September 21, 2014

Energy Standards for Refrigerators Upgraded

Advocacy groups and appliance manufacturers hailed a 25 percent increase in energy efficiency for most new refrigerators, starting in 2014, thanks to new efficiency standards that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced today, continuing a 40‐year trend of improving energy efficiency for this essential home appliance.

The groups said the new standards are the first step in the department’s implementation of the
recommendations they proposed to DOE in July for new minimum efficiency standards, tax credits and ENERGY STAR incentives for smart appliances affecting six major categories of home appliances.

According to the proposed rule, a typical new 20‐cubic‐foot refrigerator with the freezer on top would use about 390 kilowatt hours (kwh) per year, down from about 900 kwh/year in 1990 and about 1,700 kwh/year in the early 1970s. On a national basis, the new standards would, over 30 years, save 4.5 quads of energy, or roughly enough to meet the total energy needs of one‐fifth of all U.S. households for a year. Over the same period, the standards will save consumers about $18.5 billion. DOE will finalize the standards by year’s end, and they take effect in 2014.

“This big step forward for refrigerator efficiency proves that the well of innovation leading to energy savings is very, very deep,” said David B. Goldstein, energy program director for the Natural Resource Defense Council and winner of a MacArthur Prize for his work on refrigerator efficiency. “These standards pave the way for manufacturer investments in a next generation of products that demonstrate ever‐increasing energy and cost savings.”

Based on the July agreement, home appliance manufacturers and efficiency, environmental and consumer advocates have agreed to jointly pursue with Congress and the administration new standards for six categories of home appliances (refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, dishwashers and room air conditioners), a recommendation that ENERGY STAR qualification criteria incorporate credit for Smart Grid capability and a package of targeted tax credits aimed at fostering the market for super‐efficient appliances.

As part of the new refrigerator standards, ice maker energy consumption also will be reflected in product energy‐use ratings, giving consumers a better way to gauge actual energy use when making a choice among refrigerators.

“Even though refrigerators have become much more energy efficient, they still account for about 10 percent of household electricity use,” observed Alliance to Save Energy Vice President for Programs Jeffrey Harris. “With the new standards, consumers will not only save energy, they’ll also have a better picture of total energy use, because the ratings will include automatic ice makers.”

Several prior refrigerator standards, including those put in place in 1993 and 2001, are also the result of joint industry/advocate agreements.

A table showing the percent energy savings achieved by the proposed standards relative to current standards for select categories and the complete press release can be seen at AHAM.org

Rating the Latest Appliances – JD Powers Results

The 2010 Laundry Appliance Satisfaction Study and 2010 Kitchen Appliance Satisfaction Study from J.D. Power and Associates found that awareness of Energy Star certified appliances has increased among U.S. owners of new appliances since 2009 and so has the percentage who purchased an Energy Star appliance.

According to appliancemagazine.com, 86% of 2010 dishwasher buyers reported buying an Energy Star certified appliance, for an increase of 5% from 2009 and a 9% increase from 2008.

Satisfaction with appliance performance is strongly influenced by the owner’s perception of the appliance’s water and/or energy efficiency, the study found. Customers who report that their appliance is Energy Star certified are more likely to be more satisfied with their appliance than customers who do not indicate that their appliance is certified.

The Laundry Appliance Satisfaction Study measured customer satisfaction with clothes washers and dryers based on performance in six factors:


• ease of use
• features (such as the number of settings available and appliance capacity)
• performance and reliability (including energy efficiency, noise level, and how well the appliance functions)
• styling and feel
• warranty
• price

CLOTHES WASHERS: Samsung ranked highest for the second year in a row when it came to satisfying clothes washer owners, with a score of 832 on a 1000-point scale. Samsung performed particularly well in four of six factors:

• performance and reliability
• ease of use
• features
• styling

Other brands that broke the 800-point mark in the clothes washer rankings included:

• Kenmore Elite (817 points)
• Electrolux (816)
• LG (811)
• Maytag Epic (802)

CLOTHES DRYERS: Samsung scored 833 and was No. 1 in the clothes dryer rankings – the third consecutive year it’s been in the top spot. J.D. Power reported that Samsung did particularly well in four of the six factors:

• performance and reliability
• ease of use
• styling
• features

Only two other brands scored more than 800 points in the study:

• LG (814 points)
• Kenmore Elite (809)

Kitchen Appliances Study
Customer satisfaction was measured based on performance in six factors:

• performance and reliability (including how well the appliance functions, noise level, and energy efficiency)
• features (such as the number of settings available and appliance capacity)
• ease of use
• styling and feel
• price
• warranty

REFRIGERATORS: Samsung – for the sixth year in a row – ranked highest in satisfying refrigerator owners with a score of 803. Samsung performed particularly well in:

• ease of use
• performance and reliability
• features.

Samsung was followed by LG (781 points) and Kenmore Elite (776 points).

DISHWASHERS: Miele ranked highest in customer satisfaction in dishwashers with a score of 806 and performed particularly well in four of the six factors:

• performance and reliability
• styling and feel
• features
• warranty

Bosch also cracked the 800-point mark, scoring 801 points.

COOKTOPS/RANGES/OVENS:
Wolf ranked No. 1 in cooking appliances with a score of 812, and performed particularly well in five of six factors:

• ease of use
• performance and reliability
• styling and feel
• features
• warranty

Samsung ran a close second in this category, with a score of 809, and was the only other appliance brand to top the 800-point threshold.

The Studies

The 2010 Laundry Appliance Satisfaction Study was based on responses from more than 5100 consumers who purchased clothes washers and more than 5100 consumers who purchased clothes dryers from a retail store or received one through other means (such as a new-home builder or a gift) during the past 24 months. The study was fielded between March and April 2010.

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

Whirlpool’s New Latitude French Door Fridge

Ever wonder why a family of four needs seven kinds of juice? Whirlpool brand knows different lifestyles call for different tastes. Now, playing the balancing act with groceries, leftovers and gallons of milk are a thing of the past with the new Whirlpool Latitude French door refrigerator.

The Latitude refrigerator was developed with consumers’ needs in mind, offering 10 percent more space in the refrigeration compartment compared to similar size models while maintaining the same external dimensions. With 27 cu. ft. of capacity, the Latitude refrigerator is expansive, boasting the industry’s most usable interior refrigeration space based on shelf and door bin surface area, including deeper door bins, extra shelf space and an easy-to-access in-door ice maker with removable bucket. The Latitude refrigerator also includes an option to drop the refrigerator and/or freezer temperature to accommodate new food additions, all while garnering an ENERGY STAR qualification.

A recent survey commissioned by Whirlpool Corporation found that 53 percent of adults believe the refrigerator is the appliance that uses the
most energy in their home on a day-to-day basis. However, according to ENERGY STAR, a new ENERGY STAR-qualified refrigerator saves enough energy to light the average household for more than 4.5 months (when replacing a refrigerator bought before 1990).

“We know that consumers want more room in their refrigerators to help manage the varying tastes of their families. With that in mind, we have designed the Latitude refrigerator to not only hold several jugs of juice and milk in each door bin, but to help make consumers’ daily lives just a little bit easier with smart solutions like an exterior dual pad dispenser with measured fill. It gives consumers the ability to dispense the exact amount of water needed for a recipe or morning coffee,” said Carolyn Torres, Whirlpool refrigeration brand manager. “Even with the added interior space and intuitive features, such as a power outage alert, the Latitude refrigerator helps conserve energy and saves money on utility bills, without sacrificing performance.”

The Latitude refrigerator brings consumers’ kitchens several innovative
features, including dispensing an exact amount of water, measured in cups, liters or ounces with a rotating faucet that allows consumers the ability to fill tall and odd-shaped containers with ease; a power outage alert that notifies consumers that there has been a power outage and the duration so they know whether or not food is safe to eat; and, the Fast Cool option, which immediately drops refrigerator and/or freezer temperatures to accommodate new food.

The Latitude refrigerator is available in white, black, stainless steel and Satina finish with an MSRP starting at $2,599.

LG French Door Refrigerator No Longer EnergyStar Rated

From PRNewswire: In coordination with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), LG Electronics USA Inc. has revised the energy ratings on five current refrigerator models.

Refrigerator testing rules used by DOE have been in place since 1979. In light of different applications of these rules in the appliance industry to today’s advanced products, LG has proactively worked with the DOE concerning the test standards.
Based on guidance from the DOE about its interpretation of the testing rules, the energy rating has been changed for five current LG “French Door” models with ice and water dispensers in the door: LFX23961, LFX25971, LFX21971, LMX25981 and LMX21981. For these models, LG is voluntarily suspending its participation in the Energy Star program. Five discontinued LG models also are affected: LFX25950, LFX25960, LFX21960, LFX25980 and LFX21980.
LG Electronics USA’s agreement with the DOE includes a comprehensive program for consumers — an energy-saving modification to previously-purchased refrigerators and cash payments to consumers for incremental energy costs. A similar program will be implemented for comparable Kenmore-brand “TRIO” models designed and manufactured by LG Electronics. This only affects Kenmore French Door models with ice and water dispensing through the door having model numbers starting with 795.
For consumers who have already purchased these models, LG is offering a three-part program:
    1.  LG is offering to modify consumers' refrigerators to make them more
        energy efficient.  LG is making arrangements to visit consumers' homes
        to modify their refrigerator.  This will lower the energy consumption
        over the life of the product and is free of charge.

    2.  Consumers will receive a cash payment for past energy usage.  LG is
        providing a one-time cash payment to cover the difference between the
        new measured energy rating and the amount listed on the original
        EnergyGuide label at the time the product was purchased.

    3.  Consumers will receive cash payments for future energy usage. LG will
        provide a cash payment each year over the expected useful life of the
        product.  These payments will cover the difference between the new
        measured energy rating of the refrigerator with the energy-saving
        modification and the energy usage listed on the EnergyGuide label.
In cooperation with its retailers, LG will attempt to contact all previous purchasers of the affected units to arrange the in-home modification and the payments. Consumers who purchased the affected models can also register to participate in the program and get more information by mail or by calling a special hotline (1-888-848-1266) or online at http://www.LGrefrigeratoroffer.com.
LG Electronics is a long-time partner in the voluntary Energy Star program, and the vast majority of LG appliance products continue with their Energy Star ratings. The company plans to introduce redesigned, Energy Star-rated ice-and-water-dispensing French Door refrigerators in early 2009. In the meantime, steps have been taken to ensure that labeling and marketing materials will reflect the new energy consumption information for the affected models.

Size is Important When Buying a Refrigerator

One of the benefits of replacing an older refrigerator with a new one is knowing that you will be saving energy using the new model.

Jame Duley at the Columbus Dispatch writes:

The energy savings from a more efficient compressor and insulation should pay back the cost of a new model over its lifetime. My refrigerator is about 16 years old. We had a power outage, and my food warmed within eight hours and had to be trashed. My neighbor has a new model, and the insulation kept food in his refrigerator safely below 40 degrees for the same time period.

When selecting a new refrigerator, the size is the most important factor affecting its electricity usage. Select as small a model as will meet your requirements. You can base the size requirements on your existing refrigerator size and how full it typically is, not on the few holiday occasions when you’re making dinner for your extended family.

Don’t buy one that will be consistently too small and then perhaps plan to buy another small backup or keep your old one running in the basement or garage. This will use much more electricity than just buying a larger one initially. Features such as split shelves and pullout shelves that crank up and down can increase the usable interior space with a smaller size.

Models with the freezer on top are most energy-efficient because the cool air naturally drops from the freezer to cool the refrigerator section. Top-freezer models also tend to have the most interior space for a given exterior size, so they’re ideal if your space is limited.

You can figure on about 80 percent of advertised interior volume as actual usable space.

Choosing Kitchen Appliances – Refrigerators

Continuing now with refrigerators, we bring you part two of our series on choosing kitchen appliances.  The features that most people consider when looking for a new fridge are storage capacity, ease of use, price and hopefully energy usage.  One of the first things you can do to save energy when purchasing a new appliance of any kind , is to buy one with the Energy Star seal.  A 2007 Energy Star refrigerator uses at least 15 percent less energy than a standard one. 

HowStuffWorks.com, Consumer Reports and Appliance.net have some tips we’d like to share with you that will help clarify your refrigerator needs.

While you’ll find an array of refrigerator brands, only a handful of companies actually make these appliances, with essentially similar models under several names. Frigidaire, General Electric, Kenmore, and Whirlpool account for some 75 percent of top-freezer sales and, with Maytag, more than 80 percent of side-by-side purchases.
You can still get the basic 18-cubic-foot, freezer-on-top model with wire shelves, but the most popular style offers 20 cubic feet of storage; adjustable glass shelves; meat keeper with temperature control; vegetable crisper with humidity control; ice-maker; and door bins.   These typically cost the least and offer more space than comparably sized side-by-sides. Widths typically range from about 30 to 33 inches. Fairly wide refrigerator shelves make it easy to reach the back, though you must bend to reach bottom shelves and drawers. Usable capacity is typically about 80 percent of what’s claimed (about 10 to 25 cubic feet), which brings top-freezers closest to their claims. Price: $400 to $1,200.

Bottom-freezer brands include Amana, Frigidaire, GE, Jenn-Air, Kenmore, KitchenAid, LG, Maytag, Samsung, Sub-Zero, Thermador, and Whirlpool. Mainstream companies have introduced high-end brand lines such as Electrolux Icon, Frigidaire Gallery, GE Cafe, Monogram and Profile, Kenmore Elite and Pro, and Whirlpool Gold. These brands cover built-ins: GE (Monogram and Profile), Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, Sub-Zero, Thermador, and Viking. You can also get built-in-style, or cabinet-depth, models from Amana, Bosch, Electrolux, Frigidaire, GE, Jenn-Air, Kenmore, KitchenAid, LG, Maytag, and Whirlpool among others. These put refrigerator items at eye level on wide shelves that provide easy access. You’ll have to bend to find items in the freezer, but you’ll typically open the refrigerator much more often. Bottom-freezers tend to cost more than top-freezers and offer less space for their size, however. Widths typically range from 30 to 36 inches. Claimed capacity is up to 26 cubic feet, though usable space is typically a bit less than for top-freezers.

While most French-door models are 36 inches wide, some are 33 inches, and some offer through-the-door ice and water. Price: $700 to $1,500; $1,600 to $2,000 for French doors. French door fridges, are side-by-side on top with freezers on the bottom and are one of the newer options on the market.

Side-by-sides are split units that have a freezer on one side and a refrigerator on the other. They’re typically equipped with through-the-door ice and water—among the most requested features—along with temperature-controlled bins and rapid ice-making cycles. Narrow doors that fit tight kitchens are another plus, though most don’t open wide enough to fit pizza boxes and other wide items. High, narrow compartments also make it hard to find items at back. Side-by-sides are typically 32 to 36 inches wide, with claimed capacity of 20 to 30 cubic feet, though we’ve found that only about 65 percent of that space is usable. They’re also pricier than top-freezer models. Price: $800 to $2,000.

Built-ins are pricey refrigerators that are designed to fit nearly flush with cabinets and counters, and typically comprise bottom-freezers and side-by-sides. Most can accept extra-cost front panels that match other elements of your kitchen. You can even buy a separate refrigerator and freezer mounted together in a 72-inch opening. On the downside, built-ins are wide (36 inches or wider), yet relatively shallow (25 to 26 inches, front to back), making them least-efficient overall. They’ve also been repair-prone in Consumer Reports’ surveys. And at roughly a foot taller than conventional models, they could be hard to fit beneath overhead cabinets. Price: $4,000 to $7,000.

Cabinet-depth refrigerators are less-shallow, freestanding and offer the look of a built-in for less money. They are available mostly in side-by-side styles, with some top- and bottom-freezers and French-door models available. Many accept extra-cost panels for a custom look, but cabinet-depth models have less usable space than deeper freestanding models and cost more. Price: $1,500 to $3,200.

Under cabinet refrigerator drawers are among the latest luxuries for kitchens where even the biggest refrigerator simply isn’t enough. But refrigerators drawers tend to be large on price and small on space. They cost little to run because of limited capacity. Price: $1,800 to $3,000.

How much refrigerator do you need? One rule of thumb says plan on 12 cubic feet for two people and 2 more cubic feet for each additional household member, but other considerations also matter. If you like to stock up during sales, or cook often for crowds, the more room the better. Side-by-side models are easiest to organize, but the smaller models have relatively narrow freezers.  In all cooling sections, look for pull-out, roll-out bins and baskets that make it easy to see everything without having to dig around, squandering energy (yours as well as the refrigerator’s!).  If you’re a serious entertainer, you may want to look into ice makers that fit into the space of a trash compactor and produce large quantities of ice daily.

Consumer Reports offers this extra advice:

HOW TO CHOOSE

Size is usually more important than style, since most new refrigerators must fit in the same space as the old one. Begin by measuring the available space, particularly the width. Include the space you’ll need to open doors, and check that the new fridge you’re considering can fit through halls and doorways.

Once you’ve chosen a type that fits your space, needs, and budget, keep these tips in mind:

Look for space-stretching features. These include split shelves and cranks for adjusting shelf height. Pull-out shelves provide access to the back of the fridge and freezer. In bottom-freezers, full-extension drawers help you find items in the rear.

Consider efficiency. Despite advances, refrigerators still use more electricity than other kitchen appliances, since they’re always on. Top- and bottom-freezers are typically more efficient than side-by-sides. Choose a model that scored well for energy efficiency in our tests.

Think twice about multimedia models. More brands are also pushing $3,000-plus models that include TVs, DVD players, and other features as kitchens become the new living room. But we’ve found you can save hundreds and get better performance by buying a separate refrigerator and flat-screen TV.

Don’t jump at package deals. While buying a refrigerator with other appliances from the same brand can save you money and help coordinate styling, you’ll probably have less choice, and you could sacrifice refrigerator performance and reliability.

Choosing Kitchen Appliances – Refrigerators

Continuing now with refrigerators, we bring you part two of our series on choosing kitchen appliances.  The features that most people consider when looking for a new fridge are storage capacity, ease of use, price and hopefully energy usage.  One of the first things you can do to save energy when purchasing a new appliance of any kind , is to buy one with the Energy Star seal.  A 2007 Energy Star refrigerator uses at least 15 percent less energy than a standard one. 

HowStuffWorks.com, Consumer Reports and Appliance.net have some tips we’d like to share with you that will help clarify your refrigerator needs.

While you’ll find an array of refrigerator brands, only a handful of companies actually make these appliances, with essentially similar models under several names. Frigidaire, General Electric, Kenmore, and Whirlpool account for some 75 percent of top-freezer sales and, with Maytag, more than 80 percent of side-by-side purchases.
You can still get the basic 18-cubic-foot, freezer-on-top model with wire shelves, but the most popular style offers 20 cubic feet of storage; adjustable glass shelves; meat keeper with temperature control; vegetable crisper with humidity control; ice-maker; and door bins.   These typically cost the least and offer more space than comparably sized side-by-sides. Widths typically range from about 30 to 33 inches. Fairly wide refrigerator shelves make it easy to reach the back, though you must bend to reach bottom shelves and drawers. Usable capacity is typically about 80 percent of what’s claimed (about 10 to 25 cubic feet), which brings top-freezers closest to their claims. Price: $400 to $1,200.

Bottom-freezer brands include Amana, Frigidaire, GE, Jenn-Air, Kenmore, KitchenAid, LG, Maytag, Samsung, Sub-Zero, Thermador, and Whirlpool. Mainstream companies have introduced high-end brand lines such as Electrolux Icon, Frigidaire Gallery, GE Cafe, Monogram and Profile, Kenmore Elite and Pro, and Whirlpool Gold. These brands cover built-ins: GE (Monogram and Profile), Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, Sub-Zero, Thermador, and Viking. You can also get built-in-style, or cabinet-depth, models from Amana, Bosch, Electrolux, Frigidaire, GE, Jenn-Air, Kenmore, KitchenAid, LG, Maytag, and Whirlpool among others. These put refrigerator items at eye level on wide shelves that provide easy access. You’ll have to bend to find items in the freezer, but you’ll typically open the refrigerator much more often. Bottom-freezers tend to cost more than top-freezers and offer less space for their size, however. Widths typically range from 30 to 36 inches. Claimed capacity is up to 26 cubic feet, though usable space is typically a bit less than for top-freezers.

While most French-door models are 36 inches wide, some are 33 inches, and some offer through-the-door ice and water. Price: $700 to $1,500; $1,600 to $2,000 for French doors. French door fridges, are side-by-side on top with freezers on the bottom and are one of the newer options on the market.

Side-by-sides are split units that have a freezer on one side and a refrigerator on the other. They’re typically equipped with through-the-door ice and water—among the most requested features—along with temperature-controlled bins and rapid ice-making cycles. Narrow doors that fit tight kitchens are another plus, though most don’t open wide enough to fit pizza boxes and other wide items. High, narrow compartments also make it hard to find items at back. Side-by-sides are typically 32 to 36 inches wide, with claimed capacity of 20 to 30 cubic feet, though we’ve found that only about 65 percent of that space is usable. They’re also pricier than top-freezer models. Price: $800 to $2,000.

Built-ins are pricey refrigerators that are designed to fit nearly flush with cabinets and counters, and typically comprise bottom-freezers and side-by-sides. Most can accept extra-cost front panels that match other elements of your kitchen. You can even buy a separate refrigerator and freezer mounted together in a 72-inch opening. On the downside, built-ins are wide (36 inches or wider), yet relatively shallow (25 to 26 inches, front to back), making them least-efficient overall. They’ve also been repair-prone in Consumer Reports’ surveys. And at roughly a foot taller than conventional models, they could be hard to fit beneath overhead cabinets. Price: $4,000 to $7,000.

Cabinet-depth refrigerators are less-shallow, freestanding and offer the look of a built-in for less money. They are available mostly in side-by-side styles, with some top- and bottom-freezers and French-door models available. Many accept extra-cost panels for a custom look, but cabinet-depth models have less usable space than deeper freestanding models and cost more. Price: $1,500 to $3,200.

Under cabinet refrigerator drawers are among the latest luxuries for kitchens where even the biggest refrigerator simply isn’t enough. But refrigerators drawers tend to be large on price and small on space. They cost little to run because of limited capacity. Price: $1,800 to $3,000.

How much refrigerator do you need? One rule of thumb says plan on 12 cubic feet for two people and 2 more cubic feet for each additional household member, but other considerations also matter. If you like to stock up during sales, or cook often for crowds, the more room the better. Side-by-side models are easiest to organize, but the smaller models have relatively narrow freezers.  In all cooling sections, look for pull-out, roll-out bins and baskets that make it easy to see everything without having to dig around, squandering energy (yours as well as the refrigerator’s!).  If you’re a serious entertainer, you may want to look into ice makers that fit into the space of a trash compactor and produce large quantities of ice daily.

Consumer Reports offers this extra advice:

HOW TO CHOOSE

Size is usually more important than style, since most new refrigerators must fit in the same space as the old one. Begin by measuring the available space, particularly the width. Include the space you’ll need to open doors, and check that the new fridge you’re considering can fit through halls and doorways.

Once you’ve chosen a type that fits your space, needs, and budget, keep these tips in mind:

Look for space-stretching features. These include split shelves and cranks for adjusting shelf height. Pull-out shelves provide access to the back of the fridge and freezer. In bottom-freezers, full-extension drawers help you find items in the rear.

Consider efficiency. Despite advances, refrigerators still use more electricity than other kitchen appliances, since they’re always on. Top- and bottom-freezers are typically more efficient than side-by-sides. Choose a model that scored well for energy efficiency in our tests.

Think twice about multimedia models. More brands are also pushing $3,000-plus models that include TVs, DVD players, and other features as kitchens become the new living room. But we’ve found you can save hundreds and get better performance by buying a separate refrigerator and flat-screen TV.

Don’t jump at package deals. While buying a refrigerator with other appliances from the same brand can save you money and help coordinate styling, you’ll probably have less choice, and you could sacrifice refrigerator performance and reliability.