VideoBlog: Our Next Contest Winner, Susan the Convection Connoisseur

As we recently reported, over a 10m time period convection bake and regular bake on a toaster oven use about the same amount of energy.  That means our winner came closest to guessing a difference between the two of 0%.  We got guesses all over the map – from convection saving energy on the magnitude of 50% to using more energy by 80%.  Susan came the closest and took home the prize of a brand new Savenia Labs rated Toaster Oven….from Strosniders of course!

Don’t forget to enter our newest contest: Of the 20 most popular 10-12 cup coffee makers sold in the US, how much of the MSRP does the average coffeemaker cost in energy usage over its 5 yr. lifetime?  If you guess right a Savenia Labs rated Coffeemaker could be in your future.

Convection Bake: Does it Save Energy?

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?

Electricity Prices and Carbon Emissions Up in 2010

Data from EIA. 2011 figure annualized based on increase from first five months.

US carbon emissions rose for the first time in 3 years, according to a Reuters report.  And electricity prices have continued their annual increases to record highs.  Since 2002, electricity prices have only gone in one direction – up – by over 38% during this period.  According to the EIA, carbon emissions were up almost 4% in 2010, the largest annual increase since 1988.  As the economy recovered from the global recession, manufacturing and consumption picked up – increasing emissions of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.  Economic recovery is good – but we think energy efficiency measures can play a larger role in both reducing monthly energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions to support cleaner growth strategies.

As we calculated a few weeks ago, if Americans switched to more energy efficient microwaves, they could cut carbon emissions by 2.5 million metric tons per year and reduce the need for a new power plant somewhere across the US.  At the average price Americans pay for electricity, that would save over $322 million on electric bills, and that’s just for microwaves – already considered an efficient appliance.  Across all kitchen appliances, the total impact could be huge – all while saving consumers money on their electricity bills.  Many of the most talked about solutions to reducing electricity use and greenhouse gas emissions (carbon capture and sequestration, solar power, reforestation) cost money to implement.  Energy efficiency has among the fastest payback periods of any of these investments.  While nobody can predict future energy prices, one thing people can do is shield themselves against future rises by buying energy efficient appliances.  Savenia Labs can help.  Keep an eye out for our revolutionary appliance energy ratings this Fall.

Poll Result: 95% Looking for Appliance Energy Information

Do you look for energy info when shopping for appliances? Our Facebook followers do.  By a huge margin, too.  67% of respondents to our Facebook straw poll told us that they always look for energy usage information on the products they buy while 28% said they looked occasionally.  Only 5% said they never do.  We think awareness is growing nationwide about the importance of energy usage in lowering monthly utility bills and going easy on the environment.  A large part of that awareness was generated by the EPA Energy Star program, which sets efficiency guidelines for manufacturers that want to use the self- certification labels on their products in retail stores.  The impact has been enormous.  In 2010, Energy Star claims to have helped Americans save about $18 billion on utility bills.  That’s a huge number – and considering that the program only covers a fraction of the top selling electric appliance categories – imagine the impact of expanding energy information to the rest!

That’s what Savenia Labs is doing.  We’re imagining the impact on individuals and businesses of providing energy usage data for the next 100 or 1,000 product categories.  This Fall Savenia Labs is releasing our first set of product energy ratings, so make sure to check back here to find out how you can get the facts before you buy.  Also check out our facebook page to enter our newest contest and win a free lab tested appliance www.facebook.com/SaveniaLabs.

Announcing Our First Winner!

A Savenia Labs Rated GE Microwave for our winner

A Savenia Labs Rated GE Microwave for our winner

Savenia Labs is proud to announce the first winner of our Vampire Power Contest.  We asked if you could guess the difference in vampire power usage between the best and worst microwaves on the market in the US (among the top 20 most popular).  Guesses were all over the place – from as low as a few percent up to our winner’s guess of 72%.  And even that was quite short.  The actual answer?  A whopping 433%.

We reported a few weeks ago that the clock on your microwave could cost you $30 over the microwave’s lifetime.  By purchasing an energy efficient microwave you could cut that bill substantially.  Added together with all your household appliances, vampire energy costs the average Marylander almost $200 per year.  Make sure you check Savenia Labs’ Energy Ratings, available this fall, before you buy to know which microwaves and other appliances help you save money.

When our contest winner picks up her Savenia Labs rated microwave, we’ll tell you a little more about her.  We thank everyone who entered this week’s contest and hope you’ll all enter next week for a chance to win another Savenia Labs rated appliance.

How Not To Waste $185

$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.

What’s a Ton of Carbon Dioxide?

Whenever someone talks about climate change, a ton of carbon dioxide comes up.  But who’s ever seen a ton of carbon dioxide?  How can air weigh a whole ton?  And did you know that they’re usually talking about a metric ton (a bit more than a US short ton)?

Here are three easy ways to think about a metric ton of carbon dioxide:
If you pumped it into a large tanker truck, 1 ton of CO2 would fill about 17 gasoline tanker trucks.

It would take a pine forest a little bit larger than a baseball diamond 1 year to breathe in that much CO2.

The averages American car would emit 1 ton of CO2 by driving from Bethesda, MD to Los Angeles, CA.

Tick Tock Vampire Clock

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.

Can Energy Efficient Small Appliances Change the World?

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.

To learn more and win a Savenia Labs rated appliance, visit www.facebook.com/SaveniaLabs.

Top Four Ways to Reduce Vampire Power

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:

  1. Buy appliances with low standby power energy demand
  2. Put large appliances on smart strips
  3. Put occasionally used appliances on power strips and turn them off when not in use
  4. Install a kill switch in your house

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