October 24, 2014

Shopping for Energy Efficient Appliances

Here’s a great line I just read at bhrealestate.com

Every appliance has two prices: the sticker price, and the one you pay to run the appliance year-round.

When purchasing a new appliance, buyers might be tempted to buy the unit with the lowest sale price while ignoring the long term costs of running it.

Choosing a highly energy efficient appliance can save more money than the additional purchase difference and if used long enough, add to your savings. According to Energy Star, the organization the certifies the efficiency of appliances, in 2007, Americans bought enough ENERGY STAR appliances to limit emissions equivalent to green house gases from 27 million cars — all the while saving $16 billion on their utility bills, or roughly one-third their annual utility cost.

Look for machines that have earned the ENERGY STAR label, meaning they have met strict energy-efficiency guidelines. It’s also important to check the bright yellow EnergyGuide labels on appliances to see consumption rates for that model expressed in annual kilowatt hours and the approximate annual cost of running the appliance.

The article also offered some helpful shopping tips:

Refrigerators – Next to your furnace and water heater, your refrigerator uses the most energy in your home, so make sure a new fridge suits your needs. If it’s too large, you’ll waste energy cooling phantom food; too small may simply be inconvenient. Models with freezers on the top or bottom are more efficient than those with freezers on the side.

Stoves – Cooking habits should determine which is best for you. While the design and price of today’s gas and electric stoves are similar, gas stoves require less energy for stovetop cooking. If you do a lot of baking or oven use, however, the electric stove is a better option.

Clothes Washers – According to the EPA, Horizontal-axis washers (front loaders) use 50 percent less energy, less water and less soap. This translates into savings on average of about $95 a year for the average household

Clothes Dryers – ENERGY STAR does not label dryers since most consume the same amount of energy. Do, however, try to buy one with a moisture sensor that will automatically shut off the dryer when your clothes are dry, rather than completing the cycle.

Air Conditioners – Ensure correct size for your room and go for energy efficiency. If it’s cooling a sunny room, consider increasing capacity by 10 percent.

Natural gas and oil systems
– Look for the Federal Trade Commission EnergyGuide label with an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. This measures the seasonal annual efficiency (ENERGY STAR furnaces have a 90 AFUE rating or above).

The added initial cost of energy efficient appliances may seem high, but the savings show up over time and they are gentler on the environment.

Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips

It’s really heating up outside and if you are like me, you want your home to be a respite from the heat. An air conditioner that is properly serviced runs more efficiently providing you with a cooler home for less money. You’ll ensure that you come home each day to a pleasantly cool house and that you will not tax either the unit or your budget. Here are some simple things you can do to keep your cool.

Replace or clean the filter every month

Air conditioners are outfitted with a simple electrostatic filter in the front grill area to filter the air that passes through them. If your unit has a filter you should replace/clean it once a month during the cooling season.

Inspect cooling coils for frost or ice build-up

If the temperature outside the room where the air conditioner is placed becomes cool — approximately 60 degrees Fahrenheit or lower — check the coils on the front of the air conditioner to be sure they are not icing up. If they are, turn the air conditioner off until the temperature rises. Also, make sure the filter is clean.

Don’t short cycle the cooling system

Air conditioners have a cooling system identical to a refrigerator’s. It’s important not to turn the unit off and then back on right away. Wait at least ten minutes after shutting the unit off to allow pressure in the refrigeration system to equalize once again. This will prolong the life of your air conditioner.

Store the unit in a basement or utility room, not a garage

Mice and other small animals love to nest in air conditioners. Thay can cause serious damage to the unit by chewing on wiring and insulation. Also, wasps and birds like to nest in uncovered units left in windows. Avoid these problems by storing units in a protected area, away from small animals, or by installing a cover on the part of the air conditioner that is outside.

Clean condenser coils annually

Condensing coils on an air conditioner will get very dirty over time. Dirt tends to accumulate on the inside of the coils, out of site. Remove the entire cover of the air conditioner to gain access to the coils. They can be cleaned by blowing compressed air at them or by using a soft bristle brush to wipe the dirt off. Be sure to also clean any dirt or lint build up in the bottom of the air conditioner so condensate water will be picked up by the condensing fan slinger properly.

Heating and Cooling Purchases Down

U.S. factory shipments of residential cooling and heating equipment declined in February, compared with the same month a year ago, while the commercial market for these products maintained steady growth, according to the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI).
Central Air Conditioners and Air-Source Heat Pumps

Combined U.S. factory shipments of central air conditioners and air-source heat pumps for February totaled 335,897, a 13 percent drop compared with February 2007 total shipments. Heat pump shipments for February totaled 123,122, a 10 percent drop from the same month a year ago.

Warm Air Furnaces

U.S. factory shipments of gas warm air furnaces dropped 22 percent to 153,812, compared with February 2007 totals. Oil warm air furnaces for the same month fell 39 percent to 3,680, compared with February 2007 shipments of this equipment.
Room Heaters

A total of 3,562 vent-free room heaters were shipped in February 2008, a 22 percent drop compared with the same month last year.

Water Heaters

Residential electric water heater shipments for February totaled 361,529, slightly outpacing residential gas water heater shipments, which totaled 350,174, but shipments for both types of water heaters fell about 3 percent compared with shipments for the same month last year.

February gas logs and insert product shipments totaled 10,070, a 24 percent drop compared with the same month last year, while gas stove shipments for the same month jumped 34 percent compared to February 2007. Gas fireplace shipments for February 2008 totaled 2,616, a 19 percent drop compared to the same month last year.