Less waste in washing: Eco-friendly water heaters, washers are hot

The modern basement, garage or laundry room is home to many innovations in the world of energy efficiency and environmental friendliness. Two notable additions are energy-efficient laundry options, as well as the emergence of an energy saving water-heating market.

One key to an energy-efficient home is the use of efficient appliances. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program labels those appliances that meet certain energy efficiency standards, providing consumers with an easy way to identify products that use less energy.

“Just like in the case of rising gas prices, people are looking for ways to reduce their energy bill,” said Sears spokesman Larry Costello.

According to Costello, as energy prices rise, the appeal of energy-efficient appliances resonates more with consumers, and Sears is among those retailers poised to capitalize on that demand. “We are the leading retailer of Energy Star appliances. We continue to work with our manufacturers to develop and build on that idea of energy efficiency,” he said.

Among those products, Costello mentioned the Ken-more Elite HE5T front loaded washer, which uses 71 percent less water without any loss in performance, he said.

Research from the NPD Group shows top-load washing machines have 63.3 percent of the market, but front-load machines are gaining, up 4.5 percentage points to 36.7 percent in 2007 compared to 2006. As personal laundry trends move more and more toward sustainability through energy and water conservation, retailers can expect to see more front-load machines as well as the removal of the central agitator in top loaded models.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, heating water accounts for approximately 15 percent of a home’s energy use. High efficiency water heaters can save the average home anywhere from 10 percent to 90 percent on its water heating expenses. The cost savings depends upon the type of high efficiency water heater, as well as the home’s climate and overall hot water usage.

Lowe’s carries Whirlpool brand energy-efficient tank water heaters as well as Bosch brand tankless heaters and has held free demonstrations of tankless water heaters, sponsored by Bosch, at several stores in Texas and California.

According to Karen Cobb, a spokeswoman for Lowe’s, most people purchase water heaters based on replacement. She added that Lowe’s sees the largest sales of energy-efficient water heaters on the West Coast.

“We are seeing more interest in energy-efficient water heaters. With the emphasis on certifying some of the gas tank style heaters as Energy Star in 2008, the interest is likely to grow,” said Cobb.

According to an Energy Star 2006 appliance market report, water heating is the only major residential energy end-use that Energy Star does not rate. The report points to the initial high cost of the units, consumer skepticism over reliability and the lack of trained installers and maintainers for the new technology as the current market barriers to the technology.

As green trends continue, so will developments toward a more sustainable garage, laundry room and basement. While the issue of heat loss continues to plague the rooms like the garage and basement, the major energy drawbacks will always be determined by the items contained within them.