September 19, 2014

Haier’s New Under-Counter Dual Drawer Fridge

Haier America has introduced a line of built-in dual drawer refrigerators that were designed with today’s integrated kitchens in mind.

Available in stainless steel, white and black finishes, the units have two refrigeration drawers with a total of 5.4 cubic feet of capacity and an easy-to-clean electronic temperature touch-control panel. In addition, the drawers’ divider system easily adjusts with one hand to securely hold different-sized items such as fruits and vegetables, cheeses and beverages.

The dual drawer series also features side installation brackets that allow the units to be easily secured to the sides of kitchen cabinets without having to drill upward into expensive stone or solid-surfacing countertops.

“Haier understands the customer’s needs and we provide premium features and benefits which empower consumers to live a modern, affordable and sustainable lifestyle” said Matt Sekelick, the company’s major appliances senior brand management VP.

Other product features include quiet 47dB operation and deep drawers that can hold items up to 12.1-inches tall. Manufacturer suggested retails are $999 for the smooth white and smooth black models, and $1,399 for the stainless-steel finish.

GE’s Plans to Help You Manage Your Energy Use

GE Appliances & Lighting created the Home Energy Management (HEM) business, intending to be the first major appliance company to provide a whole-home solution for energy management.

When synchronized with the local utility company’s home smart-meter, coming into popular use, the HEM acts as the “central nervous system” for monitoring resource usage and controlling energy consumption within the home. The HEM, with the ability to collect data on multiple appliances, provides both real-time and long-term trend information on power and resource consumption and solar generation to the homeowners.

GE’s new Home Energy Manager (HEM) monitors all networked appliances which can include the refrigerator, range, dishwasher, washer and dryer, water heater, and will track all other home energy consumption including microwaves and televisions.

One of the primary goals of U.S. smart grid initiatives is to better use the energy production capacity the country already has. Home energy consumption efficiency can increase significantly when homeowners the option to participate in time-of-use pricing programs, which reward homeowners for lowering their consumption during periods of peak energy demand (usually 2-7 PM).

Simply providing consumers with energy consumption information motivates energy savings. A U.S. Department of Energy study showed that providing real-time pricing information to consumers via a smart meter helped reduce electricity costs 10% on average and 15% during peak periods.

“Knowing what is consuming electricity, and how much electricity that appliances are consuming, can be very empowering,” states Dave McCalpin, general manager of the new HEM business. “People will be able to make smarter choices if they have information. The once-a-month electrical bill provides no insight into your usage habits. We intend to change that.”

HEM’s design is targeted to include:

* Demand Response Integration, supporting communication standards Zigbee SEP 1.0, to enable demand response communication between a utility’s home smart meter and appliances on the home network, enabling real-time load shedding of networked appliances;
* Five-Day Weather Forecasts on Internet-enabled installations (communications supporting Ethernet, Wifi, and Zigbee SEP 1.0 standards);
* Electricity Usage Data Monitoring for the whole home for both short and long terms;
* Power Sub Metering for each GE demand response-enabled appliance;
* Solar Generation Monitoring of inverter output, including short- and long-term data where available;
* Water Usage Monitoring via household-wide data monitoring at 1-gallon resolution;
* Smart Thermostat Interface with full-featured seven-day programmable communicating thermostats that accepts demand response temperature offsets.

Energy Standards for Refrigerators Upgraded

Advocacy groups and appliance manufacturers hailed a 25 percent increase in energy efficiency for most new refrigerators, starting in 2014, thanks to new efficiency standards that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced today, continuing a 40‐year trend of improving energy efficiency for this essential home appliance.

The groups said the new standards are the first step in the department’s implementation of the
recommendations they proposed to DOE in July for new minimum efficiency standards, tax credits and ENERGY STAR incentives for smart appliances affecting six major categories of home appliances.

According to the proposed rule, a typical new 20‐cubic‐foot refrigerator with the freezer on top would use about 390 kilowatt hours (kwh) per year, down from about 900 kwh/year in 1990 and about 1,700 kwh/year in the early 1970s. On a national basis, the new standards would, over 30 years, save 4.5 quads of energy, or roughly enough to meet the total energy needs of one‐fifth of all U.S. households for a year. Over the same period, the standards will save consumers about $18.5 billion. DOE will finalize the standards by year’s end, and they take effect in 2014.

“This big step forward for refrigerator efficiency proves that the well of innovation leading to energy savings is very, very deep,” said David B. Goldstein, energy program director for the Natural Resource Defense Council and winner of a MacArthur Prize for his work on refrigerator efficiency. “These standards pave the way for manufacturer investments in a next generation of products that demonstrate ever‐increasing energy and cost savings.”

Based on the July agreement, home appliance manufacturers and efficiency, environmental and consumer advocates have agreed to jointly pursue with Congress and the administration new standards for six categories of home appliances (refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, dishwashers and room air conditioners), a recommendation that ENERGY STAR qualification criteria incorporate credit for Smart Grid capability and a package of targeted tax credits aimed at fostering the market for super‐efficient appliances.

As part of the new refrigerator standards, ice maker energy consumption also will be reflected in product energy‐use ratings, giving consumers a better way to gauge actual energy use when making a choice among refrigerators.

“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.”

Several prior refrigerator standards, including those put in place in 1993 and 2001, are also the result of joint industry/advocate agreements.

A table showing the percent energy savings achieved by the proposed standards relative to current standards for select categories and the complete press release can be seen at AHAM.org

Rating the Latest Appliances – JD Powers Results

The 2010 Laundry Appliance Satisfaction Study and 2010 Kitchen Appliance Satisfaction Study from J.D. Power and Associates found that awareness of Energy Star certified appliances has increased among U.S. owners of new appliances since 2009 and so has the percentage who purchased an Energy Star appliance.

According to appliancemagazine.com, 86% of 2010 dishwasher buyers reported buying an Energy Star certified appliance, for an increase of 5% from 2009 and a 9% increase from 2008.

Satisfaction with appliance performance is strongly influenced by the owner’s perception of the appliance’s water and/or energy efficiency, the study found. Customers who report that their appliance is Energy Star certified are more likely to be more satisfied with their appliance than customers who do not indicate that their appliance is certified.

The Laundry Appliance Satisfaction Study measured customer satisfaction with clothes washers and dryers based on performance in six factors:


• ease of use
• features (such as the number of settings available and appliance capacity)
• performance and reliability (including energy efficiency, noise level, and how well the appliance functions)
• styling and feel
• warranty
• price

CLOTHES WASHERS: Samsung ranked highest for the second year in a row when it came to satisfying clothes washer owners, with a score of 832 on a 1000-point scale. Samsung performed particularly well in four of six factors:

• performance and reliability
• ease of use
• features
• styling

Other brands that broke the 800-point mark in the clothes washer rankings included:

• Kenmore Elite (817 points)
• Electrolux (816)
• LG (811)
• Maytag Epic (802)

CLOTHES DRYERS: Samsung scored 833 and was No. 1 in the clothes dryer rankings – the third consecutive year it’s been in the top spot. J.D. Power reported that Samsung did particularly well in four of the six factors:

• performance and reliability
• ease of use
• styling
• features

Only two other brands scored more than 800 points in the study:

• LG (814 points)
• Kenmore Elite (809)

Kitchen Appliances Study
Customer satisfaction was measured based on performance in six factors:

• performance and reliability (including how well the appliance functions, noise level, and energy efficiency)
• features (such as the number of settings available and appliance capacity)
• ease of use
• styling and feel
• price
• warranty

REFRIGERATORS: Samsung – for the sixth year in a row – ranked highest in satisfying refrigerator owners with a score of 803. Samsung performed particularly well in:

• ease of use
• performance and reliability
• features.

Samsung was followed by LG (781 points) and Kenmore Elite (776 points).

DISHWASHERS: Miele ranked highest in customer satisfaction in dishwashers with a score of 806 and performed particularly well in four of the six factors:

• performance and reliability
• styling and feel
• features
• warranty

Bosch also cracked the 800-point mark, scoring 801 points.

COOKTOPS/RANGES/OVENS:
Wolf ranked No. 1 in cooking appliances with a score of 812, and performed particularly well in five of six factors:

• ease of use
• performance and reliability
• styling and feel
• features
• warranty

Samsung ran a close second in this category, with a score of 809, and was the only other appliance brand to top the 800-point threshold.

The Studies

The 2010 Laundry Appliance Satisfaction Study was based on responses from more than 5100 consumers who purchased clothes washers and more than 5100 consumers who purchased clothes dryers from a retail store or received one through other means (such as a new-home builder or a gift) during the past 24 months. The study was fielded between March and April 2010.

Paying for Your Next New Appliance

Household appliances are generally so reliable, having one break down takes us by surprise. The hassle of shopping for a new appliance is trouble enough without worrying about paying for it too. Plan ahead, because the dryer is not going to sound out announcements before it conks-out.

Repair or Replace?

The first decision to be made is if you really need a new appliance, or if repairs are in order. If the repair costs half the price of a new appliance, seriously consider buying new, says Mark Kotkin at Consumer Reports. According to the magazine’s research, any major household appliance more than eight years old should be considered for replacement rather than repair. The magazine also suggest you skip the repair and buy new if your appliance costs less than $150.

Budgeting

“I’ve seen a lot of people’s budgets over the years, and it seems like household maintenance is one category that people miss,” says Matt Bell of MattAboutMoney.com. People who know the age of their appliances and their expected life spans can budget better for replacements. Or they could maintain a more general emergency fund for when bad things happen. Either cash stash will help you avoid finance charges on a credit card you can’t pay off right away, said Bell.

Home Warranty

A home warranty is a service contract for an existing home that covers major operating systems, such as a furnace or a dishwasher. The homeowner buys a repair contract, often for $300 to $500 a year, and pays a service charge for each call. If many of your major appliances are near the ends of their useful lives, a home warranty might be worthwhile. But warranties are complicated, covering some types of breakdowns and not others. Pre-existing conditions and malfunctions that stem from poor maintenance or installation can be excluded. Some companies will cover all or part of an appliance’s replacement cost. Choose this option carefully.

Best Stores for Buying Appliances

When you’re shopping for a new appliance, you want a store that will provide good prices, helpful staff and ease of service along with a good selection.

Unfortunately, two surveys from the Consumer Reports National Research Center show that no one retailer seems able to provide it all.

CR did find some cause for hope. Abt Electronics, in the Chicago area, and independent local stores garnered high praise from shoppers who bought a major appliance in the past year. For small appliances, independents also rated highly, along with Costco, though the standout was Amazon.com, as in past years.

CR’s rankings for shopper satisfaction came from more than 21,000 respondents to its 2009 Appliance Shopper Satisfaction Survey. It also commissioned a separate, nationally representative Home Gripes survey of 1,405 homeowners about their experiences shopping at home stores.

Only Abt Electronics scored better than average on price for major appliances. For small appliances, Amazon.com and Costco got readers’ highest marks for price for the second year in a row.

Here’s more from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Consumer Reports:

Besides price, the expertise and manner of a store’s sales staff were key reasons for choosing a major appliance retailer, according to the CR Shopper Satisfaction Survey. But respondents to the Home Gripes survey cited difficulty in finding a useful salesperson at all as one of their chief shopping annoyances. Salespeople who were arrogant or even nasty were especially bothersome for women.

Independent retailers, Abt Electronics and Pacific Sales in California received top marks for having salespeople knowledgeable in major appliances. The trio also stood out for service rendered; Best Buy scored below average for its staff. For staff expertise and service in small appliances, independent local retailers scored best. Among major retailers, only Lowe’s stood out; and for service, Sears scored above average.

Around a quarter of major- and small-appliance shoppers chose retailers based on their reputation for high-quality products. Retailers varied significantly on both counts. Poor selection was a complaint for less than 5 percent of respondents to CR’s Shopper Satisfaction survey. But almost a quarter of small-appliance shoppers at Sam’s Club complained that the store had too few brands or models available for selection. For major appliances, no store scored better than average for shopping ease.

For major-appliance product quality and selection, Abt Electronics and Pacific Sales scored best; for selection, Home Depot scored below average. For small-appliance purchasing, Amazon.com and independents stood out for quality and selection. Shopping for small appliances in stores was more varied, with independent retailers getting top marks for shopping ease, followed by Sears, Lowe’s and Best Buy, which all scored above average.

Stores that push extended warranties were among the top annoyances in CR’s Home Gripes survey. In the Shopper Satisfaction Survey, respondents who bought a major appliance were much more likely than those buying small appliances to be hit with an extended-warranty offer.

For small appliances, Amazon.com’s storage of shipping addresses and payment preferences might have contributed to its high score for checkout ease in the Shopper Satisfaction Survey. Independent retailers also received top marks, followed by Costco. For major appliances, no retailer scored worse than average. But Abt Electronics and independents fared best.

Kenmore’s Talking Appliances

Last February, Mel Bonner, 63, of Tinley Park, Ill., noticed water beneath his washing machine. He couldn’t find a leak, so he dialed the manufacturer’s customer service number. Then he held the receiver up and let the machine do the “talking.”

The washer was “beeping, and lights [were] flashing” as it transmitted self-diagnostic data, says Bonner, a retired electrician. When the telephone representative couldn’t figure out the problem, a technician was dispatched to Bonner’s home. The technician “didn’t know what was wrong” when he arrived, says Bonner, “but he knew what wasn’t wrong.” The washing machine was working properly again in less than half an hour. “It was just so simple,” says Bonner. “I don’t know why everybody doesn’t have this.”

Kenmore has unveiled a set of washers and dryers that can speak to technicians, at least over the phone. The appliances, called the Kenmore Elite washer and dryer series, use a technology called Kenmore Connect to speak. Through Kenmore Connect, a machine will send real time diagnostic information to a technician over a phone line.

Once this information is received, the technician can help the consumer fix the problem. The machines don’t speak via a conventional speech synthesizer; the sounds are digitally coded and come out as beeps and something that sounds like noise.

Kenmore said technicians use 100 different data points derived from the Kenmore Connect transmission. This includes air and water temperatures, cycle times and spin speeds. The data points can point to the status of certain electrical and mechanical sub-systems or reveal the mechanical issue with the error code.

The talking appliance is not only convenient for the user, but for Kenmore as well. It allows the company to reduce the amount of time it spends fixing appliances in someone’s house.

“The majority of service calls during the first year of ownership can be rectified by educating new owners over the phone once we have a deep understanding of the question at hand thanks to the information being sent from their Kenmore appliance directly to our experts via the phone.”

Kenmore said it conducted field testing earlier in the year. The initial results from these tests showed the talking significantly reduced the number of customers that needed an in-home repair.

Bonner was one of several thousand customers in a pilot program to test the remote-servicing technology.  LG plans to add the feature to many of its top-of-the-line laundry appliances in the U.S.

New Bosch VitaFresh Refrigeration

Available in Bosch’s new French Door refrigerator, VitaFresh utilizes a food preservation technology perfected by Bosch in Europe. A proprietary high-tech lining within the VitaFresh drawers works with precise climate sensors to automatically maintain the perfect balance of temperature, humidity, and air circulation – without the need to adjust any confusing settings.

VitaFresh works automatically to adjust temperature and humidity settings when produce is added in the crisper drawer.

VitaFresh technology is a two part system that automatically maintains:

1. Ideal Temperature

  • Sensors ensure the temperature is consistently at just above freezing, the ideal level for optimized freshness and longer storage results
  • The directional airflow system provides indirect cooling over the VitaFresh drawers. This prevents dry, cold air from being blown directly against fruits and vegetables and significantly reduces the dry-out effect that shortens storage life

2. Automatic Humidity Control

  • Utilizing technology perfected by Bosch in Europe, a proprietary high-tech lining regulates how much, or how little moisture is required for the type of produce stored in the drawers to keep produce fresher, longer

Efficient Performance

  • The ENERGY STAR-qualified French Door refrigerator is engineered to meet strict efficiency standards and requires less energy, and money, to operate
  • A door open alarm helps prevent energy waste by alerting users when the refrigerator door has been left open
  • SuperCool and SuperFreeze modes quickly balance temperatures between cool items and newly placed goods in the fridge and freezer. This helps foods stay fresh by minimizing temperature fluctuations

The ENERGY STAR -qualified Bosch French Door refrigerator featuring VitaFresh technology is now available with a MSRP of $2,999.