October 20, 2014

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.

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.

Government Appliance Rebate Not Working Perfectly?

The appliance business in Washington state did not see the benefits some might have expected from the government’s appliance rebate program. The Tri-City Herald reports:

About 38,000 people around the state got checks from $75 to $750 for buying Energy Star-rated appliances and properly recycling the old ones said Rebecca Stillings with the state Department of Commerce.

But all the money had been applied for by Friday, November fifth she said.

The owner of one Tri-City business was glad to hear that.

“That’s good news for us,” said Steve O’Neill, owner of Master’s Appliance & Refrigeration in Pasco. “We saw a lot less used appliances coming through our shop.”

O’Neill’s store sells new and used appliances, and the rebate program meant fewer used appliances available for resale or to salvage for parts. (The rebate program requires the older be recycled.)

“It really only helped the people who could afford the newer, high-end ones,” O’Neill said. “If you had to buy used, it just drove up the price.”

O’Neill said he used to bring in a truckload of used appliances a day to refurbish or use as parts to rebuild other machines for resell in the store he’s owned for 10 years.

Now, it’s down to two or three truckloads a week.

Because the store sells new and used appliances, O’Neill saw both sides of the program.

“What we lost on the used stuff, we didn’t make up on the new ones we sold,” he said.

At Garrison’s Home Appliance Center in Kennewick, owner Henry Garrison said some customers obviously knew about the rebate program.

“I had some people and they only wanted the ones they can get some money back on,” he said.

The program wasn’t much of a hit at Bunch-Finnigan Appliances in Kennewick. Dan Bunch said most customers weren’t aware of the program, and weren’t interested when they heard about it.

“The requirements and regulations are too strict, and it’s complex,” Bunch said.

Bunch said he didn’t notice an increase in business during the rebate program.

Appliance Lifespans

We’ve said it before, here, but we’ll say it again, below we list some approximate lifespans for household appliances.

Average appliance life span in years

Compactors: 6

Dishwashers: 10

Disposers, food waste: 9

Dryers, electric: 12

Dryers, gas: 12

Freezers: 11

Microwave ovens: 9

Ranges, electric: 16

Ranges, gas: 17

Range/oven hoods: 11

Refrigerators: 12

Washers: 11

Water heaters, electric: 13

Water heaters, gas: 11

Air-conditioners, room: 9

Air-conditioners, central: 11

Boilers, gas: 20

Dehumidifiers: 7

Furnaces, gas: 15

Furnaces, oil: 17

Heat pumps: 12

Courtesy of heraldnet.com

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.

LG’s Smart Diagnosis

LG has taken the technology they used in the Kenmore Connect system for Sears. and applied the self-diagnosis technology for clothes washers and dryers to their own LG brand.

The SmartDiagnosis system was developed by LG to help customer service representatives quickly and efficiently troubleshoot mechanical issues over the phone, limiting service calls and in-home visits.

Consumers calling the LG customer service center are instructed to press select buttons on the laundry unit, which in turn trigger a series of diagnostic tones. Each tone corresponds with a specific potential maintenance need and can be identified by trained service technicians over the phone, allowing them to evaluate the information and provide feedback based on the data that was received. The system is designed to eliminate a step in the troubleshooting process, because issues may be identifiable without a service technician visit. When service visit is required, the technician can come prepared with the correct parts so that the repair can be resolved in one visit.

Samsung’s New 2010 Appliances

Samsung’s new home appliance product line for 2010 includes a front-loading washer with a spacious 5.0 cu.ft. capacity and a new intense PowerFoam cleaning technology, a new Four-Door Refrigerator with a unique mid-drawer positioned at counter height that opens to the outside and has independent temperature control, a new line of side-by-side refrigerators highlighted by the best in class energy efficiency, and the first hybrid induction range.

The new washer,  offers a spacious 5.0 cu.ft. capacity to help get more wash done in less time. It also features the newly improved Vibration Reduction Technology Plus, which reduces rattling and noise, making it so  families hardly know they’re on and allowing them to put their laundry machines anywhere they prefer. Samsung hopes to eliminate the need for all those stain-treatment sticks with the new PowerFoam feature that pre-dissolves detergent into powerful foam for a more thorough washing. In addition, PureCycle alerts consumers with a gentle chime after 40 washes and allows consumers to clean their machine with the press of a button using hot water, not harsh chemicals. These are both available in colors stainless platinum or white, and prices range from $1,399-$1,549.

Samsung’s Four-Door Refrigerator  offers a counter-height FlexZone Drawer with Temperature Control and SmartDivider that is accessible to everyone in the family. The flexible mid-drawer opens separately from the exterior of the refrigerator, ensuring that no cold air is lost from the main refrigerator or freezer compartments. The drawer itself can be temperature-controlled to store different types of food including snacks, party platters, deli meats, or beverages, and the Smart Divider allows families to adjust how the drawer is organized. It’s proprietary Twin Cooling System Plus keeps food  fresh by eliminating odor transfer and maintaining optimal humidity levels in each compartment. It is available in stainless platinum, stainless steel, black and white for $2,699-$2,999.
Samsung’s new Energy Efficient Side-By-Side Refrigerators, are among the most energy efficient refrigerators on the market. Through a combination of  features such as a proprietary insulation system, electric temperature sensors, LED tower lighting, and Samsung’s Twin Cooling System, the new side-by-side refrigerators can use up to 30 percent less energy than Department of Energy minimum standards. It is available in black, white, stainless steel, stainless platinum for $999-$1,799.

Energy Star Credibility

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy recently outlined a new two-step process to strengthen the credibility of the Energy Star brand.

Step 1: Testing. More aggressive product testing will be required in the future in order to be Energy Star-certified.

DOE began tests at third-party test labs on six of the most common appliances categories:
• freezers
• refrigerator-freezers
• clothes washers
• dishwashers
• water heaters
• room air-conditioners.
DOE noted that these appliances account for at least 25% of a typical homeowner’s energy bill. It will test about 200 basic models in the coming months.

The agencies are also developing a new system to require all products seeking the Energy Star label to be tested in approved labs and require ongoing verification testing.

Step 2 Enforcement.

The agencies have taken action against 35 companies in the last 4 months to enforce compliance with Energy Star as well as with DOE’s minimum appliance efficiency standards. A news release details some of the enforcement actions taken in 2009-2010, including:

• July 2009: Subpoenas issued to AeroSys Inc. to obtain air-conditioner and heat pump documentation.
• Sept. 2009: AeroSys required to provide product samples for DOE testing to verify models met U.S. federal minimum energy efficiency standards.
• Dec. 2009: DOE and EPA took steps to remove Energy Star labels from 20 LG refrigerator-freezer models that had been shown, via testing by multiple independent labs, to consume more energy than allowed by Energy Star criteria.
• Jan. 2010: DOE signed a Consent Decree with Haier regarding actions to address four Haier freezer models, including two Energy Star models, that were consuming more energy than reported.
• March 2010: EPA terminated its Energy Star relationship with US Inc./US Refrigeration based on a history of logo misuse, unresponsiveness, and failure to comply with program guidelines.

Other actions addressed problems with lightbulb and showerhead manufacturers.

The agencies noted that Energy Star violations receive much media attention but account for a small percentage of total products in the program. A recent independent review found 98% compliance.