July 25, 2017

Archives for September 2009

New Jenn-Air Wall Oven Collection

A new collection of Jenn-Air wall ovens includes a model that claims not only the best performance in the industry but several other exclusives, including the only touch screen control with an image-enabled cooking guide. The wall ovens are the centerpieces of a new, high end Jenn-Air appliance line slated for availability this fall.

Based on comparative tests against other super premium brands of wall ovens, the top performing Jenn-Air double wall oven produced consistently superior results, according to Juliet Johnson, manager of brand experience for Jenn-Air. The 7-inch, glass-touch screen is the largest of its kind and features “touch anywhere” technology. An interactive, menu-driven Culinary Center helps cooks achieve desired cooking results by considering a range of details such as the food category, food type, desired doneness and even the type of pan used. Color images illustrating desired doneness levels combined with exclusive visuals showing how and where to insert the temperature probe for variety of dishes offers cooks further assurance that their dishes will be cooked to their specifications.

Other exclusives include the first common cutout fit for a wall oven, allowing for simple installation into virtually any existing wall oven cutout; a “no preheat” feature for cooking many dishes without the need to preheat; and 6,800 watt dual fan convection elements, the most powerful available.

Available in 27- and 30-inch models, the new Jenn-Air wall oven collection includes single, double convection, non-convection and microwave/wall oven combinations. Style choices for the new ovens include the commercial look of Pro-Style stainless steel and the sleek, refined Euro-Style options available in Oiled Bronze, black and white Floating Glass and stainless steel. Suggested retail prices will range from $1,899 to $4,999.

Washing Machine Shopping Guide

Buying a new washing machine can be daunting. Many consumers find themselves standing in an appliance store looking at so many styles and brands, they are overwhelmed. Add to that the fact that often washer purchases are made in a rush because the old machine is broken and the laundry is piling up.

To help the frazzled shopper, we offer this list of questions to consider before heading out to the store.

What type of washer do I need?
If you are buying a replacement washer, you’ll probably choose the same type. If you are moving into a new home, remodeling or just looking for a change, you’ll want to choose a washer that fits the washer/dryer configuration you prefer; either side-by-side or stacked. If you live in a smaller home or apartment, compact washers require little space. They come in both stationary models and portable versions which can be stored in a closet and rolled to a nearby sink for use. Full-sized washers are now available in either top-loading or front-loading models. Front loaders can be placed under counters or stacked under a dryer, and save on energy costs. They are more expensive to purchase than conventional top-loading washers, and require special low-sudsing detergents to get the best results. If you live in an area with very high water and energy costs, like the western U.S., your energy savings could offset the purchase price difference. If you live in another area, you’ll want to spend some quality time with your calculator to determine if a front loader or a top loader is best for you.

What capacity washer should I choose?
Since your new washer is likely to last 10 to 15 years, you’ll want to consider both your family’s current and future size. Your laundry habits are also a consideration. Do you prefer to do your laundry in frequent small loads, or does your schedule require you to do large infrequent loads? There can also be seasonal factors, like sports and other outdoor activities, which might make a large capacity washer a welcome convenience.

How quiet should my washer be?
With more laundry rooms moving out of the basement and into living areas, quiet operation is becoming an important consideration. If you’re looking for a quiet washer, be sure to check for insulation inside the cabinet. Some models have sound-absorbing pads on all sides. Quality engineering and design also play a big part in sound reduction. A strong frame and suspension can help reduce a washer’s vibration from an unbalanced load. You’ll want to ask your appliance dealer about the quality of the stabilizing springs on models you’re considering, and be sure to check for thick rubber pads on the legs. They not only help reduce sound, they also protect your floors from scratches.

Should I look for an energy-efficient model?
Different washer models do vary in the amount of energy they use, and front-loading washers generally use less energy than top loaders. Front loaders cost more, and you will have to determine if energy costs in your area justify the higher purchase price. If you choose a top-loading washer, much of your energy savings will come from the choices you make when washing. Having a lot of cycle, water level and temperature options on your new washer will allow you to match the amount of hot water you use with your load. Some models offer a cold water rinse feature, which saves energy and gives you the same washing performance as a hot water rinse. Presoaking really dirty clothes can also save energy because, after the clothes have soaked, you can choose a regular wash cycle instead of the highest cycle setting. And, remember… when you’re in the store, be sure to compare the bright yellow Energy Guide labels to see which models run most efficiently.

What features are important to me?

Use catalogues, flyers and the Internet to identify your favorite two or three features. Popular features generally fall within three benefit categories:

* Ease-of-use Features
Consider who does laundry in your family before deciding which type of controls you want. Do children or an elderly family member need special consideration? Washer controls have become more advanced and, in many cases, easier to use. Electronic controls offer one-touch cycle selection and have easy-to-read digital displays. Other models have color coding and cycle indicator lights. A large lid opening can make loading and unloading easier. Most manufacturers offer automatic detergent, fabric softener and bleach dispensers, which make washing simpler and help avoid damage to fabrics. Some models also have self-cleaning lint filters. And, if you choose to stack your washer and dryer, you’ll not only reduce bending over, you’ll also save floor space.
* Performance Features
New washers offer a wide range of water temperature and cycle options, which allow you to customize your laundry for different fabrics and garments. Generally, the more cycle options your new washer has, the cleaner you’ll be able to get really dirty jeans, while protecting your fine delicates. You’ll want to find a washer that gives you the cycle and water temperature selections which match the clothes you normally wash. Some models have a water temperature sensor which automatically monitors and adjusts the hot and cold water flow to insure the ideal temperature for best washing results. And, remember to check your water heater setting to make sure the water coming to your new washer is hot enough. Normally, a setting of 120 degrees F. to 140 degrees F. will get good results.
* Durability Features
Washers must endure the corrosive effects of water and laundry chemicals, so rust protection is important. Ask your appliance dealer about the rust-proofing features which different manufacturers provide on washer cabinets and frames, as well as on working parts, like the pump. Check the fill hoses and fittings to make sure they are rust resistant and strong enough to last under high water pressure. Most washer models have a porcelain-coated wash tub, but you’ll want to find out if the coating is thick enough to withstand years of use without chipping. Stainless steel and plastic tubs won’t rust, but check the surface to see if it’s smooth enough to protect fine fabrics. If you’re going to use the top of your new washer as a work area, a porcelain enamel surface is more durable than paint. And, be sure to check the warranty. Some manufacturers cover rust and corrosion.

Good luck and enjoy your new washer!

Here are some of the Washers and Dryers available on the WEB:

Recall: Wal-Mart Announces Expansion of Durabrand DVD Players Recall Due to Fire Hazard

Name of Product: Durabrand DVD Players. (The August 20 recall of the silver Durabrand DVD player has been expanded to include the pink and purple-colored versions of the same DVD player.)

Units: About 4.2 million (1.5 million were previously announced)

Importer: Wal-Mart Stores Inc., of Bentonville, Ark.

Hazard: The DVD player’s circuit board can overheat, posing a fire and burn hazard to consumers.

Incidents/Injuries: Wal-Mart has received 14 reports of DVD players overheating, seven of which have resulted in fires that caused property damage. No injuries have been reported.

Description: This recall involves a single DVD player with a remote control. The device was sold in three colors—silver, pink and purple and has a U-shaped opening at the top to insert the DVD. The DVD players were sold under the following UPC codes and model numbers:

Silver: UPC 1799901002, Model No. 1002
Pink: UPC 1799934100, Model No. 1002 PINK
Purple: UPC 1799932100, Model No. 1002 PUR

Sold exclusively at: Wal-Mart stores nationwide from January 2006 through July 2009 for about $29.

Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the product and return it to the nearest Wal-Mart for a full refund.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Wal-Mart Stores at (800) 925-6278 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at www.walmartstores.com

Refrigerator Shopping Guide

Be sure you get the refrigerator you need – one that will serve your household well for years. Ask yourself these questions before you set out to buy a new fridge.

What configuration of refrigerator do I want?

There are three types to choose from. The most popular model is the two-door, top-freezer design which offers a wide range of models and tremendous storage versatility. Side-by-side models have doors opening in the center, generally have more storage capacity, and offer easy access for people in wheelchairs. Bottom-freezer units put the fresh food at eye level, and the freezer below for those who don’t use it frequently.

How much space do I have for a refrigerator?

Refrigerators vary in size and in the clearance space they require. Measure the height, width and depth of the space for your refrigerator, and take the dimensions with you shopping. Most models are 30-36″ wide. Depth is important to avoid purchasing a model that extends into the kitchen, blocking traffic flow or a doorway.

What size refrigerator do I need?

Capacity ranges between nine and 30 cubic feet. The average household refrigerator in 1992 was 20 cubic feet and is getting larger. As a rule of thumb, a family of two needs eight to 10 cubic feet of fresh food space in a refrigerator. Add an extra cubic foot for each additional family member. Refrigerators can last 10 to 15 years or more, so remember to plan for expansion or contraction of your family.

How much freezer space do I need?

As a rule of thumb, a family of two needs 4 cubic feet of freezer space. Add two more cubic feet for each additional person. Freezer needs vary widely, so increase the freezer space if you buy a lot of frozen products. Top and bottom mounted freezers offer the most storage flexibility. Side-by-side models may offer more storage space, but sometimes have difficulty holding a pizza, a turkey or other large items.

What features are important to me?

Features vary across refrigerators. Use catalogs, flyers and the Internet to identify the two or three features that are most important to you. Popular features include adjustable glass shelves, large adjustable door bins, and spacious crispers.

Do I want an ice maker?

Ice makers are a popular, convenient feature for your freezer. Some models already have ice makers built into the freezer. For other models, ice maker kits are widely available and can be quickly installed.

Do I want an ice and water dispenser in the door?

Through-the-door ice and water dispensers offer easy access to cubed or crushed ice and chilled water. They are especially useful for children or people who are frequently getting ice from the freezer.

What color do I want?
White and almond are the most popular colors. Black is offered for a limited selection. Trim kits and decorative panels are available for some models. Also remember that panels matching the cabinets can be used to create a custom look for your refrigerator in your kitchen.

Ask these questions when you are in the store to help you quickly and confidently identify refrigerators that meet your needs:

How flexible is the storage space in this refrigerator?
Look for adjustable shelving in the refrigerator and freezer which makes food storage much easier. Check how much storage space is available in the door and if the door shelves are adjustable. Consider whether this refrigerator can store the kinds of groceries that you buy — will it hold your milk cartons, vegetables, apple pies?

Is this refrigerator easy to use?
Check to see if you can reach products at the back of shelves — pull-out shelves can be particularly useful. Look for clear drawers and shelves so that you can quickly see everything. Make sure you can easily reach the temperature controls. Does the door swing open the right way? If not, ask the salesperson if it can be changed.

Is this refrigerator easy to clean?
Glass shelves may be spill-proof to reduce the amount of cleaning necessary. See if the shelves can be pulled out to be easily cleaned in the sink. Some models have adjustable rollers on the bottom of the cabinet, so it’s easy to pull out the whole refrigerator and clean behind.

How energy efficient is this refrigerator?

Check the bright yellow Energy Guide label attached to the refrigerator. Look at the kWh per year and use that to compare the energy efficiency of different models — make sure the models you are comparing are the same size, as larger models do use more energy than smaller ones.

How quiet is this refrigerator?

Refrigerator technology has changed over the years, so your new refrigerator will probably not sound like your old one. Ask the salesperson if they can turn refrigerators on to hear the sounds of different models. Remember that the noise will be quieter in your tiled or carpeted kitchen compared to the large, cement sales floor.

How reliable is this brand of refrigerators?
Consult consumer magazines to hear how other people rank the performance of different brands. Try calling the manufacturer’s 1-800 number and ask for information about their service reliability.

What is the warranty on this refrigerator?

Most refrigerators come with a one-year warranty on everything and a five-year warranty on the sealed system. Ask the salesperson for the warranty terms on the refrigerator. Look for quick, convenient in-home service rather than pickup and delivery warranty service.

What are the delivery and installation terms on this refrigerator?

Ask the salesperson for delivery and installation details. Will they take away your old refrigerator? Will they install the water line to the ice maker?

Good luck and enjoy your new refrigerator!

Appliance Maintenance Tips- or Avoiding an Appliance Disaster

It can happen to anyone, anytime. The washer overflows, the dryer doesn’t dry or -gasp- the fridge stops cooling. Many common household appliance problems can be avoided by following some basic maintenance routines. Regular maintenance will prevent prevent breakdowns, saving you money on costly repairs, or even higher insurance costs if you have water damage.

Here are some common household appliance maintenance tips and the cost comparisons for maintenance, use and damage :

1. Clothes dryer
Even if you clean your clothes dryer’s lint trap with each load, a surprising amount of lint makes it past the trap. Clogged air vents and ductwork not only lead to dryer inefficiency, and an estimated $300 additional to operate yearly, but could also spark a fire. Each year dryers cause some 12,700 residential fires, 15 deaths and 300 injuries, according to a 2007 report by the U.S. Fire Administration. In 70 percent of the cases, “failure to clean” was the leading cause. Second-floor laundry facilities pose another risk: The USFA calls these locations “hazardous” because they often require longer ductwork, with bends that could trap lint, rather than immediate outside venting. Improper ducting made of light foil or plastic can also ignite more readily and should be replaced by semi-rigid or rigid aluminum, or galvanized steel ducting.

Top tips:

* Once a month use your vacuum cleaner’s fine nozzle to suction the lint slot.
* Once a year unplug the dryer, disconnect the vent tube and vacuum it out.
* If your dryer doesn’t vent directly outside, consider hiring a professional duct cleaner.

Maintenance cost:

* Dryer vent cleaning kits: $20
* Professional duct cleaner: $75 to $200
* New ducting: $15

Average cost of home dryer fires:

* $9,176

2. Washing machine
Today’s high-efficiency front-loading washing machines are gentler on clothes, but complex mechanical and electrical components make them tougher on your wallet when something goes wrong. With estimates from $450 to $600 to repair a broken drum, it may be more cost-effective to buy a new washer.

But the biggest disaster with any washing machine is flooding from a burst water hose, which can release 650 gallons of water per hour. Burst hoses top PEMCO’s list of homeowner’s insurance claims, resulting in an average $4,000 to $6,000 in damages. “If the owner is home and they catch the leak within an hour, it’s usually on the low end,” says PEMCO spokesman Jon Osterberg. “The bad-case scenario is if they’re on vacation. In some of the higher end homes with second-floor laundry facilities, you can reach $100,000 in damages.”
Top tips:

* To keep the drum spinning smoothly for years to come, for starters, use only high-efficiency, or HE, detergent. “The suds that are created by nonhigh-efficiency detergents will get in and wreak havoc on the drum and drive system,” says Dave Chowanec, Sears product category engineer for laundry products.
* Once a month, run an empty hot water wash to break down any built up residue.
* Excessive vibration can also damage the drum. If you hear or see the machine shake, it’s unbalanced. Check for level, but more importantly, check the machine’s stability by rocking it from corner to corner. “All four legs should be firmly touching the ground and locked according to the use manual,” says Chowanec.
* Once a month, check your washing machine hoses for bulges or tears, especially at connection points where kinks can form and crack. Manufacturers suggest replacing hoses every three to five years, regardless of wear. It’s no more complicated than attaching a garden hose. Steel braided “no-burst” hoses can also fail, and because of the meshing, tiny tears may be more difficult to catch. When not in use, turn off the water valves leading to your machine. For ultimate peace of mind, install an automatic water valve shut off system activated when it senses an excessive surge in water pressure.

Maintenance cost:

* Carpenter’s level: $15
* New hoses: $10 to $20
* Automatic shut off system: $130 to $200

Cost of Energy Star-rated front-end loader:

* $620 to $1,850

3. Sump pumps
Sump pumps usually protect your basement from flooding, but they can fail unexpectedly. Homeowners insurance usually doesn’t cover damages from sump-pump overflow. Sump pumps often vibrate when they run, so the float mechanism can get stuck.

“This will either make it run all the time or it won’t run at all,” says Ray VinZant, the expert behind Roto-Rooter’s “Ask the Plumber.”

“The float has to be able to rise up when the water level rises. If it doesn’t, the pump won’t come on.”

Because sump pumps drain ground water and sediment, clogged intake screens and discharge pipes also contribute to their failure. While battery backups offer a measure of protection if your primary pump fails or if there’s a power outage, they aren’t foolproof. Most backups last five to seven years. An old battery might only run three hours in an outage, instead of the stated six.
Top tips:

* Once a year, pour a gallon of distilled white vinegar into the basin to break down calcium deposits on the expeller and pump.
* Unplug the pump and remove any material clogging the intake screen.
* Check the float switch operation: Pour enough water to turn the pump on and make sure it drains. “If you hear a grinding noise, the pump may be on its last legs,” says VinZant.

Maintenance cost:

* Gallon of vinegar: $2

Cost:

* For a six-hour battery backup: $100 to $150
* For a high-end 7.5 hour sump pump system that includes a low-battery alarm: $475

4. Water heater
An old or corroded water heater can cause substantial damage. “Don’t forget you have a water heater,” says Randy Schuyler, who operates WaterHeaterRescue.com.
anode-rods
“Some day you’ll hear the water running when you know nobody is using any and you’ll find a major flood in some part of your house that wasn’t meant to be a wading pool.”

Sold with six- or 12-year warranties, PEMCO Insurance suggests replacing your tank every 10 years. Roto-Rooter caps the useful life at 15 years. Look at the first four digits on the heater’s serial number to find the month and year of manufacture.

Several factors lead to tank corrosion. Water sediment at the bottom of the tank builds up if not drained properly. Tanks also have something called a sacrificial anode rod, or rods, made of aluminum or magnesium-coated steel, that water eats away first instead of your tank’s inner walls. When these rods wear out, water begins to corrode your tank from the inside out.
Top tips:

* Because natural gas, water and electrical components are involved, be sure to take necessary safety precautions in maintaining your hot water heater.
* To extend a tank’s longevity keep the floor around the heater clean. “Some newer models are especially prone to dust, and may just stop working if their filters get clogged,” says Schuyler.
* Once a year check your water pressure. “Anything over 80 psi can wreck water heaters, other appliances and piping,” he says.
* Test the temperature/pressure relief valve by pulling up on the handle. “Replace it if it does nothing, or runs, dribbles or drips when the handle closes,” says Schuyler. “Under rare conditions, water heaters blow up. When they do, they may take walls, the roof and their owners with them.”
* “If there’s clearance above your tank, every few years, check the tank’s anode rod.” Schuyler says the single most important factor in whether a water heater lives or dies is the condition of its sacrificial anode. “For more than 60 years, it has been used as a key part of the rust protection of a tank, although few people know it’s there,” he says. The rod is made of magnesium or aluminum and screws into the top of your tank. Look for a hexagonal head — often covered by a plastic cap. “Replace it when six inches of core wire shows,” says Schuyler. If you have a water softener, check the rod annually. “Softeners can eat anodes in as little as six months.”
* To effectively remove sediment, Schuyler suggests expelling it under pressure by using a ball valve drain assembly and curved dip tube.

Maintenance cost:

* New anode and sediment removal kit: $80

Cost of an Energy Star-rated water tank:

* $500 to $600, not including installation

5. Air conditioning
Often a major expense, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC, systems require yearly professional inspections and adjustments to ensure proper operation. Just a 10 percent leak in refrigerant could result in a 20 percent decrease in efficiency. Homeowners may save up to 50 percent in energy costs with proper HVAC maintenance, according to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America.

Top tips:

* Between spring and fall servicing, homeowners should replace their HVAC filters once a month. Change “three-month” filters just as frequently if your home is excessively dusty or you have shedding pets. Clean filters result in a 5 percent to 15 percent reduction in energy consumption, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
* To ensure the outside condenser unit has necessary airflow, keep it clear of debris and cut back foliage by at least two feet. Because evaporator and condenser coil fins can easily bend, forcing your system to work harder, comb them back into shape using a special fin comb, available through parts wholesalers.

Maintenance cost:

* Filters: $10 to $20 per filter
* Fin comb: $12
* Routine HVAC servicing: as low as $25

Cost of a high-efficiency HVAC system:

* Prices vary greatly depending on size, location of the unit, added ductwork and air handler, but can range from a few thousand to well over $15,000.

6. Refrigerator
Several factors can lead to refrigerator poor performance: Excessive dust and dirt can clog the condenser coils forcing the coolant to work harder; an unleveled refrigerator can knock the doors out of alignment, causing cold air and energy to escape, and a dirty door gasket can break the tight seal necessary to maintain your refrigerator’s efficiency. In refrigerators with water dispensers, a clogged filter can stop the automatic icemaker from working and produce discolored water.

Top tips:

* Twice a year pull out your refrigerator, unplug it and vacuum the coils located either in the front or back, more often if you have shedding pets. If possible, allow a 2-inch space around the top and sides to let the coils breathe.
* Make sure to check for level after maintenance.
* Clean the door gaskets with soap and water and check the seal. “The gasket should last the life of the refrigerator, but if it becomes warped or damaged replace it,” says Neil Pellicci, Sears engineering manager for refrigeration products.
* Replace the water filter every six months, (more often if you have hard water) or when the indicator light comes on.

Maintenance cost:

* New door gasket: $45 to $55, not including installation
* Water filter: $17 to $45, depending on make and model

Cost of an Energy Star-rated refrigerator:

* $500 for basic top-freezer to $3,000 for high-end side-by-side, not including installation

Routine recap

To help you keep track of these maintenance items, cut and save this schedule:

Monthly:

* Vacuum clothes dryer lint slot.
* Check washing machine hoses for wear and tear.
* Run an empty hot water cycle in front-end loader.
* Replace HVAC filters.
* Clean the floor around your water heater.

Twice-yearly:

* Have HVAC system professionally serviced (in spring for air conditioner, fall for furnace).
* Replace refrigerator water filters.
* Clean refrigerator door gaskets.
* Vacuum refrigerator condenser coils (more frequently if you have shedding pets).

Yearly:

* Clean out clothes dryer vent and ductwork.
* Check washing machine for level and stability.
* Clean sump pump basin and intake screen.
* Flush deposit build up in sump pump basin with white vinegar.
* Check sump pump float and operation.
* Check water heater anode rod and temperature/pressure valve.
* Check your home’s water pressure.
* Drain sediment from water heater.

Flat Screen Shopping? Read On…

Americans may be curbing spending across the board, but many are still willing to lay down their dollars for a certain kind of luxury – the high-tech kind that hangs on the wall of your family room and makes you feel like you’re right there on the field at your favorite sporting event.

Even though sales of flat-screen TVs have yo-yoed in the past year and a half, overall, analysts view the industry as healthy, and likely to remain so. In fact, a recent survey by PriceGrabber.com revealed that 20 percent of the men polled consider a flat-screen high-definition TV a necessity rather than a luxury.

In 2009, more than 53 percent of American households have at least one HDTV, according to the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, the Web site ScreenSleuth.com reports. That’s an 18 percent increase over last year, the site points out.

Retailers haven’t missed the fact that flat-screen televisions are among the few big-ticket items Americans are still willing to buy. They’ve responded by lowering prices and offering deals and incentives. These deals, plus wider availability of products and services like designer wall mounts and HDTV programming make it a great time to upgrade your set to a flat screen.

Consider these compelling facts if you’re considering purchasing an HDTV:

* Some major discount chains are offering free shipping on flat screens if you purchase online and have the product shipped to a chain location near you. That means if the TV of your choice is out of stock in the store, you can buy it online and pick it up at your local store without spending anything on shipping and delivery.

* Manufacturers have started offering HDTVs with integrated Blu-ray players, so you can enjoy two of today’s hottest entertainment experiences in a single product.

* Most major cable companies now offer a variety of high definition channels – including movies and sports – so you can enjoy the full benefit of your HDTV.

* Online coupon Web sites offer coupon codes, discounts and deals on flat screens that will make you feel like you’re getting away with something. Finding an online discount is as easy as Googling the words “flat screen coupon codes.”

* Some manufacturers are offering extended warranties of five years or more on flat screens. That means your flat screen would likely be under warranty until the technology improves even more and you’re ready to upgrade to a new model.

* Increased competition, including a number of new manufacturers, has helped drive flat screen prices down faster than practically any other entertainment technology. Anyone remember how long it took for VCR prices to fall below $500? Or for video game consoles to cost less than $200? By comparison, flat-screen TV prices have fallen quickly and dramatically, with many quality options now costing less than $1,000.

* It’s easier and more visually appealing than ever to mount your flat screen on the wall. Clunky, intimidating hardware that held flat screens several inches away from the wall are giving way to sleek designer options like Super Slim Low-Profile Mounts from TV accessory maker Sanus Systems. Capable of supporting up to 65-inch flat screens weighing 150 pounds, the Super Slim mounts emphasize the sleek look of ultra-thin LCD, plasma and LED TVs by placing them less than an inch from the wall.

Eco-Friendly Appliance Packaging

Building a playhouse from an old refrigerator box is a childhood rite of passage.  It’s also one way to reuse a very large cardboard box before it’s recycled, but the major appliance industry is trying to make changes to shipping containers to make them more environmentally friendly.

According to Appliance Magazine, “Appliance packages have to be multitaskers. As the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) says, packaging has to be survivable, sustainable, and successful.”

The appliance industry has been putting a heavy emphasis on the sustainability of its packaging for decades. In the early 1990s, Appliance Magazine was reporting how producers like Mr. Coffee (now part of Jarden Consumer Solutions) considered recyclability one of its most important packaging concerns. That’s because packaging was one of the starting points of consumer awareness in green issues. A 1991 survey by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) and the Good Housekeeping Institute showed that about two-thirds of consumers would consider switching to a different small appliance brand if their favorite choice wasn’t packaged in recycled or recyclable materials. Today, consumers are more knowledgeable about environmental issues and, more than ever, they’re choosing green products. That includes green packaging.

In the appliance industry there is a broad spectrum of packaging technologies, but Uwe Jonkmanns, division manager and a member of the management of the MSK Covertech Group sees cardboard boxes increasingly being replaced by film packaging. “Household appliances require a high degree of transport safety, stackability, and display effect, all of this as cost-effective as possible for all kinds of measurements,” he explains. “This is the reason the choice of appropriate packaging is crucial for economization of transport-, storage- and material cost, as well as for the presentation result at the point of sale.”

Planning Ahead for a New Heating System

The phrase “you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone” can apply to many things in life, but it’s particularly relevant when the heat goes out on the coldest day of the year.

In these situations, most homeowners will do practically anything to restore the indoor comfort level of their homes as quickly as possible – whether it’s paying for a quick fix or replacing an entire system. However, in the rush to prevent the family from shivering all night long, it’s easy to make a rash decision that could ultimately be a costly mistake in the long run.

According to Bill Cunningham, a home comfort specialist with Lennox – a leading manufacturer of heating, cooling and indoor air quality equipment – there are three common mistakes people tend to make when the air stops circulating at home:

Mistake No. 1: Thinking you’ll save more money by repairing an old, broken system instead of replacing it.

Repairs to an existing heating and cooling may be the least expensive immediate option, but Cunningham says that simply repairing an old system may cost you more in the long run since older systems tend to break down more frequently and consume more energy. Replacement often is a better option, because new heating and cooling systems are much more efficient than those from several years ago and they can save you money, time and headaches in the long run.

For example, by replacing an older furnace that is 60 percent efficient with one that is 95 percent efficient, homeowners can save approximately 57 percent on energy bills and up to $5,513 over a five-year period. In addition, new federal tax credits for energy efficient home improvements make buying a new system more affordable than ever.

Mistake No. 2: Buying a new system that is too big or too small.

“Bigger isn’t always better, particularly when it comes to heating and air conditioning equipment,” says Cunningham. A correctly sized heating and cooling system is crucial to your comfort and the efficiency of the system. According to Cunningham, an oversized system will cost you more to operate and may actually lower your comfort. In fact, an air conditioner that is too large for the home will cycle on and off more frequently than properly sized units, running up your utility bill, while also leaving rooms cold and clammy. Likewise, if the unit is too small, it will run too often and may be unable to heat or cool your home sufficiently. To help determine the proper size, it’s best to enlist the help of a reputable home heating and cooling contractor.

Mistake No. 3: Failing to take into account your long-term needs.

When buying a new system, be sure to consider that it is priced within your budget, but don’t compromise your comfort level, household energy efficiency or long-term savings by purchasing a system that will not satisfy your needs well into the future. Choosing a new heating or air conditioning system that’s right for your home is more than just a matter of comparing the initial purchase price and installation costs. The fuel costs to operate a home comfort system over its lifetime, which can span anywhere from 10 to 20 years, will likely be much more than the initial purchase price. Cunningham says purchasing a new furnace with an efficiency rating of 90 percent or higher, such as the Lennox G71MPP gas furnace, or an air conditioner with a seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER) of 16 or higher can help offset fuel and operating costs over the long haul.