Good for the planet and for the pocket

In Features On

Economic factors and EU regulations are increasingly forcing customers to make green choices. But they have to be convinced that long-term savings can only be achieved with larger investment now. Anna Ryland investigates

In the UK, resource efficiency is an issue that is driven by the government which complies with EU regulations.

David Garden, commercial director of Lec, describes the current situation: “The European Union has introduced a new energy label which goes beyond A , introducing a pictogram that, by law, must state very clearly the kW per hour consumption; noise levels in Db; and include a colour coded alphabetical energy rating from A+++ to D.  Although the responsibility for the provision and content of the label rests with manufacturers, retailers will be legally obliged to ensure consumers are provided with – and understand – the new information before purchase.  They must ensure the new labels are attached to products and are clearly visible in store. Most importantly, they need to understand the data on the labels in order to translate it into tangible benefits for the consumer.”

Yet the majority of customers are left behind. “They still don’t understand that they can do something for their conscience as well as for their wallet. In my opinion the majority of consumers don’t understand the labelling. So they think that an A+ rated appliance is already very energy efficient, not understanding that there is A++ and A+++ in the market already,” says Mike Jarrett, sales director of Neff.

At present, uncertain about their employment prospects and under pressure to reduce household bills, customers are reluctant to make larger than necessary investments. But paradoxically, the recession is a time when the consumer should be persuaded to consider household products which although more expensive, will allow them to make substantial savings in the long term.

Steve Dickson, commercial manager for Belling and Stoves, argues that factors outside their control will force them to do this: “All of the big six energy suppliers have introduced double-digit price rises over the past few months and there are no signs that fuel bills are going to come down anytime soon.”

So what could be done to convince consumers that investing in eco appliances is like taking an insurance for the future?

Retailers can win this argument only by using their product knowledge to demonstrate that the latest generation of domestic appliances are not only good for the planet but also for customers’ pockets. 

Eco laundry

Sensor programmes

The brains behind resource-efficient modern laundry appliances are sensor programmes. They not only optimise the use of water and energy but also are able to calculate the ideal length of the selected programme based on the load size to prevent over washing and damaging garments. The OpitSense system featured on AEG’s Neue Kollektion washing machines configures the optimum duration of washing and rinsing, the number of rinses and the amount of rinse water to be used.

Gorenje’s UseLogic technology also monitors the amount of detergent used during the rinsing process and automatically increases amount of rinse water if necessary.

These systems make considerable resource savings. Maytag’s IntelliSense technology, present on its latest freestanding model, the MWA 09149 WH, saves up to 50% on energy and water compared to conventional models. 

Detergent dosing systems

A more recent development is a detergent dosing system that saves customers money as well as protecting the environment. A Whirlpool survey found out that on average consumers overdose detergent by 45% and the savings to be made using the machines with this feature, such as Whirlpool Green Generation series, amount to approximately £249 over a seven-year period.

Siemens i-Dos washing machine has an integrated dosing system that adjusts the detergent doses and administers them in several steps. Also Miele’s Supertronic washing machine offers the detergent dispensing AutoDos system that delivers the correct amount of liquid and powder detergents for each load.

Larger is better?

The load capacities or washers and dryers are getting bigger as busy consumers wish to put more laundry in one go, hoping to save time, effort, water and energy – without compromising on the final result. 

“Our washing machines can take bigger loads – 11kg in the case of Hotpoint’s Aqualtis models – meaning less frequent washes, so less energy and water is being used,” confirms Iain Starkey, Hotpoint marketing manager.

Yet this widely held belief needs qualification. “One of the common misconceptions about eco laundry products is that that the larger the size, the more water and energy efficient the machine will be. Larger capacity machines are developed for washing big loads and are only truly energy efficient when using maximum capacities. If you do not want to always wash large quantities of clothing then it is not always energy efficient to wash smaller numbers of garments in a 9-10+kg machine,” says Richard Walker, sales and marketing director, De Dietrich Kitchen Appliances.

Cooler with perfect results

Substantial savings could be made doing the laundry at lower temperatures. Many models now feature ‘eco’ programmes which are shorter and run at lower temperatures. Yet the market has recently seen some novel solutions in this area.

“The Samsung Ecobubble washes clothes effectively in a 15°C wash, using 70% less energy than a standard 40°C cotton wash programme, helping consumers to save money in the long run. The Ecobubble technology produces soap rich bubbles that dissolve faster and penetrate deeper into fabrics; meaning that our customers will get amazing wash results, without damaging clothes or incurring any loss on cleaning performance,” explains Joseph Oram, Samsung product manger, Laundry.

Candy’s Grand’O Evo machines have the Perfect 20 programme which delivers the benefits of a 40° wash at 20°, resulting in 60% savings on electricity and 15% reduction of water consumption, in comparison with a traditional wash cycle at 40°. It utilises the Mix Power System that “mixes water and detergent into a highly concentrated solution which is sprayed through a hi-pressure nozzle directly into the drum.  The solution, thanks to a low rotation of the drum, deeply penetrates the fabrics and improves the effectiveness of cleaning,” says Steve Macdonald, marketing director, Hoover Candy.

Best timing

Another feature that greatly benefits the user, while delivering significant energy and cost savings, is a delayed start.  “Setting the machine to start and stop whenever it is convenient (giving additional energy savings through accessing less expensive tariffs) saves time and electricity,” says Dean McKelvie, Whirlpool’s produ
ct marketing manager, Freestanding.

Eco drying

Meanwhile in the drying sector, great savings are made by the application of air condensation drying. “While other washer dryers require water for drying, Siemens airCondensation technology uses air alone. This saves up to 49 litres of water compared to our standard washer dryer for each drying cycle and that’s a saving of 24,600 litres of water a year,” argues Jane Massey, brand manager at Siemens.

Similar savings are achieved on the Neff’s 7446 washer dryer, which also uses air condensation drying technology, Bosch air condenser dryers and the Beko ‘Dry and Save’ condenser tumble dryer.

Also heat pump tumble dryers, such as those from Miele and AEG Electrolux, make up to 40% energy savings, in comparison with an ordinary condenser dryer. “The heat pump technology ensures that there is better moisture extraction from the wash load in the drum at lower temperatures and in a quicker time which means it saves money and time drying your clothes. A heat pump A rated tumble costs only 19p per wash load to dry your clothes to the required level of dryness,” says Chandrasekar Kunche, product manager, Laundry, Electrolux Major Appliances

Green refrigeration

There are two compelling reasons why customers should consider replacing old refrigeration appliances – the energy saving and prolonging the life of the food they buy.

Rosalinda Buttice, Bosch brand manager suggests the approach the retailer should take: “Make consumers aware that a cooling appliance is on 24/7 and usually for 12-15 years, and advise them to buy the most efficient appliance now so they will still have an efficient product in five years time.”

Few people realise that on average they throw away 33% of their food.

“According to WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) the average household disposes of £420 of food every year, which is £8.08 every week. Around 46% of this wasted food is fresh and could be kept for longer in the correct refrigerated conditions, such as in Whirlpool’s Green Generation appliances,  which equates to £193.20 per year,” explained Dean McKelvie, product marketing manager, Freestanding, at Whirlpoool.

‘Smart’, sensor-driven, cooling systems are at the heart of modern refrigeration. For example, in Siemens’ Intelligent Cooling System, available in its coolConcept built-in range, sensors  monitor the contents of the fridge, and the electronic control automatically adjusts the cooling system to compensate when, for instance, more food is added. The system improves energy efficiency by as much as 10% and creates optimum conditions for food preservation. Hotpoint’s AirTech Evolution system and Indesit’s Air Flow system  work in a similar way.

AEG ProFresh cooling appliances are equipped with TwinTech technology that ensures that humidity is maintained in the fridge section, preventing drying of the food.

Maytag’s IntelliSense control system cools and freezes exceptionally fast, using a series of electronic sensors to monitor the temperature in fridge and freezer. 

Samsung G-Series combi fridge freezers feature a Digital Inverter Compressor and Smart Eco System to optimise its functions. Smart sensors continuously assess the temperature and humidity levels in the refrigerator and manage the compressor in order to save energy and deliver the best cooling environment. 

Cool zones

In modern appliances food preservation is managed by multi-zone cooling which can be customised to individual requirements. For example Maytag zero degree zone for meat and fish is adjustable from 4°C to 0°C.

The Siemens coolConcept built-in range has two vitaFresh cool zones, both kept at zero degrees Celsius. “The  ‘dry’  vitaFresh  zone is ideal for storing meat and fish at up to  50% humidity  and the  ‘dewpoint’ vitaFresh zone can keep fruit,  salad and vegetables at up to 90%  humidity – so food stays fresher for up to three times  longer,” explains Jane Massey. 

Power consumption of modern refrigeration is kept to a minimum also as a result of superior thermal insulation and improved door sealing, which, in fact, are responsible for 60% of energy savings.

Another type of economy, which is often taken for granted is the through-the-door water dispensing. “The filter can dispense more than 1,500 litres of crystal-clear water before it will need replacing – that’s around a year’s worth for most of us in normal use. The cost, purchased via a supermarket, equates to over £1,000, so there is a great cost saving benefit coupled with no plastic bottles,” reminds Maytag’s Caroline Guillermard.

Finally, big strides have been made to improve lighting in refrigeration appliances, with LED lights saving up to 88% of power. 

Smart advice

Although the number of green consumers who make their purchasing decisions on the basis of ethical considerations is growing, at the time of the recession the economic arguments are more appealing to the majority of the population.

To a great extent the legislation is forcing them to make eco choices. However, “once smart metering systems start to appear and become compulsory, consumers will be able to see how much energy their appliances use and how much they cost to run,” argues Gino Grossi, product manager – Refrigeration, at Samsung.

In the meantime, however, retailers should help their customers make smart choices by explaining what financial savings they can make by investing in ‘eco’ appliances.

“The tip for an eco product is to sell it on an overall cost package, ie the cost of the product + its operating cost over its lifetime,” suggests Andrew Wasdell, product manager, Cooling, Electrolux Major Appliances.

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