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CO - OP LIVI NG


Rebates and standards transform kitchens and laundry rooms, but are consumers really saving energy? By Megan McKoy-Noe


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oes your refrigerator have Wi-Fi or a door with a view? Select dishwashers self-dispense detergent and clean based on the number of dishes. And you might be surprised to hear some ovens double as refrigerators. Leave dinner in the oven in the morning, then send a text message for the oven to switch from cooling to cooking mode. “When it comes to appliances in the kitchen, things are getting smarter,” claims Kevin Dexter, senior vice president of home appliance sales and market- ing, Samsung Electronics America. “We’re listening closely to consumers and adding improvements that busy moms want.”


During the 2012 International Consumer Elec- tronics Show, Samsung unveiled several appliance twists, including an LCD refrigerator featuring Wi- Fi with a grocery app and a Flex Duo Oven using a Smart Divider to cut wasted cooking space. Samsung isn’t alone. Other manufacturers are also


looking for twists to make appliances smarter and keep consumers happy.


“At GE Appliances we’re rapidly expanding our ENERGY STAR offerings because it’s what consum- ers demand and it’s the right thing to do,” explains Rod Barry, director of effi ciency and environmental relations. He claims a kitchen equipped with GE’s ecomagination appliances reduces electricity use by 20 percent compared to standard models. But with so many cooks in the kitchen, not all innovations make energy sense. Appliances use 13 percent of a home’s energy—a hefty chunk. Electric co-ops are evaluating emerging technologies to fi nd the recipe for innovative appliance success.


Setting the Standard


Manufacturers are constantly enhancing appli- ances to comply with consumer requests and to meet ever-evolving federal effi ciency standards. These stan- dards, fi rst enacted in 1987, drive effi ciency innova- tions and are credited with saving more than $300 billion in electric bills over the past quarter-century, according to the American Council for an Energy Ef- fi cient Economy.


Current standards set the bar for furnaces, air con- ditioners, water heaters, refrigerators and freezers, washers, dryers, motors, lamps, and other products. In 2011, a U.S. Senate committee considered tighten- ing appliance standards even more, but the bill has not moved forward for a vote.


Most manufacturers also strive to meet a higher bar of excellence—the ENERGY STAR certifi cation.


6 OKLAHOMA LIVING


Launched by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1992, ENERGY STAR is a voluntary, in- ternational standard for rating energy-effi cient con- sumer products. Not only do qualifying appliances carrying the ENERGY STAR logo meet federal stan- dards, they exceed it. ENERGY STAR-rated appli- ances use 10 percent to 50 percent less energy and water than standard models.


Rebate Revolution After an infl ux of appliance rebate funds—almost


$300 million—from the American Recovery and Re- investment Act of 2009, many consumers bought effi cient appliances in 2010 and 2011. Although re- bates were also offered for HVAC systems and water heaters, kitchen and laundry workhorses were the clear favorites, garnering 88 percent of all redeemed rebates. About 586,000 consumers added refrigera- tors, 551,000 added clothes washers, and 297,600 dishwashers were updated.


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates


this infl ux of effi cient appliances will save $48 mil- lion in energy costs annually. But these savings are only realized when consumers follow the adage, “Out with the old, in with the new.” Unfortunately, a na- tional electric cooperative survey shows that isn’t always the case.


“A lot of folks buy these great new ENERGY STAR refrigerators, then put the old ‘energy hog’ model in the basement as a soda fridge for the kids,” com- ments Brian Sloboda, a program manager for the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), a division of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association that monitors, evaluates, and applies technologies to help electric cooperatives control costs, increase productivity, and enhance service to their members. “As a result a lot of potential savings are lost. Sure, it’s convenient to have the extra space, but these folks are paying signifi cantly more just to have cold drinks handy.”


CRN partnered with E-Source, a Colorado-based


effi ciency group, to conduct a national survey of ap- pliances. The study found 19 percent of American homes plug in two refrigerators, and 40 percent of households run a stand-alone freezer, adding expen- sive cold storage to electric bills.


Older models drain energy dollars. A refrigerator


from the 1970s costs $200 more to operate every year than a current model; a 1980s fridge isn’t much bet- ter, wasting $100 in energy dollars annually.


Shop for Savings Consumers should look beyond fancy bells and Photo couresty Karen Kaley/Cotton Electric Co-op


whistles and research appliances to guarantee energy savings, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The agency enforces mandatory EnergyGuide labels to help consumers compare brands and shop effectively.


“Most of the differences are on the inside—in the


motors, compressors, pumps, valves, gaskets and seals, or in electronic sensors that make appliances ‘smarter,’” FTC warns. “Even if two models look the same from the outside, less-obvious inside features can mean a big difference in monthly utility bills.” EnergyGuide labels offer energy use and effi ciency results from independent laboratory tests; the labels are required for refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers, televisions, water heaters, and select HVAC systems.


Appliance Aid


Most states have exhausted their allocated appli- ance rebate funds including Oklahoma. Federal tax credits also expired at the end of 2011. Despite these setbacks, some states and utilities provide rebates and appliance loan programs. Check dsireusa.org for local incentives, and call your local electric cooperative to see if appliance aid is available. Some co-ops offer rebates for recycling old refrigera- tors too, helping consumers achieve expected savings. To learn more about the impact effi cient applianc-


es can have on electric bills, visit TogetherWeSave. com.


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