$3.5 million. That’s how much we estimate Americans who still use traditional bulbs will spend tonight from 6-9pm on their incandescent porch lights for trick-or-treaters. The power plants that produce this electricity will fill 350,000 gasoline tanker trucks with air pollution over this 3 hour period. If Americans switched to CFL lights the numbers drop by 75%, and the bulbs last 8x longer. Now that’s a real treat for Halloween!
Addendum November 2 2011
After this post we received a number of questions, comments from consumers who had problems with CFL lights breaking before the end of their advertised life. We did some research on this and found that all Energy Star qualified light bulbs are required to offer a manufacturer warranty of 2 years to consumers. (For more information click here: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=cfls.pr_cfls_warranty). You may need to keep your receipt to take advantage of these warranties – contact your retailer or the manufacturer for details.
Prices for more efficient light bulbs have fallen dramatically over the past few years so you can now get a CFL for under $2 each (for a 60 watt equivalent).
It’s that time of year again…fall appliance sales have begun and for some reason people buy more coffeemakers during fall months. But why? It would seem that people drink coffee all year round. So why do sales spike in Fall? Savenia Labs research into small appliances and interviews with thousands of consumers may provide a clue.
The vast majority of people (80%) purchase coffee makers because their last unit broke. Another 20% want more features – time for an upgrade. And while 70% bought their home coffee makers, another 20% got them as a gift. So the answer could be simple – gift givers are gearing up for the holiday season and colder weather causes coffee drinkers to brew up more often – leading to more broken machines.
So as we enter the coffee maker season, where are you going to buy your new coffee maker? Over 80% of our survey respondents told us they buy them in retail stores – vs. 15% online. If you’re in the market, Strosniders True Value Hardware in Bethesda and Silver Spring has a sale on all Savenia Labs Energy Rated appliances including coffeemakers, toaster ovens and microwaves now through October 31st (see flyer here). These are the only stores in the world where you can find out and compare how much it costs to power these appliances BEFORE you buy. Don’t get stuck with the unit that costs $500 to operate because you didn’t know. To find a store near you go to www.savenialabs.com.
Our contest for the past two weeks tested our Facebook fans’ knowledge of the convection bake function on their toaster ovens. Long touted by toaster oven manufacturers as a way to reduce cooking times and save energy, convection bake was put to the test. We tested the difference between energy usage in a 10 minute period between convection bake and regular bake among the top 20 most popular toaster ovens sold in the US (note: not all of these top 20 had both options), and we asked you – was there a difference?
And the answer…. No. Convection bake and regular bake use just about the same amount of energy within a 10 minute time period. So whoever guessed closest to 0% is this week’s winner. We’ll get in touch with the winner and let you know who that is soon.
But this still begs the question – does convection bake save energy? We found that manufacturers either recommended reducing cooking times by 30% or reducing oven temperatures by 25 degrees. If either of these recommendations result in a quality product – your oven should save energy…right? Maybe. Since toaster ovens use the vast majority of their energy over short cooking times to pre-heat the oven, small reductions in temperature or cooking time at the end of the cycle make little difference in the energy consumption.
After baking many batches of French Meadow Bakery Chocolate Chip cookies from MOM’s Organic Market, we can say with confidence that cookies baked using convection were “fluffier,” to use a technical term, and tastier in our view. Every machine is different and we could find no standard time difference or temperature reduction.
We’d like to hear from you …have you used convection bake on your toaster oven and do you find it saves time?
One Savenia Labs tested appliance won, several more to go. This week we want to explore some of the interesting information we found from lab testing several toaster oven functions. Many toaster oven models now come with a “convection bake” option. How does convection bake compare to regular bake? That’s our question this week:
Of the 20 most popular toaster ovens sold in the US, how much energy, more or less, does the convection bake function use vs. regular bake function over 10 minutes. (+%, -%)?
Again, remember that the answer is based on our independent lab testing available nowhere else. So take your best guess and come back here to see who won and what the difference in energy is.
$185 per year. That’s the price tag every Maryland household pays each year to power their electronics when not in use. Now a new tech startup in Montgomery County is helping tackle the problem. Savenia Labs tests household electronics and provides information on each model’s energy usage – helping individuals and businesses cut back on their energy usage.
Leading up to their Fall 2011 launch, Savenia Labs is giving away a free Energy Rated appliance every week. Learn how you can save money and energy by making smart shopping decisions on www.facebook.com/SaveniaLabs.
We all know the digital displays and clocks on your small appliances cost money to run, so how do you shut them off? We laboratory tested microwave ovens to find out. The only tip that we guarantee works on every product is to remove the power source. See our blog post on Top Four Ways to Reduce Vampire Power for some simple ways to do this. But are there other ways?
We found that on some models, unplugging the unit and then plugging it in again and not setting the clock resulted in either a blank screen or flashing dots, on some models a single zero appears and there are other variations. Each number in a digital clock is made up of light segments, so each number uses a different amount of electricity – a “0″ has six segments and a “1″ has just two. Lighting up each segment requires more power, so the less lights you have on your clock screen, the better. If after you re-set your appliance, it flashes “00:00″ continuously or streams “PLEASE SET CLOCK” continuously then you are likely using more power than with the clock alone. Wouldn’t it be great if small appliances could be shipped with the clock off, and you could turn them on if you needed another clock in your kitchen? Our calculations show that if all the microwaves Americans will buy this year come with clocks turned off, a coal fired powered plant can be taken off the grid every 3 years.
Small appliances didn’t get invited to the Saving Energy Party…and we think it’s time that changed. If the 14 million consumers who will purchase microwave ovens next year switch from the less efficient models they’re currently buying to some of the more efficient models on the market, they will realize considerable savings. Together those purchases would save enough energy to take a coal-fired power plant off the grid. According to our calculations and EPA data, they would cut carbon emissions by 2.5 million metric tons of CO2 – equivalent to taking 500,000 cars off the road or depowering 220,000 American homes. And that’s just with microwaves – generally considered to be a fairly efficient home appliance. The combined impact on consumer behavior of accurate information across hundreds of product categories would be enormous.
As temperatures in the DC region edged above 100 degrees and most residents cranked up their air conditioners, many feared the energy bill to come at the end of the month. How can you keep your energy bill down to manageable levels?
One easy way is to limit the amount of energy you waste powering appliances you’re not even using. True Blood has vampires, but your kitchen has vampire power. Vampire power is the power that appliances use when in standby mode – think of the clock on your microwave. As the New York Times has reported, standby power drives the power usage of certain home appliances – for example, DVR set top boxes consume more energy than an entire Energy Star refrigerator.
So what can you do about it? Here’s our list of the top four things you can do to kill the vampire in your home:
Buy appliances with low standby power energy demand
Put large appliances on smart strips
Put occasionally used appliances on power strips and turn them off when not in use
New ‘vampire power’ research from Savenia Labs helps consumers save energy and money.
New research shows that the most energy hungry microwaves on the market today cost as much as $30 to run when not in use – in large part due to the clock. These surprising early results were found after testing the top 20 microwave ovens sold in the United States at Savenia Labs, a University of MD Clark School of Engineering partner company in Bethesda, MD. ‘Vampire power’ also known as standby power was shown to consume more than 1/5th of a microwave’s total energy consumption over its lifetime.
When added to other appliances and electronics in your house, vampire power costs can add up to almost $200 per year for Maryland residents.
Savenia Labs recommends users choose a more efficient unit when possible and will be releasing energy ratings in Fall 2011 to help individuals and businesses make informed shopping decisions. For those who don’t need a new unit now, we offer this advice:
Unplug your microwave and when you plug it back in, don’t set the clock. Testing shows this can cut vampire power use by 50% in some units.
Unplug your small appliances when you go on vacation, or when not in use.
Use a smart strip to make it easy to power off your small appliances and home electronics when not in use.
For more information “Straight from the Lab”, money saving tips and a chance to win free appliances, follow Savenia Labs on Facebook, Twitter, or blog posts at www.savenialabs.com.