Reprinted from The Greater Los Angeles and www.aceee.org
Energy runs appliances. Saving energy helps the environment by reducing carbon dioxide emissions given off by energy plants. One kilowatt hour of electricity generates two pounds of CO2, our biggest global warming gas. Refrigerators alone consume 7% of the nation’s total electricity. Saving energy also saves money; appliances, heating and cooling cost an average household more than $1,000 per year. You can sharply reduce your own energy bill by replacing your old juice-hogs with new, high-effiency major appliances and space conditioning equipment right now. The biggest energy consumers are the refrigerator, water heater, heating and air conditioning units, especially if they are electric – in other words, the major appliances that tend to be switched on for a long time. The time to replace these is sooner than later. Don’t wait until they break down and you are forced to run out and buy the best replacement you can afford or get quickly in an emergency. It pays to learn ahead of time what the best models are, and where to find them. If you are a renter, and especially if you pay your own utility bills, you should lobby your landlord for needed major appliance improvements. If there are many people in the building, form a committee to look into energy issues and make a recommendation for improvements to tenants and landlord alike. But don’t stop there – you should also lobby public officials, agencies, and utilities to make low-interest loans available for energy improvements to owners of rental units.
The best way to understand the ins and outs of energy effiency, appliances and your particular situation is by reading the book, Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings ($9), put out by the American Council for an Energy-Effiency Economy in cooperation with Home Energy magazine. Also, check out The Most Energy Efficient Appliances ($4), which is a booklet that contains top-rated residential equipment on the U.S. market and the latest compilation of the most efficient appliances, including refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers, water heaters, central and room air conditioners, central heat pumps, and furnaces and boilers. See www.aceee.org before buying anything. You will learn important concepts and lingo, and if you use its advice you will save money, consume less energy, and protect the atmosphere. (From The L.A. Green Pages )
When it comes time to buy a new refrigerator, it definitely pays to shop around for an energy-efficient model. Even though federal law mandates certain energy efficiency levels for refrigerators, there is still significant variation from model to model. Look for the ENERGY STAR® label to identify efficient models. As you shop for a new refrigerator, consider what style and features you want, and what the energy penalties might be. For example, side-by-side refrigerator/freezers use more energy than similarly sized models with the freezer on the top. Built-in designer refrigerators may also consume more energy than store models, but are less wasteful than they used to be since the national appliance energy standards took effect. Manual defrost models use less electricity than automatic defrost models but are not widely available in large sizes. However, manual defrost models must be defrosted periodically to maintain their energy efficiency. Features such as automatic icemakers and through-the-door dispensers can increase energy consumption somewhat. Consider size as well when shopping for a refrigerator. Generally, the larger the unit, the greater the energy consumption. Too large a model will result in wasted space and energy; too small a model could mean extra trips to the supermarket. However, some refrigerator sizes tend to be more efficient. Currently, the most efficient models are in the most popular 16-20 ft3 range. You may find that a more efficient 18 ft3 model costs less to run than a 15 ft3 model with similar features. If you are thinking of buying a second refrigerator, you might want to reconsider. It is generally much less expensive to buy and operate one big refrigerator than two small ones. If the extra refrigerator is an old model, it’s probably an energy guzzler. If you only need a second refrigerator a few days a year or to hold a few six-packs of beer, why spend an extra $50-150 per year in electricity?
Should I replace my existing heating system? This can be a difficult question. If you heat with electric resistance heat, rising electricity prices may force you to switch to a gas, oil, or heat pump system that is more affordable. If you currently have a gas- or oil-fired furnace or boiler, the decision to replace it depends on its age, condition, and performance. If your furnace or boiler is old, worn out, inefficient, or significantly oversized, the simplest solution is to replace it with a modern high-efficiency model. Old coal burners that were switched over to oil or gas are prime candidates for replacement, as are gas furnaces without electronic (pilot less) ignition or a way to limit the flow of heated air up the chimney when the heating system is off (vent dampers or induced draft fan). A typical heating system will last about 25 years, though some boilers can last twice that long. Your heating system technician or energy auditor may be able to help you evaluate your existing system and decide whether replacement is a good idea. There’s a lot of money to be saved each year when you consider the expected lifetime of a heating system. Unlike most other investments, energy conservation investments are tax free. A 14% return is pretty good – much higher than what you receive from a savings account or certificate of deposit. Plus, unlike most other investments, energy conservation investments are tax free. If fuel prices go up, the annual savings and return on investment also go up. For example, if fuel prices increase 30%, the annual savings in this example increases to $456, and the return on investment increases to 18%.
Laundry: Horizontal-Axis Clothes Washers
The re-emergence of H-axis clothes washers on the American market is an exciting development for consumers interested in energy savings and environmental quality. In addition to attractive energy savings, the water savings from these machines is crucial in areas where water is scarce. (Although we sometimes use the terms interchangeably, front-loading and horizontal-axis are not necessarily synonymous: Staber Industries builds a top-loading H-axis machine.) To understand how horizontal-axis washers use so much less water and energy, consider that in a conventional top-loader the tub must be filled with water so that all the clothes are kept wet. The agitator then swirls the water around to clean the clothes. In contrast, a front-loader needs less water because the tub itself rotates, making the clothes tumble into the water. Front-loaders have always been popular in Europe, and in the past few years European manufacturers have increased marketing their products in the U.S. In response, Amana, Frigidaire, and Maytag introduced new H-axis machines in 1997, and other manufacturers may soon follow with their own designs. Many front-loaders permit stacking the dryer on top of the washer, yet another benefit if space is tight. The Maytag Neptune even features a tub angled up 15Â° for easier loading and unloading. At present, horizontal-axis clothes washers are more expensive to purchase than vertical-axis washers; however, their substantial energy and water savings translates into big money savings and a quick return on your investment. Depending on your local energy and water rates and the amount of laundry you do each year, you may realize annual savings of $100 or more. If an H-axis washer cost $500 more to purchase than a conventional machine, your savings would be a tax-free return on your investment of 20%. A growing number of energy and water utilities around the country recognize the benefits of efficient clothes washers, and are offering rebates to consumers who purchase qualifying machines. Call your energy and water utilities and ask if they provide rebates for high-efficiency clothes washers.
Most of the energy used by dishwashers is actually the energy required for heating the water they consume. Therefore, an efficient dishwasher either uses less water to do the job, or heats the water itself. Several high-efficiency European models are becoming more common on the American market, and domestic manufacturers are also making more efficient models these days.
Halogen Lighting and other Torchieres
Halogen or tungsten-halogen lighting has improved somewhat over the past few years and remains the lighting option of choice where high light quality or precise light focusing is required. A halogen lamp is really a specialized type of incandescent lamp, often featuring a parabolic aluminized reflector (PAR) to improve light focus. Halogen lamps are slightly more energy efficient than standard incandescent lamps, but not as energy efficient as fluorescent lamps. In situations where light is needed on a precise area, halogen lights may be a more effective choice than fluorescent lights due to this tight focusing feature. However, halogen torchiere floor lamps, which have become quite popular in recent years, are actually quite inefficient, since they consume 300-600 watts of electricity yet direct the light to the ceiling. Even though a smooth white ceiling can reflect some light, bathing a ceiling with light from a halogen torchiere wastes much of the light quality and tight focusing benefits of halogen lamps. Halogen torchieres are particularly poor choices in rooms with non-white or textured ceilings. In addition, these low-cost light fixtures pose a fire hazard due to the extremely hot temperatures produced by their high-wattage bulbs. Halogen torchieres are an example of a low-price technology that proves to be costly over the long term. For example, a 300-watt torchiere used just two hours per day will consume 219 kWh per year at an average cost of $18 per year. Many discount stores sell halogen floor lamps for about $15, so this floor lamp can easily cost more to operate each year than it cost to purchase in the first place! Put another way, halogen torchieres use so much power that using one can cancel the savings you would gain by replacing six 75-watt incandescent light bulbs with 18-watt compact fluorescent lamps. Fortunately, several companies have begun making energy-efficient torchieres with compact fluorescent lamps. Many of these new, attractive products feature full dimming capability and are much safer than halogen floor lamps while using only a fraction of the electricity. You may want to check out www.LightSite.net. This web site was created by Ecos Consulting. Formed by some of the leading experts in industry, government, and the environmental community, Ecos is dedicated to making lighting cleaner, safer and more affordable. This site has information about halogen torchieres and their alternatives plus a complete on-line catalog of ENERGY STAR – labeled torchieres.
Do not throw away functional appliances simply because they have gone out of style or you feel the need to buy something new. In the case of many small appliances, their manufacture requires more energy than the appliance will use in its lifetime. This is certainly true for blenders, mixers, juicers and the like. Be aware that many air conditioners and refrigerators use CFC’s – the chief culprit in the destruction of the atmosphere’s ozone layer. Proper disposal of these appliances includes having the CFC’s recovered by a technician with proper equipment. If the item works, or can be repaired, you shouldn’t dispose of it at all. Give or sell it to someone who can use it. These stores or facilities accept used and non-working appliances. Call for information. A fee may be charged.
8100 Jefferson Hwy.,
Brooklyn Park South
Hennepin Recycling and Problem Waste Drop-Off Center
1400 West 96th St.,
Info Line 612-348-6500 for specific information
For gas powered refrigeration units
call 612-348-5485 to make an appointment
A Plus Appliance
760 Payne Ave,
St. Paul, MN
Appliance $mart (curbside pickup)
7350 Excelsior Blvd, St.Louis Park
654 University Ave.
Don Barbeau Appliances
2301 37th Ave NE, Minneapolis, 55421
JR’s Appliance Disposal
8980 Hwy 149,
Inner Grove Heights