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Kitchen Renovation Part 6: Star Appliances
Choosing appliances for my new kitchen was less about green decisions than confronting my actual needs and the simple reality that I just don't cook all that much. The kids are grown, I live alone, and I travel a lot so it didn't make much sense to invest in the super high end gourmet designer brands.
Even so, the choices of brand, features and aesthetics are intimidating. Buying an oven, for example, that simply bakes and broils is as hard as finding a cell phone that just makes calls. So I had some editing to do.
My first filter, of course, was Energy Star, the joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy, that helps consumers and businesses make energy efficient choices for more than 60 product types. Of the standard kitchen appliances, only clothes washers, dishwashers, and refrigerator/freezers are Energy Star-qualified. Why is a subject for another blog.
Finding the best appliance with the highest Energy Star rating that also met my function, price, and style criteria was both easy and confusing. Energy Star is a voluntary program that depends on manufacturers supplied data. EPA has recently come under some criticism for its policing of the program and for standards that have grown too lax. For example, 67 percent of all dishwashers carry the familiar logo, but it is a trusted label that was an incentive to the industry to produce more energy efficient products.
Energy Star's website features a product finder, but it can be intimidating. Clicking on a category accesses a list of qualified products sorted by various metrics that differ for each product type. EPA does provide a definition of terms used in the column headers, which is helpful, but knowing the kWh/yr or the Modified Energy Factor (MEF) for a dishwasher doesn't tell me whether I'll actually like it or if it's affordable and available.
However, I did begin with Energy Star and went shopping. Here's what I selected and why:
I have limited space for my washer/dryer; full size machines simply won't fit so I looked for compact models. I chose the Bosch Axxis+ 2446UC with a Modified Energy Factor (MEF) of 2.22 which is 76 percent better than the federal standard of 1.26. Energy Star qualified clothes washers must have a minimum MEF of 1.80. The estimated annual energy use, which incorporates the energy consumed by the washer and also the energy needed to heat the water is 130 KWH/year but that is based on 8 loads of laundry per week. I do four loads max, which validates that life style matters in the green world. Energy Star also lists the water factor (WF), a measurement of water efficiency that is calculated as gallons of water used per cubic foot of capacity. The Bosch WF of 4.53 is well below the maximum allowable WF of 7.5.
Again I went with Bosch, model SHV65P03UC. It's estimated to use 259 kWh/yr, based on 215 loads per year but I do about half that.
It has an Energy Factor (EF) of 0.83, which is 80 percent more efficient than the federal standard of 0.46 and uses 2.21 gallons per cycle. Though I love my dishwasher-super quiet and cleans dishes without much rinsing-I have since learned of another Bosch model (SHV68E13UC) that uses just 180 kWh/yr, 1.56 gallons per cycle and has an EF of 1.19, which is 159 percent better than the standard. Seems I missed that opportunity.
I chose a Liebherr bottom-freezer refrigerator, model CI1650 for a number of reasons. Liebherr, a German manufacturer, has an impressive green story. It was the first appliance manufacturer worldwide to remove CFC's completely from the production process in 1993 and the packaging materials on all products are 100 percent recyclable. What really sold me is its elimination, since 2007, of major hazardous substances in the production of Liebherr products such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and certain types of chrome and biphenyl. It's the first refrigeration manufacturer to do so.
Its Energy Star numbers are good: at 433 kWh/yr, it meets the federal standard, which is based on typical conditions-how you use your refrigerator, such as frequency of opening and closing, surrounding room temperature, and how full the unit is kept. Since I've already confessed my infrequency of cooking, I'm sure my numbers are better.
There is no Energy Star label for cooktops at this time but I selected an induction cooker partially for its inherent energy efficiency. Induction technology mimics gas-which I cannot use gas in my apartment building-because it's faster than traditional electric, allows instantaneous control and generates less heat in the kitchen. According to unverified data on Wikipedia, induction cooking is 80-90 percent efficient, electric coil or cast iron (55 percent) and gas (40 percent).
I chose the Diva DDP-4 model because I like the way it looks. Sometimes, that's enough.