Green Appliances: Energy efficiency makes a difference

Green appliances? There are no true green appliances. The idea that an appliances can be green or environmentally friendly is something of an oxymoron in my opinion. Appliances use electricity by definition. Using electricity is linked to the consumption of non-renewable resources and fossil fuels which is linked to the production of carbon dioxide or “greenhouse gas emissions”. So there are no true green appliances.

But what’s the alternative? Some (like the couple in A Year without Toilet Paper) have very admirably tried living a no ecological impact lifestyle. It’s a huge lifestyle change and even they haven’t been able to go without light bulbs and a stove. Most of us aren’t quite ready for that extreme just yet. So we turn to technology to produce appliances that allow us to maintain our lifestyles but with less of an impact on the planet. Long live green appliances (and toilet paper).

So what’s makes a green appliance, well, green?

  • energy efficiency
  • water efficiency
  • recyclable components

The subject of green appliances is huge so I’ll only be covering energy efficiency in this article.

Energy Star – the universal symbol for energy efficient appliances

The Energy Star Logo - universal symbol for energy efficient appliances

When buying a new appliance, look for the Energy Star label. The Energy Star program was introduced in 1992 by the US Environmental Protection Agency, as a way to promote energy efficient, environmentally friendly products and practices. Appliances that earn the Energy Star label have to meet and exceed stringent standards for energy efficiency.

Over time, the program has paid off in huge savings – both to consumers and to the environment.

In 2006, Americans saved $14 billion in utility bills while preventing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 25 million cars by participating in Energy Star program. Put another way, if just one in 10 homes used an Energy Star appliance the environmental impact would be the same as planting 1.7 million new acres of trees (source: US Energy Star stats). Buying energy efficient appliances can and does make a huge difference to the environment.

Here is some info on the energy savings associated with the different types of Energy Star appliances.

Washing Machines

An Energy Star qualified washing machine uses 50% less energy than a standard washing machine. They also typically use less water and extract more water during the spin cycle to cut drying time and save wear and tear on your clothes.

Dehumidifiers

Buying an Energy Star rated dehumidifier will save 10-20% in energy costs over non-rated model.

Dishwashers

An Energy Star qualified dishwasher uses at least 41% less energy than the minimum standard. Like washing machines, they typically also use less water and less hot water in particular.

Refrigerators & Freezers

Energy Star rated refrigerators use 15% less energy than current standards and 40% less energy than similar models made in 2001. Freezers use 10-20% less energy, depending on design. The energy savings come from improved compressor technology, better insulation, and better thermostat control.

Room Air Conditioners

Energy Star rated air conditioners use at least 10% less energy than conventional models.

What about clothes dryers?

Some appliances don’t qualify for Energy Star like clothes dryers (they’re energy hogs) but you should still choose a more energy efficient model where you can.

Green appliances: the bottom line

Technological advances cost money so chances are green appliances will cost you more … but will save you money in operating costs (energy bills) over the life of the appliance, more than enough to make up for the initial cost.

Even better, you can sometimes get a rebate on your Energy Star purchase. Check out this page for rebates and incentives for Energy Star products available across Canada. Or you can search for special offers and rebates in the USA here.

All while helping to protect the environment. For more info, check out below.

Energy Star in the USA: http://www.energystar.gov/

Energy Star in Canada: http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/energystar/english/consumers/index.cfm

Product Recall: BonJour Professional Culinary Torches by Meyer

Bonjour butane culinary torches recalled

4,400 Bonjour Professional Culinary Torches are bing voluntarily recalled by the manufacturer, Meyer corporation. The cooking torches are a fire hazard, as there is a fuel leak problem in the torch assembly near the nozzle.

From the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission press release:

Description: This recall involves the BonJour® Professional Culinary Torch sold alone and as part of the BonJour® Bain Marie Set. The torch is 7.5 inches high and has a visible fuel gauge. The base is black, and the handle is either black or brown. The torch assembly is silver-colored with the word “BonJour” printed on the side.

Four consumer complaints have been filed but no injuries or property damage has resulted so far. Consumers are advised to stop using these torches immediately and contact Meyer for a full refund.

How to contact Meyer: Call 1 (800) 226-6568 between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday. I wasn’t able to find recall information on the Meyer website.

Solar Powered Air Conditioner – the new Millenia

SolCool Millennia Air Conditioner thumbnail

SolCool has a new solar-powered air conditioner, the Millenia, to be released next month. Unlike some of its earlier “full system” two-ton offerings, the Millenia is a good replacement for a conventional window or portable unit for spot cooling.

Practical considerations. The Millenia It can run on power grids in either the US or UK. It weighs about 200 pounds and can be mounted on wheels for portability. It has both cooling and heating functions. It comes with a remote control and a 5 yr warranty.

Green considerations: It’s solar powered so it’s an energy saver. It does require some electricity but will keep going in a blackout, day or night: it can run on solar-charged battery power for up to 24 hours. It’s also a “water saver”: the condensate from the air conditioner can be routed to another SolCool product, the Aquacell, to produce filtered drinking water. What will they think of next?

From the SolCool website:

The version four SolCool has two DC compressors, (one DC compressor will be a heat pump) with on board batteries that will last up to 24 hours between charge cycles. The version four is a 1.5 ton package unit that has a three speed blower and is operated by temperature activated remote control. A two gallon, on board condensate management tank will temporarily hold unit condensation with the ability to pump the condensate to a detached reservoir, drain or an Aquacell bottled water cooler system for filtered drinking water.

The SolCool footprint is 24”x 24” at the base and 48” vertical. Vertical height can be reduced to 36” if the battery bank is remotely located. Weight with standard on board battery back up is approximately 200 pounds. The maximum draw at full engagement is less than 500 watts.

So it’s an energy saver – but at what cost? About $3000 + $500 for installation according to published reports.

New time, money or energy saving products for your home

Interesting review of new products for your home from Newsday. Some I’ve seen, some I haven’t. The products highlighted are:

Read the full story 8 hot household helpers by Gary Dymski on Newsday.com

Robot Vacuum needs you less than you need it

The Electrolux Trilobite is a small robot that vacuums your home automatically … allowing you to “live your life while it thoroughly vacuums your home”.

Eluctrolux Trilobite Robot Vacuum

I’d heard about these things but never from a brand name vacuum manufacturer. Prototyped in 1997 and presented on a BBC program “Tomorrow’s World”, it’s finally coming to stores in 2007. I don’t think they’ve been working on it for the last 10 years, more like it’s being “reborn”. People are more receptive to the “robot vacuum” idea now and the technology is more advanced.

What do I mean by advanced? The batteries are more environmentally friendly. It has a flexible drive wheel suspension, four motors, and an LCD Display. You don’t need to put magnetic strips around the room anymore. It has much improved ultrasound navigation (sonar!) and will not bump into objects. If that’s not enough, it also docks and recharges itself when necessary (after about an hour).

You may need to add a couple of magnetic strips at doorways if you want to keep the vacuum cleaner in a confined space but this baby is smart enough to not know not to fall down the stairs and break itself; it has a built in infrared stair sensor.

Strictly from the household point of view, it has 3 cleaning programs – normal, quick, and spot vacuuming.

Is there a catch? Why yes, you still have to dump the dust box when it’s full. Otherwise it pretty much takes care of itself.

What about that other catch? Ah yes the price. About $1800 (cribcandy).

I found it odd that the Trilobite is named after a type of fossil, since it uses all this high-tech gadgetry and all. The explanation from the manufacturer:

The trilobite was a type of arthropod that vacuumed the ocean beds for small animals and particles about 250-560 million years ago. Its back was hard, and the trilobite is perhaps the best known of the fossils seen in walls, steps and flooring made of stone. This animal has lent its name and its shape to the new Trilobite vacuum cleaner.

You can see some less pricey (and probably less feature-packed) robot vacuums at the robot shop.

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