Green means good business

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There will always be two types of consumers. “Firstly, there are dedicated green consumers, environmentally conscious shoppers, who have proven that they will remain green during hard times – even if it means paying a little bit more. Then there is the average cash-strapped consumer for whom saving cash is king. For these individuals going green is a bonus, but saving money and lowering their household running costs will always be the deal-breaker,” explains Jonathan Casley, sales and marketing director, Glen Dimplex Home Appliances.

Yet, recent research into consumer attitudes conducted by two leading electrical brands in the UK, Whirlpool and Glen Dimplex Home Appliances Group, shows that the tide is turning in favour of the environment. Over half of British consumers (56% in the GDHA survey and 57% in the Whirlpool Europe research) would now look for an energy and water efficient appliance when updating their kitchen.

The current recession has helped the green cause. “The economic downturn combined with rising fuel bills has made consumers much more savvy when it comes to realising the benefits of choosing energy efficient products,” comments  Rita Balestrazzi, marketing manager at Baumatic UK.

The economic factors are also changing people’s domestic habits. Whirlpool Europe’s research shows that 75% of UK households have now changed the way they shop. A third of shoppers have reduced the frequency of shopping trips, buying food less often than in the past, with 29% now shopping less than once a week.  59% of UK shoppers (the highest in the European survey) say the majority of food they buy is fresh.

The survey also revealed that 81% of respondents were using their washing machine with a full load as much as possible, 75% were using low temperature programmes in the washing machine, 62% were buying more fresh food rather than buying precooked/ready-to-eat meals, 42% were using the dishwasher with full load only and 43% were using less washing detergent. So people are looking to use less resource in the home.

The market evidence

The market statistics clearly reflect these changes. “Of the 2.1m fridges and fridge freezers sold in the twelve months to October 2009, 94% were rated as A or above, and this has increased from 63% back in 2004. The A+ and A++ extensions reflect the fact that manufacturers recognise the need for the modern refrigerator to be less energy-guzzling. For appliances that have several integral functions that can boost energy usage, multi-faceted energy labels are required. Washing machines are the main example of this and the triple letter classification refers to efficiency (as measured for a fully loaded 60 degree cycle), wash performance and spin dry performance. More than three quarters of the £800m market fall into the rating of AAB or above. Dishwashers offer another triple class rated appliance with energy, cleaning and drying efficiencies. Sales of AAA rated products have seen impressive growth of over 600% since 2002, and now constitute 80% of the market,” says Seema Baines, GfK account manager for domestic appliances.

Incentives

It should be remembered, however, that in addition to the significant product development effort of manufacturers there is a great amount of legislative work done by European governments, guided by such organisations as AMDEA, which are driving these changes behind the scenes. “There are two separate but related approaches to improving the energy performance of products. Energy labelling seeks to encourage the development of more energy efficient products by providing consumers with information to enable them to make greener choices, while the EU Ecodesign Regulations progressively remove less efficient products from the market.  The theory is that this two-pronged approach will assist the EU to reach its carbon cutting targets,” explains Douglas Herbison, AMDEA’S chief executive.

“The EU energy label has been around for over 15 years now and covers washing machines, electric tumble dryers, refrigerators and freezers, dishwashers, combined washer dryers, lighting, electric ovens and air conditioners.  There are separate EU Directives for each product which have been introduced under the Energy Labelling Framework Directive that is currently being amended,” adds Mr Herbison.

Some consumers, however, need more encouragement to adopt environmentally responsible behaviour. “One of the ways other European countries have tackled this is by incentivizing consumers to buy energy efficient appliances. For example Spain, Switzerland and Italy, have already got schemes up and running.  In Spain, a rebate scheme operating since 2006 has been prolonged to 2012 and customers are offered between €85 and €185 for upgrading to energy-lean appliances. Electrolux has tried to address this by launching two websites that highlight the energy savings: www.electrolux.com/ecosavings,” explains Henrik Sundström, vice president, Sustainability Affairs, Electrolux.

Green technologies

Key to green-technology is the progression from mechanical to electronically-driven controls. “These are the ‘brains’ of energy efficient appliances and turn appliances from calculators into computers. If we all twigged just how much time, water and energy we could save by using electronically controlled appliances, we’d trade our old models in tomorrow”, explains Raj Mistry, head of marketing at Maytag.

Maytag’ s latest washing machines feature electronic, sensor controlled Sensi-Save; while the company’s new range of dishwashers uses Sensi-Clean sensor systems which measure the level of soiling in the wash load and adapt the programme time, temperature and water to ensure minimum use of resources.

Whirlpool patented its electronic sensor control system, 6th Sense technology in 1998, and it has been used in the company’s refrigeration, laundry, dishwashing and cooking. “The next generation of 6thSense technology on dishwashers and washing machines results in savings up to 30% on time, water and energy,” says Juliana Sado, brand communication marketing manager at Whirlpool.

De Dietrich was one of the first manufacturers to develop ICS (Intelligent Control System) in ovens, laundry, dishwashers and hoods. All dishwashers in the De Dietrich collection feature the ICS programme which uses sensors to assess how dirty the dishes are, and then automatically chooses the appropriate programme. 

Laundry

Customers expect from ‘green’ laundry appliances not only water and electricity savings but also greater capacity which allows them to make larger washes less frequently – therefore also saving them time.

“Whirlpool’s latest laundry focuses on washing more using less resource. The highly intelligent super large capacity, Whirlpool SCW1112WH, part of the AquaSteam range, takes an enormous 11kg load, while the recently launched AquaSteam 9769 has a 9kg capacity in a 60cm footprint,“ says Juliana Sado, brand communication marketing manager at Whirlpool.

Also Maytag’s washing machines with the capacity from 7kg to 11kg prove that size matters for the consumer but only if it goes hand in hand with water efficiency as they use as little as 35 litres per cycle.

All Electrolux washing machines are now A or A+ rated and the company was first to introduce an A rated dryer in the UK.

The freestanding DFW814 ICS washing machine from De Dietrich not only uses an Intelligent Control System assessing the requirements of each wash but goes one step further. “All the user has to do is choose between whites or coloured clothing and the dirt level using the turn and press controls. The machine does the rest by assessing the contents of the wash, including fabric
types, and will use the optimum energy and water levels for excellent results,” explains Richard Walker, De Dietrich sales and marketing director. 

Amica’s Navigator washing machines have an energy rating of A+ and eco function, which reduces time, water and energy consumption by approximately 30%, and 20 programmes including a 19 minute Supershort wash and a sensitive cycle, which washes straight from cold fill and therefore uses no energy to heat the water.

All Hotpoint washing machines now feature energy saving Eco Cycles which  include a Cottons, Synthetics and Fast Wash cycle that will help save up to 50% of the energy used, compared to an equivalent 30 degree cycle. The Eco Cycles are programmed to compensate for not heating the water intake with optimised wash settings to ensure energy saving and excellent cleaning performance. Hotpoint’s Aqualtis Auto Dose System washing machine features two integrated storage tanks for liquid detergent and fabric softener which automatically dose the right amount for every wash load, saving water.

Unique in the consumer market is the White Knight eco gas heated tumble dryer, the only gas heated tumble dryer manufactured in Europe. Using gas instead of electricity the dryer cuts the energy bills by 61% annually and lowers carbon emissions by up to 54%.

Cooling

Energy performance of cooling appliances, which operate twenty four hours a day, has become a top priority for most of the consumers. During the recession when people are particularly keen to reduce their energy bills (and to avoid food wastage) these considerations are even more important.  A host of new technological developments has facilitated considerable energy savings.

For example, Fisher & Paykel’s refrigeration features the Active Smart technology, a defrost mechanism that is activated only when needed. Moreover the company’s refrigerators have additional insulation so that less energy is consumed when the fridge is running.

Whirlpool’s 6th Sense technology in the refrigerator constantly checks the temperature variations to detect temperature change. In an upright freezer this technology automatically boosts the freezing function, making energy savings of up to 30%.

It is worth remembering that “iced-up freezer compartments consume inordinately large amounts of electricity.  A crust of ice just 5mm thick means that a cooling appliance has to expend almost twice as much energy as when it is coated with a normal layer of frost,” comments Siemens brand manager, Jane Massey.  The majority of Siemens refrigeration ranges are now A+ rated, which reduces their running costs by up to 25% compared to A rated appliances. Several of Siemens’ new refrigeration appliances are A++ rated, which is up to 30% more efficient than an A+ rated model and a staggering 45% more energy efficient than an A rated appliance.

Cooking

Induction is the most energy efficient method of cooking. However, many customers are still not aware of its benefits. Yet, De Dietrich has one of the most energy efficient induction hobs on the market which is 90% more energy efficient than gas.

GDHA has recently introduced a new collection of induction ovens and hobs which include a freestanding double oven with induction hotplate and the PBi60 mk2 and PBi60R built-in induction hobs.  They are 30% more efficient than a gas hob, and 25% more than a ceramic one. The company’s biggest recent innovation was the Eco Induction oven, a 60cm built-in oven that uses 50% less energy than a standard A rated oven. It takes induction technology into an oven cavity for the first time.

Yet, measuring and comparing energy efficiency in cooking remains a minefield. “Coming up with cooking data on ‘green’ credentials is very difficult, as there are few international standards that allow sensible comparisons to be made,” warns Mike Jarrett, Neff sales director. “With Neff’s unique CircoTherm cooking system on all the ovens in the current collection, the appliances require little or no pre-heating, which is in itself, an energy saving factor. Also CircoTherm allows you to cook at lower temperatures, while still maintaining a consistently good result.

“The real issue with cooking and energy saving is that, to a large degree, the two tend to cancel each other out.  For instance, we could adapt our ovens and grills to work using less power (and therefore be more efficient), but this would not deliver the required cooking results,” continues Mike Jarett.

Dishwashing

Perhaps the greatest unsung hero of the resource-saving crusade is the dishwasher which is now packed with a host of technological innovations.

For example, the new Maytag XXL dishwasher is the industry’s first offering four racks and 17 place settings and operating on just 9.9 litres of water for a standard programme.  Whirlpool’s AquaSteam dishwasher not only uses steam for superior cleaning performance but also features a Super silent overnight programme making it one of the quietest machines on the market at just 39dB.

The Fagor LF73DWiTU dishwasher features a special ECO sensor that will reuse up to 25% of the water for the wash dependent on its cloudiness, without losing wash quality. Its AIS (Advanced Intelligence System) will vary the water and energy specific to the load and automatically adapts to the requirements of the wash thus reducing washing time by up to 30% on any programme.

Many of the top of the range dishwashers now utilise auto sensing technology which enables dishwashers to assess how dirty the dishes are and to automatically adjust the energy, water and time to the requirements of a particular wash. It is present on the latest Baumatic BDS670SS model and Caple’s top dishwasher, the Di607/15.

A broad approach to sustainability

The largest proportion of the appliance’s environmental impact takes place during the product’s usage; however, consumers are increasingly concerned with the environmental costs of producing new appliances and recycling the old. Therefore the leading brands proudly communicate their green strategies and targets to their global consumer audience. Electrolux has announced that its Climate Strategy included cutting 15% in energy use group-wide by 2009 and an additional 15% by 2012. Meanwhile Whirlpool declared that by 2015 all the company’s appliances will be electronically controlled and capable of receiving and responding to signals requesting curtailment of the appliance’s energy consumption. 

Most recently Indesit Company has begun a UK trial of fridges fitted with grid-balancing technology which helps to maintain the balance between supply and demand across the national electricity grid.

All Fisher & Paykel products are designed to reduce energy and water consumption and the company carefully selects production material to reduce strain on the environment. Scarce materials are used sparingly, while hazardous materials such as CFCs have been eliminated.

Also Amica is very proud of its environmental credentials. Thanks to the modern technology applied and the introduction of ecology-friendly techniques in the production process, Amica’s factories have decreased water and energy use as well as limiting the amount of waste and sewage produced.

Selling green appliances

Although an increasing number of consumers are aware of the benefits of energy efficient products, “there are still many people who believe the initial price point is the most important factor to consider.  It is very important to stress the specific advantages to the consumer about the money that they will save in the long term by buying an energy efficient product,” advises Danny Lay, sales director of Caple.

Maytag’s Ray Mistry adds: “We need to explain that a ‘green’ appliance usually costs more at the outset but the energy savings can total up to savings of hundreds of pounds during the appliance’s lifespan. Older a
ppliances can use twice the energy of a new one so encourage trading in early, rather than waiting for an old one to break down. The fear of greater fuel bills is a huge purchasing driver.”

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