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
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.
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.
Buying an Energy Star rated dehumidifier will save 10-20% in energy costs over non-rated model.
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
Women don’t like compact florescent (CFL) bulbs. We talk a lot of green – and why shouldn’t we? Studies show women are generally “more receptive to environmental concerns“. But when it comes to buying and using the new energy efficient compact florescent (CFL) bulbs, actions speak louder than words.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week showed that while women are more likely than men to say they are â€œvery willingâ€ to change behavior to help the environment, they are less likely to have CFL bulbs at home. Wal-Mart company research shows a similar â€œdisconnectâ€ between the pro-environmental attitudes of women shoppers and their in-store purchases of CFL bulbs.
The explanation for this green gender gap? Memories of compact florescent light bulbs past.
They were bulky. They were expensive, as much as $25 each. They had an annoying flicker and hum. They cast an icky, cold-white light that made people look pale, wrinkly and old.
Well that’ll do it right there. According to the article, women are “nesters”, concerned about how things look. Men put the CFLs in and women take them out. Maybe it’s about ambiance. But maybe women don’t want to look at pale, wrinkly, old husbands either.
I must confess I use CFLs through the home, including the master bedroom (really low wattage) but not in my office. I’ve tried to use them but found the working experience highly unpleasant. Sounds like it’s time to try again. Compact florescent bulbs are better now. Some are supposed to even approximate the cozy warm glow of incandescent lighting. But attitudes take longer to change than technology.
I tried to find the original poll on both the Washington Times and ABC News websites but all I found is that someone at ABC can predict the future; my query for “compact florescent” returned results from the years 2201, 5005 and up. But no poll from April of this year. Shucks to rely on ABC.
Guess we’ll have to take their word for it. Read the source article, Some wives resent energy-saving bulbs from the Washington Times, reprinted on the Nashua Telegraph.
Well at least on TV! This is in response to Robert Tracinski’s recent opinion piece, The Seeds of the Global Warming Police State where he rails against global warming hysteria and environmentalist “eagerness to reach into the smallest details of our private existence and re-arrange our lifestyle to fit the austere requirements of their political ideology”.
He lambastes Australian home improvement TV Show Carbon Cops and other media as examples of green ideology gone too far, criticizes green legislative initiatives, and concludes as follows:
Australia’s “carbon cops” may be fictional, but they are the harbinger of a real attempt to use the power of the state to strip us of the accoutrements of prosperity: our light bulbs, our cars, our televisions, our freshly laundered towels.
Um, it’s just a TV show . But let’s hear him out …
In a bizarre inversion of the typical American home improvement show, the experts in this show descend on the hapless homeowners to measure their “carbon footprint,” the amount of fossil fuels involved in the manufacture and use of every item in their house. The “carbon cops” are shown rummaging through a family’s smallest household items, searching for global warming contraband–and then scolding them for “polluting” the atmosphere with carbon dioxide.
Each week they don their orange monogrammed shirts to cordon off the toxic home of an Australian family. They arrive with energy-auditing gadgetry, sobering statistics, and lips and eyebrows curled in withering admonishment. They rate these people, shame them, then challenge them to do better.
What bizarre inversion? Making homeowners feel bad for their tacky taste, DIY incompetence or just plain ignorance in exchange for a free remodel and 22 minutes of fame is a standard formula, totally acceptable as “entertainment” in the Home Improvement TV industry. Reality TV is a faustian bargain at best and we all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Green television in particular has suffered from being boring and has failed to catch on, in spite of the weighty issues at hand.
In a medium that thrives on explosive hits, the merely smouldering issue of global warming is proving about as gripping as watching trees grow … This year we’ve already seen two well-intentioned environmental awareness shows come and go …
- smh article
Perhaps the Carbon Cops are trying to stir things up, be controversial for commercial crossover appeal? Hence the dayglo suits and police tape. It’s a gimmick. And going for some emotional shock value by making the family “feel bad about how they live, only in a smiling pleasant way” seems to be part of it, rightly or wrongly. “Blame, embarrassment and middleclass guilt are the key ingredients”.
As Tracinski points out, the “victims” (I prefer homeowners) are willing participants. As the sign up form explains:
Each household involved will have their homeâ€™s structure, appliances, vehicles and habits assessed for energy efficiency. You will then be supported and inspired to make physical and habitual changes.
So there you go – “supported and inspired” to change. But if you sign up for a show with the word “cops” in the name, don’t expect it to be “Carbon Crossing Guards”.
The goal of the show is to get behavioral change out of the participants and viewers. To educate and enlighten … but also to trigger a real change in the choices we make day to day. But for people to be motivated to change, they need to feel uncomfortable about where they are now (cognitive dissonance theory). And integrate new information, a better way of doing things, as a way to resolve that conflict. We may not like it emotionally, but Carbon Cops is doing exactly what they said they would do.
A couple of things “inconvenient truths” Tracinski failed mention. First of all, not everyone felt ashamed. Mom was mortified but dad was quoted as saying “the global warming scare is all bollocks anyway“. Secondly, Tracinski chose to ignore the show’s stated goal in the article he referenced: to show people “how easy it is for them to reduce their carbon emissions without having a huge impact on their lifestyle“. Probably because these facts undermine his assertions about the insidious nature of the environmentalist agenda.
Although green awareness has grown immensely over the last few years, legislation of some kind seems to be an inevitable course of action, if the global warming danger is as real as publicized. Behavioral change on a large scale is difficult to bring about. And as behavioral researchers note:
â€œyou might be able to avoid the need to convince your target audience to change its behaviour altogether if you can create structural changes that bring about the same resultâ€. Kline Weinreich illustrates this view with the idea that passing a law that requires all residential pools to have childproof safety fences would be more effective at combating drowning than attempting to change the pool behaviour of parents and their children.
The question then goes back to whether the environmental threat is real and how effectively legislation can reasonably combat that threat. Pardon my cynicism but the “liberty and prosperity” in jeopardy argument just doesn’t wash. Tracinski needs to get off his soapbox and “get real”. The liberal influencers are as affluent as the conservative ones and for all their talk about the issues (Al Gore & Global Warming, Bill Clinton and his sod roofs), have yet to give up their affluent lifestyles. It just ain’t gonna happen. The influencers can say what they want, but the decision-makers report back to the voters and middle America isn’t ready to support any kind of “Global Warming Police State”, now or in the near future.
Yes we will probably see legislation aimed at broad based reductions in carbon consumption. But on an individual level, we won’t see a lot of intrusion, just more of what we are seeing now. More green tax credits and incentives. And more “energy saving behavior” on the part of consumers because it just makes financial common sense, not because environmental activists say so.
By the way, Carbon Cops had a decent rating in its first week. So the Green Police must be doing something right – they got people to tune in instead of tuning out. Now they’ve just got to get people to want to change.
The Broan Humidity Sensing Fan is a home improvement innovation (and Hanley Wood Most Valuable Product and AHR Expo 2007 award winner) that can help protect your bathroom from mildew and mold. The fan can be configured to turn on automatically at preset humidity levels, reducing the opportunity for mold and mildew to grow. The fan’s auto shut off feature also helps save power and money. Hands free operation.
Details: Broan Humidity Sensing Fan Model QTXE110S product information.
Metal roofs absorb 34% less heat than traditional asphalt shingles, according to a 1985 Florida Solar Energy Center study. This can translate into significant energy savings.
Most metal roofs reflect away more of the sun’s heat than do asphalt shingle roofs. This keeps the roofing materials cooler so less heat is radiated down through the ceilings to the living area. Also, the underside of the metal surface has lower emissivity than shingles, so even less heat radiates down to the ceiling below.
The final energy advantage is the metal is relatively thin and has a contour stamped into it to simulate other styles of shingles. This contour creates an air gap between most of the roofing and the roof sheathing below it. With a sloped roof, outdoor air naturally circulates up under the metal roof to keep it cooler.
A metal roof may cost more initially but pays back in the long run even without the tax credit ( Metal roofs qualify for a $500 energy tax credit – use IRS form 5695).
Other benefits of a metal roof:
- long life / durability
- low maintenance
- fire retardant
- green benefit: can contain recycled material
- green benefit: can be installed over existing an existing roof, eliminating the need for your existing roof to go to a landfill
For more info read:
Or second thoughts? Or reservations? Then check out this Consumer Reports blog entry Q&A: Are there any drawbacks to compact fluorescent bulbs?. It offers a concise review of the pros and cons of the compact fluorescent (CFL) including mercury content, energy savings, and practical limitations.
So Bill Clinton is getting on the green bandwagon – by advocating you sod your roof as a way to help cut greenhouse gas emissions; a sod roof doesn’t get as hot, meaning you don’t have to use as much energy to cool your home.
I’m not going to argue with anyone who advocates “relentless home improvement” and going green in general but when it comes to sodding the rooftops my question is … what’s he been smoking??
I mean it is possible.
We conducted a little research yesterday, and while sod roofs are far more common in places like African villages, we came across a pair of Vermont home builders â€” Tim Rice and Steve Jacob â€” who agree with Mr. Clinton that the time is right for a “revival of the old-time sod roof.”
But probable or practical? I think not. Most of us have enough lawn to mow right now, let alone putting more on the roof. Lawnmowers are already the #1 source of home improvement related injuries and now we’re going to take them to the rooftops as well?
Letting your rooftop lawn go isn’t an option either, not in this society. A beautiful lawn is one of North America’s great obsessions. It’s a cult! I speak as a person who occasionally drinks the Kool Aid.
What I mean by the lawn as moral issue is its place in human relations and its role in public shaming. In North America today, a lawn is the quickest, surest indicator that the deadliest of the seven deadly sins has attacked from within. As the death of a canary announces the presence of gas in a mine, so a dandelion’s appearance on a lawn indicates that Sloth has taken up residence in paradise and is about to spread evil in every direction. And when a whole lawn comes alive with dandelions–it can happen overnight, as many know to our sorrow–then that property instantly becomes an affront to the street and to the middle-class world of which the street is a part. Pretty as they might look to some, dandelions demonstrate a weakness of the soul. They announce that the owner of the house refuses to respect the neighbourhood’s right to peace, order, good government, and the absence of airborne dandelion seeds.
- Robert Fulford, The Lawn: North America’s magnificent obsession
Are we going to put the dandelions where lawn obsessives can’t reach them? It isn’t going to happen; some people just won’t be able to “leave them be”.
Other concerns I’ve seen noted: how sod roofs will fare in hurricane conditions, the water weight after a week of rain, and the need for more government regulation around such an undertaking. All legitimate concerns.
Bill Clinton is a smart guy. But to sell green to the masses, he needs to pitch simple, elegant solutions. Energy efficient windows. Yeah! Wind turbines. Yeah! Metal roofs that offer the same benefits? Yeah! A dandelion haven on our rooftops? No thank you Mr. Clinton.
But if you’re curious as to how it could be done, you can read more at TownHall.com.
Could you live in a 100 sq ft home? 10 X 10? I know what my response would be – much laughter. But there is a guy out there building such exotic items and making a living at it too.
Jay Shafer of Tumbleweeds Tiny Homes located in the Bay Area has built them for customers all over the world. Make no mistake, they are complete homes – with a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom / shower, great room, and tons of creative storage solutions “many large home owners would envy”. And you can put them on wheels! Have tiny house, will travel.
My thoughts? Yes, something only a single man would come up with. Schafer actually makes them up to 700 sq ft to accommodate more people, but still very small by conventional standards.
The people who buy them are often interested in “downsizing their lives”. Others put them in the backyard as a “retreat” or use them as cabins.
But seriously, why so small?
Jay Shafer: “The average American house these days is pretty big and it’s consuming a lot of resources and it’s producing a lot of greenhouse gases.”
The energy savings are real. Jay’s own tiny home only takes 5 minutes to warm up or cool down. He says he’s using about $3 worth of energy per month.
An interesting trend that will hopefully make a bigger impact in the housing market.
See the Tiny Home Photo Gallery – not a dwarf in sight.
Read the story and see the video on ABC7News.com.
See another video on alternative housing featuring Tumbleweeds Tiny Homes on CBS5.com.
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 24â€x 24â€ at the base and 48â€ vertical. Vertical height can be reduced to 36â€ 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.
Can a “mortgage banker and green advocate” find happiness by giving up a life of luxury to go green? This news article says yes. Going Green at the Beach documents Dave & Anna Porter’s quest to build a cutting edge “Craftsman” green home in Snohomish County, Washington.
The Porters aim to meet the requirements of not one but all five existing residential green building certification programs:
thus making it a record setting and hopefully trend setting green home.
How is this home greener than the rest?
- Original home deconstructed, saving 80% of original material from going to landfills
- Doors, kitchen cabinets recycled from original home
- Geothermal heat
- Radiant floor heating system
- Rainwater collection system
- Tankless hot water with recirculation system
… among many other features. The full list is quite lengthy: they’ve obviously put a lot of thought and effort into the design.
One of the things that jumped out from the list is that it is a “modest-sized home on a small lot”. How is that special? Well for people who used to drive a “gas-gulping Jaguar” and have a “4,000-square-foot home”, this is progress. As noted in my previous post, buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US – small(er) is beautiful.
The demonstration home is an expensive proposition but lucky for the Porters, they’re not “going it alone”. They are being assisted in their quest by a team of professionals, have sponsors and a marketing team.
When the beach house is finished in the fall, the Porters plan to report on how efficiently it performs, right down to the utility bills. They also will open their doors for tours.
The site seems new, much of the content is under construction but looks promising. My only disappointment with the site: they promised green tips from the family dog and I couldn’t find any. Skipper, the “recycled dog”, looks really cute in his hard hat and tool belt. Maybe that’s coming later …