October 20, 2014

Use Appliance Cash For Clunkers or Repair

So many people have been looking forward to replacing their appliances with new ones using the government’s appliance rebate program, but a new appliance may not be your wisest choice according to Angie Hicks of angieslist.com.

Under the new program, consumers will receive a rebate – expected to be between $50-$200 per appliance – in return for getting rid of old energy-consuming appliances and purchasing new appliances certified as energy efficient by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program.

“A good rule of thumb to determine if you should repair or replace an appliance is to look at the age factor and the cost of repair,” Hicks said. “The average price of a service call is between $60-100 before parts and labor. Many companies will deduct their call charge from the total bill if you hire them to make the needed repairs. However, if a repair will cost more than half the cost of the new appliance and the unit is more than six or seven years old, you’re probably better off replacing it.”

That’s when the Cash for Appliances program could really benefit those in need of an upgrade. In addition to the Cash for Appliances rebate, some states and local utility districts already offer rebates for purchases of energy efficient appliance, leading to even more savings.

States have the flexibility to select which appliances to include in their programs and the individual rebate amount for each appliance, however, the Department of Energy recommends that states and territories focus on heating and cooling equipment, appliances, and water heaters, which offer the greatest energy savings potential. States had until Oct. 15 to present the DOE with a plan for how they want to implement their respective programs. The rebates were to go into effect in late November.

The distribution formula for the $300 million program is about $1 for every resident in a given state. California, for example, would receive about $35 million to allocate to the program, while Wyoming would receive about $500,000. Unlike the popular “Cash for Clunkers” vehicle rebate program, consumers will not be required to trade in their old appliances. The DOE, however, is encouraging states to develop recycling plans in their proposals.

“This program is designed to help spur economic growth, create jobs, make homes more energy efficient and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Hicks said. “Part of being environmentally friendly is to use products as long as possible, so we’re not filling up landfills with unnecessary waste. So, if your appliance is worth fixing and you can get several more years out of it, repair might be the way to go.”

Angie’s 10 questions to ask to determine whether to replace or repair an appliance:

    Is it really broken? The trouble may be a short in the plug, a tripped circuit breaker, or a bad surge-protector outlet. Check the troubleshooting section of the unit’s instruction manual for the most common problems and solutions.

    How old is the appliance?

    Have you had trouble with the unit before?
    If it’s performed well, it might be worth fixing instead of replacing with something unproven.

    How much will it cost to repair the unit?

    What would a similar appliance cost?

    Are there any hidden costs to purchase (removal, installation, disposal, tax, etc.)?

    How difficult is it to replace the appliance (Is it a built-in)?

    What additional features will I get with the new appliance?

    What energy savings will I get with the new appliance?
    Will they offset the cost of a new appliance vs. repair?

    What tax credits are available for purchasing an energy efficient unit? Will they offset the cost of a new appliance vs. repair?

Angie’s List went to the experts for their estimates on the average life of major appliances:

10-15 years for refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers.

10-20 years for ovens, ranges, and water heaters.

15-20 years for central air-conditioning unit

Truth in Appliance Energy Labeling

Those yellow energy guide labels we all rely on to pick energy efficient appliances, have come under scrutiny from the US Department of Energy (DOE). As we wrote about in November, manufacturers covet the EnergyStar label and use the yellow sticker to entice buyers.

Those labels may not be as accurate as you think. A review of previous filings for the labels found instances of missing or incorrect information.

The DOE addressed the problem this month by giving manufacturers 30 days to provide accurate information on their products’ energy use. Also, it promised to take a tougher stance to enforce energy-efficiency standards.

The agency said makers of such products as refrigerators, dishwashers and air conditioners have until Jan. 8 to provide the information, which is primarily used to certify that the appliances meet minimum energy-efficiency standards

Will That New Appliance Really Save Energy?

If you are shopping for a new, energy efficient appliance, and thought all you needed to do to was look for the yellow EnergyStar tag, think again.

The Department of Energy has released new findings that show a handful of appliances may not be as energy efficient as advertised because of problems with the “energy star” labeling program.

That little yellow sticker you see on some new appliances is supposed to guarantee an appliance is in the top 25% of energy efficiency, but an internal audit, just released, shows that the Department of Energy has not been properly tracking how the star has been used.

Initially manufacturers would self-report whether their products met the energy star guidelines, but with the new revelations, that’s changing.

Industry watchdogs are quick to point out, despite a few problems, the energy star program is not a washout.

“It’s not like we found rampant cheating and mis-representation in our testing,” said Celia Kuperszmid Leharman of Consumer Reports. “I think that for now that the stickers are pretty reliable, and they’re good comparative things from one product to the next.”

Before you purchase a new appliance, check out the Department of Energy’s consumer’s webpage for news on energy efficient appliances.

Time to Replace That Old Refrigerator

Is your refrigerator more than ten years old? If so, replacing it can save you some serious money. The problem is can it save you enough to warrant shelling out the money for a new unit? A new refrigerator isn’t cheap, but an older one accounts for anywhere from 5-8 percent of your household energy.

The nonprofit advocacy group Alliance to Save Energy estimates that if the older refrigerators were replaced, Americans would save $866 million a year in utility costs. In general, a new efficient refrigerator uses about half the energy of its 10-year-old cousin, federal statistics show.

If you plan now, you might be prepared when the new federal stimulus bill funneling $300 million into rebates for energy-efficient appliances, is enacted. But be ready to act because with 112 million households in the country, that $300 million won’t go far.

How to know when to buy? Uncle Sam’s efficiency program, Energy Star, has a refrigerator calculator on its Web site: www.energystar .gov. All refrigerators manufactured in the United States must meet minimum efficiency standards, but Energy Star-certified models are at least 20 percent more efficient.

If you’re thinking of buying a new refrigerator, here are some tips from EnergyStar:

• Start with the calculator at www.energystar.gov.

• When shopping, factor in the appliance’s yellow “EnergyGuide” label listing the energy use and approximate annual operating cost.

• Go smaller. Larger models cost more to operate, and a full refrigerator is more efficient than a half-empty one.

• Models with top freezers are the most efficient, using 10 percent to 25 percent less energy than side-by-side models.

• Consider doing without the ice-maker and dispenser. These increase energy use by 14 percent to 20 percent.

To get the most out of any refrigerator:

• Position it away from heat – an oven or dishwasher. Leave room at the back and sides for air circulation.

• Keep the air intake and condenser coils clean.

Electrolux in Antarctica

I’ve seen many documentaries about scientists in Antarctica. I’ve seen one that focused on the staff of maintenance workers it takes to keep an outpost running smoothly. The base camps were large campgrounds of barrack-like buildings and with scientists, engineers, and crew, can at times host a large number of people.

On one show, the kitchen staff pointed out that although the outside was cold enough to keep food frozen, storing food outside attracts animals, and the temperatures are really too old for optimal storage. There is also a large amount of laundry to be washed. Electrolux had a plan.

At the Princess Elizabeth Station in Antarctica, you’ll find a high-tech living facility that has all of the home appliances that make life easier for those of us living in warmer climates, including six washing machines, six tumble dryers, ‘A+’ refrigerators, frost-free chest freezers, double ovens, ranges, microwaves and an ‘AAA’ dishwasher.

Due to its continued focus on designing energy efficient home appliances, Electrolux was approached to design the set of appliances for the station. Some of the appliances are even specifically designed for the scientists: the washing machines have larger doors to fit “bulky polar outdoor gear” and the freezers can freeze food for up to a year at -18 degrees Celsius.

According to cnet.com, the appliances are also run entirely on renewable energy: 90 percent of the energy is supplied to the station via wind turbines, and the rest is supplied by solar panels. Preheated water is used in the washing machines to save energy and elaborate waste and water management systems are used as well, contributing to the astonishing 95 percent of waste that the facility is able to recycle.

The Princess Elisabeth Station will focus on researching global warming and climate change, as well as CO2 emissions. On keeping the series of appliances in line with the principles driving the research, Station Manager Johan Berte remarks, “We want to show the world that if you can build a zero emissions facility in the forbidding climate of Antarctica, you can build them anywhere!”

You can read the whole story of Belgium’s Princess Elizabeth Station HERE.

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.

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.

Appliance Energy Standards Might get Stricter

According to the New York Times, The Department of Energy (DOE) is reevaluating its standards for energy efficient appliances and is considering raising the standards for qualification as an energy-efficient appliance.

“I am going to be looking at those because I have become more convinced that they are not as aggressive as they could be,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said at a conference held by the Alliance to Save Energy. “So we will look at making them more aggressive.”

According to the nonprofit Appliance Standards Awareness Project, DOE’s deadlines call for final rules this month for ranges and ovens and commercial clothes washers, with final standards for multiple types of lamps due in June.

There are also a host of proposed standards due later this year, for products such as water heaters and pool heaters.

Chu stressed the key role that energy efficiency in appliances and buildings should play in curbing greenhouse gas emissions. He also emphasized the need to ensure that consumers see efficient appliances and home materials as choices that will ultimately save them money.

Chu also suggested a change in the Energy Star labeling program run jointly by U.S. EPA and DOE.

Floating the idea of a “superstar” category of perhaps the top 5 to 10 percent best performers, Chu said this would allow manufacturers to claim that their products would ultimately save consumers the most money despite higher up-front costs.