KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Sep 21 2010

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What does energy efficiency have to do with a kitchen remodel?

If you’re considering undergoing a kitchen or bathroom remodel, you couldn’t find a better time to start your new project. Low interest rates, slow contractors and eager designers are waiting for your call. (And, thanks to the economy, you can’t afford to move to a new home anyway…)

In planning your remodel, you’ve probably looked at these cool green countertops, these gorgeous modern backsplash tiles and even found these formaldehyde-free cabinets.

But even the most green minded of remodelers may be overlooking the most important part of building green: energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency may not be the first thing you consider when doing a kitchen or bath remodel… in fact, it may not be something considered at all. In reality, a simple remodel offers the chance to cut your monthly utility bills. Through selecting energy-efficient appliances and insulating the existing walls, a kitchen remodel could cut your overall home energy bills by 20 percent. On average, any older, standard appliance you upgrade to an Energy Star model will reduce its individual energy use by 30 percent. It’s just a matter of making the right choices.

Take, for example, the refrigerator. The refrigerator is the largest energy user in your home. By replacing a 1990 or older refrigerator with a new Energy Star model, you’ll save enough electricity to light your home for four months. More than 47 million outdated refrigerators are still in use in the U.S. If these were upgraded to Energy Star units, it would save enough energy to power 14 million homes.

The average family does nearly 400 loads of laundry a year. If you upgrade that washer and dryer built before 1999, you’ll save enough energy to pay for a year’s worth of detergent.

Energy Star-rated dishwashers use far less water and over 40 percent less energy than conventional models. Saving water also saves energy, so choose wisely. Every bit of energy saved translates into less carbon emissions produced. By lowering your energy use, you are helping combat global warming.

Here’s how to know when to upgrade that appliance, even if it still works:

Recent national standards have reduced the energy use of refrigerators to less than a third of 1973 models. Just since 2001 the energy standards have dropped by 40 percent.

Replace any refrigerator manufactured before 2001 with a new, EnergyStar rated model. Current EnergyStar refrigerators use half the energy as models made before 1993.

Washing Machine
Replace any washing machine manufactured before 1999 with a new, Energy Star-rated model. Since it saves both energy and water, replacing an inefficient washing machine provides the biggest savings over any other appliance. The Fisher & Paykel EcoSmart Washing Machine (pictured) uses only a quarter of the energy and water of a traditional washer.

Clothes Dryer
In terms of energy savings, it is not worth replacing that clothes dryer until it reaches the end of its useful life. Rather than upgrading it, just use a lower heat setting and clean the lint filter after every use. Better yet, use a clothesline instead. Not only does it save energy, but your clothes will last longer too.

Replace any dishwasher manufactured before 1994 with a new, Energy Star-rated model. Current Energy Star dishwashers use over 40 percent less energy than older, inefficient models. The Bosch Ascenta Dishwasher (pictured) automatically senses how dirty the dishes and adjusts the water level, cutting energy use by 20%.

Energy efficiency is at the core of every global warming climate solution. Even a small remodel is a chance to correct the mistakes of the past and set us on the right track for the future.

By the way, you’ll be able to experience most of these companies in person at the upcoming West Coast Green Conference in San Francisco on September 30-October 1st.


Eric Corey Freed is an architect and author of four books, including “Green$ense for the Home”.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 at 6:00 AM and is filed under Green. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.