · DIY · Dryer · laundry · Sustainability

What to do with all that dryer lint?

You should clean your dryer lint from the lint trap after every use. A lint-covered lint filter reduces air movement, compromising the dryer’s ability to get to work on your wet clothes.

But what do you do with all that lint, then?

I heard a creative lint reuse idea the other day I found rather timely.

Stuff toilet paper tubes or paper towel tubes with lint for firestarters or kindling.

(This use, of course, speaks to the flammability of dryer lint — another reason to clean your lint trap!)

I’m looking for more ways to reuse the full wastebasket of lint I have in my laundry room. Any ideas?

Appliance Design · Budget-wise · Energy Efficiency · Refrigerator · Sustainability

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

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

Cleaning · Dishwashers · Sustainability

Dishwasher film: Is the culprit environmentally friendly cleaning products?

I blogged about white film on dishes from dishwashers about a month ago, and the post has gotten an unusual amount of hits.

And then I read in the New York Times that dishwasher users complain new no-phosphate dishwashing detergents are causing dishwasher film.

Which is funny, because we’ve often suggested environmentally friendly cleaning products, such as Seventh Generation dishwashing detergent, to customers because we’ve foundits lack of phosphates actually prevents cloudiness and etching.

(For what it’s worth — maybe not much — Consumer Reports found that seven phosphate-free detergents worked pretty well.)

My suggestions?

1. Stop pre-rinsing your dishes

Residual proteins from leftover foods activate the detergent’s cleaning enzymes. So if you’ve cleaned all or most of the food off your dishes, the detergent can’t activate and stays in its crystal format, scratching your dishes on a microscopic level.

2. Use rinse aid

3. Stop using so much detergent and run a vinegar cycle

4. Before starting your dishwasher, run the tap water until it’s hot

Not only does this save energy, but older dishwashers don’t run as long as new dishwashers — better designed for less-harsh detergents – – and so every minute counts. Don’t waste it with lukewarm water that’s being heated up.

Energy Efficiency · Events · Sustainability

Have you been to the Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair yet?

What did you think? Surprises? Likes/dislikes?

A friend sent me these pictures of our appliances and the "Styrofoam-On-A-Stick" display (cute, right?) I made about our package recycling program.
Another view from the Eco Experience Kitchen

I haven’t made it yet, but I’m going tonight and I’d love to get some perspectives from others first.