Making domestic appliances more energy and water efficient is a top priority for electrical manufacturers. Yet these efforts are not fully understood and embraced by consumers. How can the green message be made more effective? asks Anna Ryland.
Since energy labels were introduced in the UK in the early 1990s to help consumer identify energy efficiency of appliances, manufacturers responded with a number of product innovations. They included: high efficiency motors, greater insulation of cooling and cooking appliances, more water efficient wash cycles and introduction of heat pumps to tumble dryers that greatly improved their energy efficiency.
However, the recently published pilot study, undertaken by the University of Surrey and commissioned by Amdea to investigate the link between consumer attitudes and behaviour and the energy efficiency of appliances, showed that perceived cost was the major factor driving customers’ environmental behaviour. While they are keen to switch off lights and phone chargers to avoid standby costs, the majority still have limited understanding of energy labels and the savings that new, resource efficient appliances can offer them.
“According to the recent Powering the Nation survey, 79% of the UK population has expressed an interest in helping to reduce energy consumption, with the main motivational factor appearing to be anxiety over rising energy costs rather than significant concern about the environmental consequences of CO2 emissions,” comments Rita Balestrazzi marketing manager at Baumatic.
The good news, however, is that these attitudes are changing. “Today’s children learn from a very young age, both at school and at home about recycling, litter and preserving the world’s valuable resources. Much marketing and advertising provokes a pro-ecological response and with a greater education via a whole range of mediums, we are all much more aware of the risks of global climate change and its effects than ever before. More households are now on water metres and the majority of us have routinely adapted basic energy and water saving methods in the home,” says Simon Freear, country manager for Amica UK.
The recession has also influenced our social conscience. “We are now seeing a shift to ‘quality of life’. It’s not about keeping up with our friends and neighbours anymore; our attitudes are starting to change, and we are adopting resource-efficient appliances to save our planet,” argues Juliana Sado, Maytag’s brand marketing manager.
The industry is doing its best to help the consumer save money while protecting the environment. “Following the introduction of new EU energy labeling and laws, manufacturers have flooded the marketplace with new energy saving products. So much so that almost 80% of all models released in 2012 were classed A+ or above. These models are sold with the message that lower energy usage is not only beneficial for the environment, but also the consumers’ monthly bills,” explains Richard Allen, GfK account executive. “Along with the rise of the big capacity sector, energy efficiency is fast becoming a key driver of growth. Sales of A+, A++ or A+++ products have more than doubled compared to January-September 2011 and now account for half the market value.”
The main advances in laundry technology are focused on making the products more energy and water efficient. They also offer the consumer a host of benefits, including substantial financial savings.
An increasing number of laundry products – and not only premium models – feature intelligent sensors which can save the users up to 50% of energy, water and time. For example Maytag’s IntelliSense technology senses each load and adapts the amount of energy, water and time needed, reducing resource consumption.
The washing machines of all three BSH brands are equipped in the VarioPerfect technology that gives the users the choice of wash speeds at the highest energy efficiency level. Bosch and Neff washers also have the Activewater management system where the right amount of water is used irrespective of load.
Gorenje’s UseLogic technology not only automatically adjusts the level of water for each type of load, but also during the rinsing process, the sensors monitor the amount of detergent used and automatically include additional rinsing if appropriate.
In fact, 90% of consumers do not use the right amount of detergent when doing their laundry. Overdosing produces excessive foam that results in additional rinsing cycles and a disproportionate increase in water consumption. This problem is eliminated by the Siemens i-Dos dosing system that uses sensors that automatically register both the amount of laundry and the different types of fabric. Also Miele Supertronic washing machine has the AutoDos system which delivers the correct amount of liquid and power detergent to each load.
Another innovative feature that can help consumers save energy are energy monitors, such as the Eco Feedback, present on Miele washers, that calculates the duration, energy and water consumption of the wash.
“The Eco Monitor, featured on selected Whirlpool machines, is a digital display that indicates the predicted energy consumption of the programme selected. This gives the consumer the opportunity to control their energy usage of each load and therefore keep utility bills in-check,” explains Dalia Haddad, Whirlpool’s product marketing manager, freestanding.
New laundry technologies focused on enhancing the cleaning power of the appliances allow to lower the temperature of the wash without compromising on the final result.
The key benefit of Samsung’s ecobubble machine is the fact that it uses 70% less energy on a standard 40% cotton wash programme – without any loss of cleaning performance, as soap bubbles generated by the machine penetrate deeper and dissolve faster into fabric, meaning that less heat and movement is required to dissolve the detergent.
The new, A+ rated, Indesit Advance and Start washing machines feature a ‘20º Zone’ with three programmes that have the cleaning power of a 40º wash but at a much lower temperature. “It works by enhancing the drum agitation at the start of the cycle which improves the efficiency of low temperature detergents. At 20º, the fibres in your clothes are much more relaxed so stains are easier to remove,” explains Libby Morley, Indesit advertising and communications manager.
Gorenje laundry appliances also feature a selection of programmes created to deliver ecological benefits. The ECO 30ºC wash option provides excellent washing results at a lower temperature; saving energy and money while the 17 Minute Quick Wash option, that also offers these benefits, is intended for less soiled laundry.
Many models now have a delayed start function, especially useful at night, when cheaper energy tariffs may be available.
The AutoOff feature on the Electrolux EWF1408WDL also ensures that the washi
ng machine will consume zero energy when the cycle is finished, just as if it was switched off.
Larger laundry appliances with eco efficiencies also save time. “Washing machines and tumble dryers with larger capacities allow the consumer to wash/dry more, less often, using fewer resources. This also helps to free up more valuable spare time for the consumer,” reminds Maytag’s Juliana Sado.
“Between 2000 and 2011, household electricity bills increased by an average of 85% and electricity prices by 81%”
“Pound for pound, it makes economic sense to purchase a larger capacity machine as consumers can wash more, but less often thus making savings in terms of water, energy and even detergent. Larger freestanding machines, such as the Fagor 9kg FWM91400 model, feature Duvet programmes, and options for cleaning curtains, thus saving money that would have been spent in dry cleaning costs. For families with young children, this type of machine makes ultimate sense, as more can be washed in less time, thus saving time; another precious commodity,” adds by Richard Walker, sales and marketing director, De Dietrich Kitchen Appliances (De Dietrich and Fagor).
“Our latest washing machines can also take bigger loads – 11kg in the case of Hotpoint’s Aqualtis models – meaning less frequent washes so less energy and water is being used,” comments Ian Starkey, Hotpoint marketing manager. The 11kg, A+++ rated Aqualtis also delivers High Definition cleaning with longer lasting colours due to its insulated Hydro Thermal Tech tub that maintains a constant temperature.
Meanwhile in the tumble dryer category the use of heat pump technology has reduced energy consumption of traditionally inefficient dryers between 40% and 50%. For example, Whirlpool’s new AZA 9790 6th Sense Green Generation tumble dryer achieves a A-40% energy rating due to its heat pump technology. “Furthermore, Whirlpool’s 6th Sense technology automatically senses the level of moisture in each load and adapts the drying parameters accordingly, controlling the process from start to finish,” explains Whirlpool’s Dalia Haddad.
The Hotpoint Aqualtis 9kg condenser dryer incorporates an energy efficient ‘Set and Forget’ drying system that uses sensors inside the drum to monitor moisture and temperature levels. The machine stops when clothes reach one of five desired drying levels.
“Refrigeration appliances run 24/7 so their energy efficiency is a hugely important factor in the purchasing process. Frost free appliances – often preferred for reasons of convenience – use a little more energy than static models as consumers will see on the energy labels. However, it is important for retailers to mention to purchasers that static models need regular manual defrosting; without it, their energy consumption increases over a period of time amounting to a rise in their running cost,” reminds Amica’s Simon Freear.
Market statistic suggest that energy efficient refrigeration appliances are becoming very popular, with sales of A+ and A++ rated models growing by 43% and 189% respectively (GfK: for 2011). However it should be remembered that the push comes mainly from the supply side. “From July 2012, manufacturers have only been allowed to produce ‘A+’ energy rated refrigerators. This, coupled with the new energy labelling system, makes it easier for the consumer to see the annual energy efficiency of the appliance and facilitate comparisons of annual usage between brands,” says Juliana Sado, Maytag’s brand marketing manager.
There is also another economic argument for buying a modern, and energy efficient appliance. “Latest WRAP statistics show that the average consumer throws away 33% of the food they buy. This is a huge amount – both in terms of wasted cost and resources in the food production,” reminds Andrew Wasdell, product manager, cooling, at Electrolux.
Intelligent cooling systems use sensors to monitor and maintain a constant temperature throughout the fridge that keep food fresh for longer while lowering energy consumption a the same time.
Samsung’s G-Series of refrigeration feature “a digital inverter compressor and smart sensors to continuously assess the temperature and humidity levels in the refrigerator and manage the compressor in order to save energy and deliver the best cooling environment. There is also a ‘Holiday Mode’ function to help keep the refrigerator running efficiently when the customer is away from home for long periods of time,” says Russell Owens, head of sales, Samsung Digital Appliances.
The new colour range of Electrolux fridge freezers have “dual cooling circuits called TwinTech which keeps humidity at 65-90%, compared to 25-40% for single-circuit frost-free fridge-freezers. Salad stays fresh for a week with almost no loss of moisture. Vitamin levels in fresh fruits and vegetables show no drop after 10 days,” explains Electrolux’s Andrew Wasdell.
The refrigeration areas with versatile temperature and humidity zones that are independently controlled to provide the very best in food preservation are becoming more common.
Premium appliances are also equipped with LED lighting. LED lights consume less energy, last longer, give out less heat and produce a brighter light than standard bulbs.
Yet, eco appliances are not only those which are resource efficient during their usage. Green consumers increasingly call the industry to look at the entire life cycle of an product – at what went into its production, transport and disposal, and everything else that will happen in the future as a result of its existence. Therefore truly green companies have spare parts for their products for several years after they left the production line. In case of the BSH group it is 20 years.
“Baumatic also has its own Spares Department through which replacement parts are offered and sold. The collection of parts includes old as well as new pieces, ensuring that even those who have a discontinued model may still be able to repair their products,” says Rita Balestrazzi.
Selling the eco message
“People are definitely interested in energy efficient appliances but do not want to pay a premium for the privilege of owning them,” argues Mike Jarrett, sales director of Neff.
However, the market for green appliances is growing fast as more models have become available at reasonable prices. “Consumers have more access to information which details the benefits of such appliances,” points out Les Wicks, head of product & buying for Beko. “The home appliance industry has always been excellent at delivering innovation, however, not so good at maximising its promotion. We need to become better at selling these ideas to consumers.”
Also retailers should explain to their customers the financial savings that can be made by trading up to new technology with various efficiencies and best energy ratings.
A number of manufacturers, such as Lec, publ
ish annual energy savings in monetary terms, comparing new, energy efficient models to that of old appliances. “The manufacturing improvements can mean that a new A+ Lec product can deliver significant savings when compared to a similar six-year-old appliance – up to £34 a year on an under counter fridge and up to £48 on a combi product,” says David Garden, commercial manager for Lec.