September 17, 2014

Consumers Seeking High Efficiency Laundry

Green is the new black when it comes to the laundry room, yet many consumers do not realize they have a choice when it comes to high-efficiency (HE), eco-friendly laundry appliances. A recent survey commissioned by Whirlpool Corporation revealed that while nearly 60 percent understand what HE means in regards to laundry appliances, almost 40 percent believe that top-load washers use more energy than front-loading machines – a common misconception in today’s marketplace.
Traditionally, consumers seeking high efficiency laundry turn to front-loading machines, yet according to previous Whirlpool research nearly three quarters of American households still own top-load washing machines. In fact, 44 percent of consumers in the most recent survey said they did not know if top-load washers use more energy than front-loaders and 38 percent believe that they do, indicating a need for clarity when it comes to communicating the benefits of HE machines to appliance shoppers.
“Historically, front-load laundry pairs have led the industry in capacity and efficiency,” said Mary Zeitler, home economist, Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science, “but manufacturers like Whirlpool Corporation are working to offer superior energy and water savings in models to suit consumers’ needs and preferences. As more families look to save on energy, water and utility costs, it is important to understand that HE washers, whether in a top-load or front-load configuration, can deliver unmatched efficiency, saving time and money in the laundry room.”
And while overall consumer demand for eco-friendly products is generally high, understanding HE in terms of laundry and the configurations in which it is available varies. For example, consumers aged 18-44 said an HE washer would be a “must have” in their dream laundry room, while consumers aged 45+ said their “must have” would be a washer and dryer that are more ergonomically friendly.
Additionally, consumers who are married or were married appear to understand eco-efficient products, more so than their single/never married counterparts. In fact, 61 percent of married and 64 percent of previously married consumers said they understand what HE means in terms of laundry appliances – while only 51 percent of single/never married consumers said the same.

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.

Buying a Washing Machine?

If you are looking for a new washing machine, you’ve probably asked yourself these questions – Top loader or front? How can I be sure to buy an energy efficient washer? We’ll try to answer those and some others with help from the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) site on consumer protection.

To help consumers see just how energy-efficient a washing machine is, the Federal Trade Commission requires manufacturers to post an EnergyGuide label on their appliances. The Guide shows how each model measures up — energy-wise — to others of the same size.

With front-loaders now more widely available for purchase in the U.S., the FTC has decided to require manufacturers to provide information that will compare all washing machines of a certain size (either “standard” or “compact”) with others of the same size, regardless of whether they are loaded from the top or the front. The label change is expected to alert consumers to highly energy-efficient clothes washers and spur competition among U.S. manufacturers. Front-loaders, which have been popular for years in Europe, generally are considered more energy efficient than top-loaders, although they usually are more expensive, too.

Most washing machines sold in the U.S. are top-loaders. They wash the clothes with an agitator that turns on a vertical axis. The tub also spins the clothes dry on a vertical axis. Front-loaders work by tumbling the clothes and then spin-drying them in a tub that rotates on a horizontal axis.

There are some exceptions: One manufacturer makes a horizontal-axis machine that loads from the top, and another company sells a machine with an axis that is between vertical and horizontal.

Typically, front-loaders use less water — from one-third to one-half the amount that top-loaders require. The clothes tumble in the tub, rising above the water and then falling back into it as the tub rolls on its side. Because less water is used, less gas or electricity is required to heat the water; because the machines spin faster, clothes get wrung out more completely, reducing the cost of running a clothes dryer.

Horizontal-axis washers (front-loaders) have one major drawback: They can cost more than vertical-axis machines. Still, with the energy savings they provide, front-loaders may save you money in the long run. In some areas of the U.S., utility companies, environmental groups and government agencies help sweeten the deal by offering incentives to consumers who buy front-loaders. At the same time, there are many highly efficient top-loaders available, too. Use the EnergyGuide to find efficient products at the price that’s right for you
The bright yellow-and-black EnergyGuide label helps consumers factor an appliance’s energy consumption or efficiency and its annual operating cost into their purchasing decision. The law requires manufacturers to place the label on most major appliances so that consumers will see it when they are considering various models.

The EnergyGuide for clothes washers uses kilowatt-hours (a measure of electricity use) to tell how much energy each appliance uses in a year and compares the appliance with other appliances of the same or similar size. The range on the label — where the appliance’s energy use is on a continuum — is of particular benefit to consumers: A marker shows where the particular model falls in the range and how it stacks up against the competition.

The EnergyGuide also gives the estimated cost per year to run the particular model when it is used with an electric water heater and with a natural gas water heater.

Once you’ve bought your washer and had it installed, you’ll want to use it as efficiently as possible the FTC has tips there too:

  • If possible, wash one big load rather than two small ones.
  • Load the washer to capacity.
  • If you must wash smaller loads, select lower water levels, if possible.
  • Use cold water rinses.
  • Use lower temperature settings and pre-treat or pre-soak stains or heavily soiled clothing.
  • Use the recommended amount and type of detergent.
  • Set the thermostat on your water heater to no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.