If you're shopping for new appliances, you might hear the argument that energy-efficient models don't perform as well as their power-hungry counterparts. Or that you'll have to spend more for maximum efficiency. A report out today from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project refutes both claims, and it does so with a deep analysis of real data, including more than 20 years' worth of findings from Consumer Reports' test labs.
Lightfair in Philadelphia this week bills itself as the world's largest commercial and architectural lighting trade show. But for the Consumer Reports staffers who test and report on energy-saving lightbulbs, Lightfair is our geeky go-to for the latest in lighting. As competition for the growing LED market heats up, manufacturers are promising lightbulbs that do more and cost less. Here are five developments from the show that turned us on.
Here's a small thing you can do today to help save the earth—change a lightbulb. If every household in the nation replaced just one lightbulb with a bulb that meets Energy Star standards, enough energy would be saved to light 3 million homes for a year, saving about $600 million in annual energy costs and and preventing 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. CFLs use 75 percent less energy than an incandescent lightbulb and LEDs use even less than that. And as Consumer Reports found in its tests of energy-efficient lightbulbs, there are lots of cost-saving choices for every fixture in your house.
April 22 marks the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day, when millions of Americans turn green or at the very least think about the environment. At Consumer Reports, green--in the form of fuel economy, energy efficiency, recycling, and many other areas--is part of what we do every day. Below you'll find some Earth Day information for appliances and electronics equipment.
Q: We've tried using compact fluorescent lightbulbs in our remote-controlled ceiling fans. The bulbs blink and burn out within minutes. Is there a special type of bulb needed?—Helen Dula Puyallup, WA
An LED that replaces 100-watt incandescent lightbulbs is the first of that type to earn Energy Star status. Philips announced that its 22-watt LED is the first 100-watt replacement to meet Energy Star's tough requirements of reducing energy consumption by 75 percent and lasting at least six times longer than an incandescent. (The Philips has a claimed life of 25 times longer.) Consumer Reports hasn't tested this particular LED but it has tested scores of energy-saving lightbulbs to replace 100-watt, 75-watt, 60-watt and 40-watt incandescents, which are being phased out.
When Cree and Philips recently introduced LEDs at Home Depot that cost $13 to $15, half the price of earlier light emitting diode bulbs, one of Consumer Reports' secret shoppers raced to buy them so our lighting experts could begin to test their performance. The LEDs are replacements for 60-watt incandescent bulbs yet use a fraction of the energy. Here's what we found in our initial tests.
Homebuyers have become more practical since the housing market crisis—they don't want cavernous entryways but they do want plenty of storage space. They want to be close to their jobs and integrated into their communities. And they want to keep their energy costs low. In today's market, a McMansion in the exburbs may be a tough sell. Price is still primary, but if you're thinking of buying or selling a home, you should learn how buyers' preferences have changed since the last time you were in the market. Here are the five features today's homebuyers want most.
Compact refrigerators are designed to use space efficiently—they fit in a home office, master bedroom, bar or dorm room. But they aren't as efficient at using energy. In our latest refrigerator tests, some mini refrigerators used as much energy as a full-sized refrigerator, and one used more energy than several of the largest refrigerators we've tested. Stricter federal energy standards, slated to go into effect in September 2014, should help. But if you don't want to wait that long, our tests found some more efficient models as well as ways to keep energy costs of current models down.
After receiving 68 reports of LEDs overheating, including some that produced fire or smoke, the Lighting Science Group has recalled 554,000 lightbulbs sold under the brand names Definity, EcoSmart, Sylvania, and Westinghouse. Included in the incidents were eight that resulted in damage to light sockets, fixtures, rugs, carpet, floors, circuits or lamps. The Lighting Science Group is offering new bulbs to buyers.
The price of energy-saving LEDs continues to drop and Philips says it will introduce a $10 LED lightbulb by the end of the year that replaces a 60-watt incandescent, the most commonly used bulb. Until then, Philips has just brought out a $15 LED at Home Depot. That's good news for consumers and a signal to Philips' competition.
As a result of the last-minute enactment of the Taxpayer Relief Act earlier this year, six common energy-efficient upgrades you may have made to your home in 2012 or plan to make this year are eligible for a federal tax credit. Replacement windows and doors, new roofs and upgrades to heating and ventilation systems all qualify for a credit of up to $500. The improvements must be made to your existing home and principal residence, new homes do not qualify. Here are the details, according to Energy Star.
Many of the goals outlined by President Obama last night in his State of the Union speech will take time, and the cooperation of Congress, to meet. But work on his challenge to Americans to save energy at home can begin right away by taking such simple steps as plugging a leak, changing a lightbulb, setting your thermostat to match your schedule and washing only full loads of laundry and dishes.
Energy efficiency awareness in the U.S. goes back at least to President Jimmy Carter in a cardigan sweater warning Americans of a global energy crisis back in 1977. In the decades since, much progress has been made, which could give the impression that we're reaching the ends of our efficiency gains. But a report released this week finds that there are still significant savings to be had—many of which can be deployed on an individual level to lower household energy bills.
As acronyms go, OLED, or organic light-emitting diode, may not roll off the tongue but it is all the talk at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The Consumer Reports tech experts at CES say this technology is radically changing TVs. OLEDs will someday alter lighting too, but until then LEDs are the latest in lightbulbs, with a three-way LED from Switch Lighting also making news at CES.
Our testers put 100s of products through their paces at our National Testing and Research Center. Learn more about how we test for: