July 31, 2014

Be Frugal and Eco-Friendly?

Appliance makers are attuned to the changing attitudes of consumers. Manufacturers are marketing their appliances not only as green, but as cost saving as well.  According to the Wall Street Journal and Yahoo, appliance manufacturers are pushing the financial savings because their eco-friendly green appeal alone may otherwise be a hard sell in a recession. But energy-efficient gadgets are also becoming more attractive because the price difference between them and traditional devices is narrowing.  Whirlpool now offers Energy Star-rated models of its Classic washers and dryers, which are priced between $549 and $679 and are generally cheaper than its other lines.

More appliance makers are trying to quantify exactly how much energy and how many dollars people can save in the long run. “If they can see in black and white that there is a cost savings involved, they are more inclined to buy it,” says Mark Delaney, director of the home-industry sector at NPD Group, a market research firm.

The cost savings don’t usually amount to much in the short term. And many families may not see the kinds of savings that the companies promise. That is because company estimates make certain assumptions, such as how long the new product lasts, how old your previous appliances were, and whether you are using the latest gadget with other energy- or water-efficient devices under the same brand name.

Government rebates can add to the savings, however. At least 15 states — Colorado, Arizona and Illinois are examples — have rebate programs for Energy Star appliances, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. The programs are often offered through utility companies. For instance, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in California offers rebates of up to $75 for washers and up to $50 for dishwashers and room air conditioners for certain Energy Star-designated models.

And more rebate programs may be on the way. The stimulus bill recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives includes $300 million to fund such rebates. If the provision is a part of the final bill signed into law, it would allow more states to adopt similar programs for consumers who want to replace older appliances, says Jill Notini, spokeswoman for the home-appliance trade group.

To be sure, manufacturers are continuing to unveil appliances that simply contain eco-friendly features and have green appeal. Whirlpool, for instance, is rolling out a Resource Saver refrigerator in March for $2,099. It exceeds federal energy-efficiency standards by 30% and uses energy comparable to the amount required to power a 60-watt light bulb, Whirlpool says. The company also released last Sept. a dishwasher priced at $799 that saves consumers 4,300 more gallons of water a year compared to hand-washing, Whirlpool says. 

So,  take the time to shop around, and compare not only prices, but the long-term cost savings that can come from using an energy efficient appliance over a number of years.