Savenia Labs Sneak Peek Into WaterSavvy-DB: New U.S. Regional Water Price Database

City Water Costs Chart with LogoSavenia Labs announced today that it has conducted an exhaustive analysis of the municipal water costs of hundreds of cities across the United States*, and has compiled this information into a unique database called WaterSavvy-DBTM. See full press release here.

WaterSavvy-DBTM is the most up-to-date database of municipal residential water costs in the US and affords valuable insights into one of our country’s most important natural resources.

The database will power the next generation of Savenia HYDROTM water, energy and environmental impact ratings for dishwashers and washing machines to help buyers save money and local water supplies.

Here is a sample of our findings.

Pricing System Permutations

There is no standard way localities charge for water costs – from our search we found more than a dozen ways to calculate a water bill, ranging from one fixed price per month, to rates that rise depending on usage and change by the season.  There are pricing tiers, seasonal rates, fixed costs, administrative fees, sewer rates, block rates, average and marginal per gallon costs. WaterSavvy-DBTM captures every feature of pricing for all its cities.

Not Just Water Anymore

Over 60% of the average water bill is for sewer and administrative fees. While there is a  wide variation on how water bills are calculated, on average a family of four in the United States pays most for sewer ($32/mo.) followed by water ($30) and administrative fees ($19) on their monthly water bills.

Dramatic Price Differences

Savenia found big differences in water prices across the country. The most expensive water was in Atlanta, GA where an average family spends $2,600 per year – almost 10 times more than residents in Wilmington, DE. Interestingly, 4% of cities surveyed don’t pay for water based on their usage but instead pay flat fees regardless of usage. The average US household pays $80 per month.  Pricing logic is not always clear. We found cheap water in the Southwest where water is thought to be scarce, and expensive water in areas where rivers seem to be full. In many cases sewer costs seem to be driving the differences.

Bringing It All Together For Shoppers

Using this data, Savenia found that shoppers in different cities would choose completely different appliances to save money depending on local water and electricity prices. Take the example of two families living in different states looking to buy a washing machine. One family, in Hilo, Hawaii, pays some of the country’s highest electricity rates but comparatively low water prices. The other family is in Seattle, WA, with high water prices, but comparatively low electricity rates. They’ve narrowed down their options to these two similarly sized Energy Star washing machines from well-known brands:

  • The Whirlpool WTW4880AW, 3.4 cu. ft., retailing for $600 (144 kWh/yr, 7743 gallons/yr)
  • The GE GWFH1200DWW, 3.56 cu. ft., retailing for $800 (181 kWh/yr, 5582 gallons/yr)

In Hilo, the family would save about $300 over their washing machine’s lifetime by purchasing the Whirlpool, while the Seattle family would save about $300 by purchasing the GE model. Drastically different decisions based on local utility pricing. If electricity or water prices go up over time they would save even more.

With the power of WaterSavvy-DBTM, Savenia Labs continues to illuminate hidden appliance costs and environmental impacts.

Savenia Energy Ratings are available in participating DC / Baltimore Metro Area Retailers (list here) – and for Savenia Enterprise customers.

*For this survey, Savenia Labs assumed water use for a family of 4 using a consistent 8400 gallons a month regardless of season. No hookup or starting fees were assessed and there were no irrigation or grey water recycling systems in the house. The water is city billed and maintained (where available) and the family is billed monthly. The family lives in a standalone house with a 5/8ths or, if unavailable, 3/4ths connection with 8 rooms and is within the city limits.

Single Serve Coffeemaker Confidential Part III – The Costs

Coffee drinking can be an expensive habit.  A small simple cup from Starbucks will cost you $1.75 per day, while a fancier palette could run you $4 or more.  If you buy 3 cups per day (the average amount of coffee Americans told us they drink per day), that’ll run you between $1,900 and $4,400 per year.  Over five years, a continuous Starbucks habit would run from $9,500 to $22,000 depending on how expensive your tastes are.

With single serve machines the costs are spread out among many different pieces.  The machines themselves cost anywhere from $50 to $200 depending on local prices and rebates.  The coffee pods can run from 50 cents up to a couple bucks each; that adds up pretty quickly since many consumers drink 3 or more of these per day.  These pods alone will cost you $2,700 to $11,000 over the coffeemaker’s 5 year lifetime.  Lastly, maintenance on the product can add up when you change the water filter every 3 months and buy de-scaling solutions to keep the unit clean.  Assuming you buy the lower cost pods, altogether this can add up to $3,000 or more over the 5 year lifetime of the unit… and this is before you get to the energy cost of running the unit. Choose wisely.

Brewing coffee in either a traditional coffeemaker or in reusable pods can cost far less in coffee used.  That’s assuming you make only the coffee you will drink with no waste. The Specialty Coffee Association of America recommends using 10 grams of ground coffee to make one 6 ounce cup of joe.  Conservatively, to make three 8-ounce cups per day at $10 per pound bag prices (about the price of a 1-pound Starbucks bag on Amazon), you would spend $1,610 over the coffeemaker’s 5 year lifetime on ground coffee.  That’s over $1,100 less than you’d spend if you bought the cheapest coffee pods on the market.  But making the coffee yourself is certainly much less convenient, far messier, and lacking in the incredible variety of drinks these pods now offer.

Increasingly, Americans are finding the extra convenience well worth the price – single serve coffeemakers are by far the fastest growing coffee segment in the country.

Stay tuned for our next post in the series on the environmental perspective.

Savenia Labs Launches First Toaster Energy Ratings

Today we are delighted to announce the world’s first energy ratings on toasters.  Full press release here.  Millions of people use these units around the world every day, and now you can find out how much they cost to operate before you buy at Savenia Labs participating retailers.

Energy is Toast.  This time we tested 4 slice units; basic units, full featured with lights and electronic lift mechanisms, dual chamber (2×2) models and long slot toasters.  We found that the energy costs alone can exceed the purchase price on some models, while the dual chamber (2×2) control was a useful feature for people who make 2 slices more often than 4.

You can see the selection of toasters together with Savenia Labs Energy Ratings on the shelf at participating stores, and on our smartphone website at www.savenialabs.com.

In the run up to the holiday season, now is a great time to buy toasters.  And you can save big with coupons from some of our partner stores.

DC / Baltimore Ace Coupon here.  Fairfax Virginia Coupon here.

Please visit the stores and let us know what you think.

Savenia Labs Expands to Washington DC

 

Today we are delighted to announce that Savenia Labs Energy Ratings are now available to residents of the nation’s capital at 5 Ace Hardware stores in Washington DC.  Read full release here.

Savenia Labs Energy Ratings are now available at 5th Street Ace Hardware, Glover Park Hardware, Logan Hardware, Old Takoma Park Ace Hardware, and Tenleytown Ace Hardware.

These stores are all part of the A Few Cool Hardware Stores Chain, a forward thinking and customer focused chain of Ace Hardware stores in the DC metro region.

In the run up to the holiday season, they are offering a discount on Savenia Labs rated appliances, for the coupon click here.

We are delighted to introduce Savenia Labs Energy Ratings to residents of our nation’s capital, which has the largest number of energy efficient buildings in the country as well as hundreds of natural parks and historic monuments.  Local residents can now shop for more energy efficient products and save money on energy costs, while reducing pollution due to electricity production.

Please visit the stores and check out the new displays for your holiday shopping, and join us in welcoming these stores to the Savenia Labs retail network.

Power Outlet Hoarding in the DC Region

As the power blackout continues, the sight of thousands of people sitting on floors huddled around power outlets in malls, restaurants, and office building lobbies got us thinking about our new dependance on electricity.  And this dependance is forecast to increase, with more people, more gadgets per person and the growing importance of electric powered vehicles.  This new demand will require more power plants – mostly coal / natural gas until more renewable energy comes on line and we know what happens to air pollution when we burn things for energy.  Assuming you can’t get off the grid (entirely), maybe it’s time for some new thinking.  We think knowing how much electricity something is likely to use over its lifetime before you buy it is more important than ever.  And we plan on covering more and more product categories so you can get this information BEFORE you buy so you can shop smart.  Check for participating retailers or go online with your smartphone at www.savenialabs.com for more information.

Single Cup vs. Classic Coffeemaker Throwdown

With single cup (Keurig type) coffeemaker sales growing rapidly, we are often asked about the energy efficiency of these machines vs. standard drip coffeemakers. Many people have a 10-12 cup drip coffeemaker at home and we wanted to see if they could save energy / money moving to a single serve unit. We did some exploratory work with the Bosch Tassimo TAS6515, and while not representative of the whole category, it’s an interesting starting point for the discussion.

Our initial results showed that brewing around 8 cups of coffee per day with the Tassimo used about the same amount of energy as brewing a full 10-12 cup pot with the average coffeemaker we tested. The most efficient drip coffeemakers brewed a pot using the energy of 4 cups, while the least efficient always-on hot water varieties were much more energy hungry.

If you drink a full 12 cup pot of coffee every day and have an average drip coffeemaker – you’d use less energy by sticking with it. If you drink less than around 8 cups a day, you would probably save energy by switching to the Tassimo.

Of course energy use is not the whole story here. The single serve coffeemakers also produce waste in the form of used cups / cartridges…some of which can be recycled or re-used. On the other hand – they make coffee much faster, don’t leave coffee sitting around and provide other drink options like tea, hot chocolate.

We look forward to testing the entire category soon and presenting the whole story. Do you have a single serve coffeemaker…how do you like it?

 

Happy Earthday from Savenia Labs

Earth Day sure looks a lot different today than when we started Savenia Labs 3 years ago. There is now a much larger and growing community of people, organizations, and companies involved. And awareness of environmental issues continues to spread across all age groups.

All the while the sustainability winds are blowing harder in the retail world. Large retailers like Walmart have launched sustainability scorecards at the supplier level and other programs to procure better products, reduce costs, and strengthen their connection with valuable shoppers. The impact of these activities is occuring at all levels of the supply chain, from product manufacturers to parts and service suppliers.

Savenia Labs is perfectly positionned to help. After a stunning launch in Strosniders True Value Hardware stores (video), we are ramping up lab testing and expansion plans in more stores. By next Earth Day, we hope to multiply the number of smiling shoppers using Energy Rating labels to save money.

Thanks so much to all of our partners and stakeholders for the help and advice.

We will be on the National Mall over the weekend participating in the activities – hope to see you there!

Why not join the conversation and follow along as we scale the energy efficiency mountain – follow us on Facebook to stay in touch at www.facebook.com/savenialabs if you LIKE.

 

What We’re Reading: “Firms with Benefits”

This week the Economist writes about a business trend that is gathering speed across the country- Firms with Benefits. Savenia Labs, as you may know, is a Certified Benefit Corporation – which means we have taken on the responsibility to provide a measurable and meaningful public benefit through our work.  This commitment includes taking into consideration our stakeholders and also the environment alongside profit in our legal documents. We have made it our mission to educate people about the energy efficiency of the products they use every day, helping them save money and energy while reducing pollution.  Savenia Labs was the first Certified Benefit Corporation in Bethesda, MD and was also the first testing last lab to be certified in the United States.  We are proud to be part of a movement that uses the power of the markets to make the world a better place.

This year, California became the sixth state in the US to create a legal classification for companies – Benefit Corporations.  By registering as a Benefit Corporation, a company takes on a legally binding responsibility towards these commitments.  The Economist reports that Patagonia – the popular apparel company – was the first company in California to take advantage of the new law and register as a Benefit Corporation.  Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s president, wanted to solidify the company’s efforts to the community and the environment – and claims that his employees are happier and more productive because Patagonia works towards the greater good.

B Lab, the nonprofit driving the spread of Benefit Corporation laws across the country has now audited over 500 companies that account for almost $3 billion in revenue.  By changing corporate culture, this movement can have a huge impact on the way business works in the United States.  Patagonia’s involvement in this movement should only help accelerate this shift.  You can read the Economist article here.

You can read more about the Savenia Labs mission and independent audit results on our website at http://www.savenialabs.com/savenia-labs-mission

Savenia Labs Launches ‘Bright-Light’ Energy Rating Labels

Today, Savenia Labs launched a new ‘Bright-Light’ version of our Energy Rating labels in Strosniders True Value Hardware stores.  The design has been given a splash of ‘Bright-Light’ to help shoppers quickly and easily find the Lifetime Energy Cost of running an appliance.  Now, with just a glance, shoppers in the store can compare which toaster oven on the shelf is the most energy efficient and which coffee maker will cost the least over the product lifetime.  Take a look inside Strosniders Hardware Stores in Bethesda and Silver Spring and let us know what you think.

3 Energy Saving Tips On Turkey Day

With Thanksgiving Day just around the corner here are a few tips from the lab on how to save money and energy in the kitchen this year.

1. Toaster Ovens – Batch, Shut-off and Convection.

We found that the vast majority of a toaster oven’s energy consumption goes towards getting it warm in the first place.  Once it’s warm, it doesn’t take a lot of energy (or time) to keep it there.  So heat the rolls, then the batch of cookies, then the pumpkin pie.  Just do it without letting the toaster oven get cold over and over again.  Also, many toaster ovens don’t automatically turn off after use.  Make sure to switch them off to minimize energy usage and for safety.   Finally, if you have a good convection toaster oven use it.   In many cases this feature can save time and potentially energy.  In our tests, they made cookies fluffier too – and who doesn’t love fluffy cookies?

2. CoffeeMakers – Go Thermo

One of the biggest drivers of energy usage in a coffeemaker is the heat plate it uses to keep your coffee warm.  If you’re in need of a new coffeemaker – consider getting one with a thermo-carafe.  It keeps your coffee warm longer without using any additional energy.  And besides, those heat plates can destroy flavor.

3.  Microwave Ovens – Zap Away

If you need to heat something quickly – zap it.  Your microwave is one of the best conservers of energy in your kitchen.  Use microwave safe containers and covers.

Strosniders True Value Hardware in Bethesda and Silver Spring has all these appliances and more with Savenia Labs Energy Rating Labels so you can see the energy costs BEFORE you buy!

Have a happy holiday!