Buying Appliances for a LEED-Certified Home

http://www.motherearthliving.com/Wiser-Living/buying-appliances-for-a-leed-certified-home.aspx

The only kitchen appliance we brought from our old home is the microwave oven. We’d hoped to find someone in a department store who was knowledgeable and motivated to put together an energy-efficient appliance package with a price tag we liked. We found that while some salespeople knew where to look for the yellow Energy Guide tags that list the kilowatt hours used by an appliance in a year, most wanted to focus on which was the least expensive or the “most popular” version of something, such as refrigerators with French doors. 

We found helpful information on the Internet about the Energy Star rating program the EPA implemented in 1992. The Energy Star program encourages manufacturers to voluntarily create appliances with reduced water and energy use, and now consumers like us can compare appliances on these factors. In addition to energy efficiency, we had to consider the way our architect designed our kitchen, our budget and what was available in local stores. My husband also checked out consumer ratings of appliances, which, combined with Energy Star ratings, helped us generate a list of our top choices.

wiring LEED-home for appliances
My new kitchen is coming together. We're getting the wiring together and making progress. Photo Courtesy Rebecca Selove.

Through our builders we met Matt at the local Cenwood Appliance store. He was savvy about energy efficiency and taught us more about cooktops than I knew existed. I’ve never lived where a cooktop was separate from the oven. I learned about fixed and telescopic downdrafts and induction cook tops (not worth their cost to us). I also learned that energy efficiency in a cooktop is due in part to a good match in size of the burner and size of the bottom of the pan it heats. I came home and measured the bottoms of my favorite pans and learned that the largest are 9 inches in diameter. This meant we didn’t want a cook top with a 12-inch burner. 

We left our first meeting with Matt feeling pretty good about our decisions, but with a question still on the table about the oven. I had used a convection oven in a cohousing comunity where we used to live, and appreciated its ability to help me get dinner ready on time even when I started late. The Energy Star convection oven cost about $200 more than a standard oven, and from the American Council on Energy Efficiency, a nonprofit organization that provides education and advocacy related to energy efficiency, I learned that the convection oven is generally 20 percent more efficient than the conventional oven. We settled on a GE Profile 30-inch downdraft electric cook top and a GE 30-inch single oven with convection.

I'm looking forward to cooking in the completed kitchen.