Posted in Consumer Protection, Consumer Reports, Consumer Research, Cook Tops and Ranges, Noteworthy Links, Preventing Kitchen Fires, Safety Features, Ventilation

#1 Cause of Fire in the Home

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Posted in Consumer Reports, DoE LG Report, Energy Star, Manufacturer Recalls, Noteworthy Links

Take a Trip to KitchAnn Style

Today I just posted an article on manufacturer responsibility and buyer awareness with respect to selecting environmentally responsible products. Speaking of manufacturer responsibility, Ann Porter, of KitchAnn Style, has posted a commentary, LG Caught Under reporting Energy Consumption. The article reveals in September LG’s French Door fridges were tested and showed an energy usage 100% higher than the energy use promised on the fridge’s DOE Yellow Card.

The “DOE believes that the actions LG plans to take will benefit consumers and help ensure that the Nation’s energy conservation goals are met,” Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy John Mizroch said. “It is critical that we work together with our industry partners to maintain the integrity of the ENERGY STAR® brand to make sure that consumers are able to make the most efficient purchasing decision – we appreciate LG’s cooperation in settling this issue.”

Without government regulation and independent verification, it is impossible to compare products and make informed decisions. LG voluntarily suspended these products from the ENERGY STAR® program. DOE’s ENERGY STAR® criteria for refrigerator-freezers require all qualified refrigerator-freezers to use at least 20 percent less energy than the Federal government energy consumption standard.

The related links to DOE’s official report, consumer hotline and links to LG’s website are all there at KitchAnnStyle. Very well done posting. Thank you Ann Porter.

Posted in Consumer Reports, DoE LG Report, Energy Star, Manufacturer Recalls, Noteworthy Links

Take a Trip to KitchAnn Style

Today I just posted an article on manufacturer responsibility and buyer awareness with respect to selecting environmentally responsible products. Speaking of manufacturer responsibility, Ann Porter, of KitchAnn Style, has posted a commentary, LG Caught Under reporting Energy Consumption. The article reveals in September LG’s French Door fridges were tested and showed an energy usage 100% higher than the energy use promised on the fridge’s DOE Yellow Card.

The “DOE believes that the actions LG plans to take will benefit consumers and help ensure that the Nation’s energy conservation goals are met,” Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy John Mizroch said. “It is critical that we work together with our industry partners to maintain the integrity of the ENERGY STAR® brand to make sure that consumers are able to make the most efficient purchasing decision – we appreciate LG’s cooperation in settling this issue.”

Without government regulation and independent verification, it is impossible to compare products and make informed decisions. LG voluntarily suspended these products from the ENERGY STAR® program. DOE’s ENERGY STAR® criteria for refrigerator-freezers require all qualified refrigerator-freezers to use at least 20 percent less energy than the Federal government energy consumption standard.

The related links to DOE’s official report, consumer hotline and links to LG’s website are all there at KitchAnnStyle. Very well done posting. Thank you Ann Porter.

Posted in Consumer Reports, Dishwashers, Green Design

A Message from Consumer’s Reports

Consumer Reports, always looking out for consumers, has just published 5 valuable tips consumers can implement to go “green” without breaking the bank. In this time of uncertainty, buyers must be judicious in knowing what is truly an eco-friendly product.

We are seeing first hand what deregulation has done to our financial institutions and Consumer Reports reminds us in their newest publication, Shop Smart; “There are no federal regulations for items marketed as eco-friendly so some green products might not be as green as you think”.

The experts at ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, spent months sizing up fridges, running dishwashers, burning light bulbs, and punishing faucets to find the best green kitchen products.

  1. Get a water-saver faucet

· Why: A gleaming new faucet is an easy upgrade, but kitchen models can be water wasters compared with some bathroom faucets. Low-flow bathroom faucets with the Environmental Protection Agency’s new WaterSense label are about 30 percent more efficient.

· Easy Green Fix: Until the EPA comes up with criteria for low-flow kitchen faucets (they’re in the works), for $3 to $11 you can make most new or existing taps more efficient simply by attaching an aerator.

· One Possible Draw Back: With lower flow, it might take a bit longer to fill that pasta pot.

· What to Buy: Two Kohler models that aced ShopSmart’s most recent tests and can be ordered with custom-fit aerators for about $10 are the Vinnata K-690-BX , $550, and the Forte K-10433-VS, $250. Another green choice is a hands-free faucet, like the Danze Parma D421058, $480.

· Tip: When you find a faucet style you like, make sure it has a lifetime warranty that covers stains and water-wasting leaks.

  1. Switch to watt-stingy lighting

· Why: Modern kitchens can use up to 2,000 watts for lighting because standard incandescent, halogen, and xenon lights are energy hogs. All that excess heat from lights might prod you to turn down the A/C to cool things off.

· Easy Green Fix: Switch to cool-burning compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) in overhead fixtures, and also consider adding some LED or fluorescent undercabinet task lighting. This easy fix costs about $200 for five fluorescent fixtures.

· One Possible Draw Back: Some—but not all—CFLs and LEDs cast a bluish or other funky-color light. Before you buy, ask if you can return the fixture if you don’t like the way the light looks with your décor.

· What to Buy: Strips are the most common type of task lighting, round “puck” lights are best for casting pools of light onto a counter and linear lights are best if you need more versatile fixtures. Both round “puck” lights and linear lights are available with LEDs.

· Tip: If your cabinets don’t have a built-in valence to hide task lighting, either add one or choose a fixture with a sleek housing that’s not as noticeable.

  1. Put in a ceiling fan

· Why: Kitchens get hot, and if you use an air conditioner to cool things off, it will gobble up a lot of energy and money.

· Easy Green Fix: A ceiling fan in the kitchen will use only a fraction of the electricity that an A/C would.

· What to Buy: ShopSmart tested models from Hampton Bay, Harbor Breeze, and Hunter, and most performed pretty well in air-movement tests. So rather than shop for a particular brand, go for a style you like and remember that lighting affects energy use.

· Tip: You might be able to find CFLs designed for ceiling fans that can replace the original bulbs and save energy.

  1. Renovate with recycled stuff

· Why: A new countertop or cabinet style can change the whole look of your kitchen, but manufacturing them keeps power plants polluting the air and some green goods aren’t as green as they might seem.

· Easy Green Fix: Before you buy new, see if you can find secondhand products.

· What to Buy: Salvage shops are stocked with new or gently used stone countertops, hardwood flooring, decorative lumber, and kitchen cabinets, so they’re a great place to look for bargains. Habitat for Humanity sells used and surplus building materials at outlets called ReStores.

· Tip: If you must have new, look for greener cabinets and other products made from sustainable lumber and materials.

  1. Trade in the biggest energy hogs

· Why: The appliances in your kitchen that take the most energy to operate are refrigerators and dishwashers. The older these appliances are, the less energy efficient they are and the more costly they are to run.

· Easy Green Fix: It usually doesn’t pay to replace working appliances with new ones. But when you do update, look for models that use less energy and are quieter. Though energy efficient models can cost more, you’ll recoup the money as your utility bills shrink.

· What to Buy: ShopSmart found that the Amana AFD 2535DE [W], $1,550, saved up to $72 a year in annual operating costs compared to a 15-year-old fridge and the Bosch SHE33MO [2]UC, $540, saved up to $51 a year compared to a 7-year-old dishwasher.

· Tip: You don’t have to ditch the clunkers all at once. Start with the least efficient ones. It pays to replace them when repairs would cost more than half the price of a new appliance.

###

A side note on Tip # 2, “one possible drawback to lighting”.
My favorite lighting tip is changing recessed can lights to LED. Times are changing, and here is an example where regulation works in our favor. It used to be there was no standard way to judge a good LED from a bad one. Recently, in an effort to standardized the lighting industry, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed test methods that manufacturers should use to standardize color specifications of LED lamps and LED light fixtures. With this new standard manufacturers will use, consumers will be able to compare total light output, energy consumption, chromaticity and color quality.
For more information on lighting on Lighting standards start with the article form Light Search.com: http://www.lightsearch.com/lightnow/2008/0708/0708_nist.htm

Posted in Consumer Protection, Consumer Reports, Dishwashers, Green Design

A Message from Consumer’s Reports

Consumer Reports, always looking out for consumers, has just published 5 valuable tips consumers can implement to go “green” without breaking the bank. In this time of uncertainty, buyers must be judicious in knowing what is truly an eco-friendly product.

We are seeing first hand what deregulation has done to our financial institutions and Consumer Reports reminds us in their newest publication, Shop Smart; “There are no federal regulations for items marketed as eco-friendly so some green products might not be as green as you think”.

The experts at ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, spent months sizing up fridges, running dishwashers, burning light bulbs, and punishing faucets to find the best green kitchen products.

  1. Get a water-saver faucet

· Why: A gleaming new faucet is an easy upgrade, but kitchen models can be water wasters compared with some bathroom faucets. Low-flow bathroom faucets with the Environmental Protection Agency’s new WaterSense label are about 30 percent more efficient.

· Easy Green Fix: Until the EPA comes up with criteria for low-flow kitchen faucets (they’re in the works), for $3 to $11 you can make most new or existing taps more efficient simply by attaching an aerator.

· One Possible Draw Back: With lower flow, it might take a bit longer to fill that pasta pot.

· What to Buy: Two Kohler models that aced ShopSmart’s most recent tests and can be ordered with custom-fit aerators for about $10 are the Vinnata K-690-BX , $550, and the Forte K-10433-VS, $250. Another green choice is a hands-free faucet, like the Danze Parma D421058, $480.

· Tip: When you find a faucet style you like, make sure it has a lifetime warranty that covers stains and water-wasting leaks.

  1. Switch to watt-stingy lighting

· Why: Modern kitchens can use up to 2,000 watts for lighting because standard incandescent, halogen, and xenon lights are energy hogs. All that excess heat from lights might prod you to turn down the A/C to cool things off.

· Easy Green Fix: Switch to cool-burning compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) in overhead fixtures, and also consider adding some LED or fluorescent undercabinet task lighting. This easy fix costs about $200 for five fluorescent fixtures.

· One Possible Draw Back: Some—but not all—CFLs and LEDs cast a bluish or other funky-color light. Before you buy, ask if you can return the fixture if you don’t like the way the light looks with your décor.

· What to Buy: Strips are the most common type of task lighting, round “puck” lights are best for casting pools of light onto a counter and linear lights are best if you need more versatile fixtures. Both round “puck” lights and linear lights are available with LEDs.

· Tip: If your cabinets don’t have a built-in valence to hide task lighting, either add one or choose a fixture with a sleek housing that’s not as noticeable.

  1. Put in a ceiling fan

· Why: Kitchens get hot, and if you use an air conditioner to cool things off, it will gobble up a lot of energy and money.

· Easy Green Fix: A ceiling fan in the kitchen will use only a fraction of the electricity that an A/C would.

· What to Buy: ShopSmart tested models from Hampton Bay, Harbor Breeze, and Hunter, and most performed pretty well in air-movement tests. So rather than shop for a particular brand, go for a style you like and remember that lighting affects energy use.

· Tip: You might be able to find CFLs designed for ceiling fans that can replace the original bulbs and save energy.

  1. Renovate with recycled stuff

· Why: A new countertop or cabinet style can change the whole look of your kitchen, but manufacturing them keeps power plants polluting the air and some green goods aren’t as green as they might seem.

· Easy Green Fix: Before you buy new, see if you can find secondhand products.

· What to Buy: Salvage shops are stocked with new or gently used stone countertops, hardwood flooring, decorative lumber, and kitchen cabinets, so they’re a great place to look for bargains. Habitat for Humanity sells used and surplus building materials at outlets called ReStores.

· Tip: If you must have new, look for greener cabinets and other products made from sustainable lumber and materials.

  1. Trade in the biggest energy hogs

· Why: The appliances in your kitchen that take the most energy to operate are refrigerators and dishwashers. The older these appliances are, the less energy efficient they are and the more costly they are to run.

· Easy Green Fix: It usually doesn’t pay to replace working appliances with new ones. But when you do update, look for models that use less energy and are quieter. Though energy efficient models can cost more, you’ll recoup the money as your utility bills shrink.

· What to Buy: ShopSmart found that the Amana AFD 2535DE [W], $1,550, saved up to $72 a year in annual operating costs compared to a 15-year-old fridge and the Bosch SHE33MO [2]UC, $540, saved up to $51 a year compared to a 7-year-old dishwasher.

· Tip: You don’t have to ditch the clunkers all at once. Start with the least efficient ones. It pays to replace them when repairs would cost more than half the price of a new appliance.

###

A side note on Tip # 2, “one possible drawback to lighting”.
My favorite lighting tip is changing recessed can lights to LED. Times are changing, and here is an example where regulation works in our favor. It used to be there was no standard way to judge a good LED from a bad one. Recently, in an effort to standardized the lighting industry, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed test methods that manufacturers should use to standardize color specifications of LED lamps and LED light fixtures. With this new standard manufacturers will use, consumers will be able to compare total light output, energy consumption, chromaticity and color quality.
For more information on lighting on Lighting standards start with the article form Light Search.com: http://www.lightsearch.com/lightnow/2008/0708/0708_nist.htm

Posted in Consumer Reports, Manufacturer Recalls, Noteworthy Links

General Electric Recalls Microwave Combo Ovens Due to Fire Hazard


GE is aware of 35 incidents of minor property damage and one incident in which a fire damaged adjacent kitchen cabinets. No injuries have been reported.

The hazard: the door switch in the microwave oven can overheat and ignite plastic components in the control area, posing a fire hazard to consumers. The lower thermal oven does not pose a hazard.

Sold at: Department and appliance stores from January 2000 to December 2003 for between $1,500 and $2,000.

Manufactured in: United States

Remedy: Consumers should stop using the microwave oven immediately. Consumers should contact GE regarding their GE/GE Profile micro-oven combo or Sears for their Kenmore unit. GE is offering a free repair or rebate on a new product, a $300 rebate toward the purchase of a new GE brand unit, or a $600 rebate toward the purchase of a new GE Profile brand unit. Sears is offering a free repair or $300 rebate toward the purchase of a new Kenmore brand unit. Consumers can continue using the lower thermal oven.

Consumer Contact: For additional information on GE /Profile units, contact General Electric toll-free at (888)-240-2745 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET Saturday, or visit GE’s Web site at www.geappliances.com. For additional information on Kenmore units, contact Sears toll-free at (888) 679-0282 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET Monday through Saturday, or visit Sears’ Web site at www.sears.com

Please follow the link to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for more information to see if your model appliance is one of the 92,000 units recalled.

Post Note:
Despite the recall on the microwave, Consumer Reports says reports that brands such as GE, Whirlpool, Kenmore and are “safe bets” for major appliances. Between 2002 and 2006 they tended to have relatively low repair rates across the board.

Posted in Consumer Reports, Counter tops, Planning, Return on Investment

Budgeting

Remodeling? You can hear the sighs and the next question is, “how much is this going to cost me?” Set aside some time to work up a budget and then plan to edit, and edit again.
If you know what you like but have no idea how much it will cost, there are tools out there to help you determine your budget. Sticker shock is not uncommon. It is so easy to have champagne tastes and beer budgets.
Its’ time to determine your project budget. Here is an opportunity to shop from your arm chair. Before we get started, get your tape measure, get your room dimensions and lets get going.
Here are some tools to help you.
Consumer Reports has a handy little interactive calculator tool called the Quick Cost Kitchen Remodeling Estimator.
Remember, this is not an exact method, but a pitch to get you in the ballpark for standard replacement kitchens. Your plan for a remodel may have additional structural and mechanical requirements that will increase the budget. This type of expansion may be reflected in the “luxury” column.

So I tried Consumer Reports Quick Cost Calculator for my self. I plugged in my room size, it asked for the shape of my room, and my zip code, and it spits out quick figures in the Basic, Standard, Custom and Luxury columns.
It is more detailed if you proceed to tabs 2 thru 4. So I tried that too. This is where it gets fun. Arm chair shopping for everything without leaving your home!
Step 2 takes you shopping. It asks for construction details I want to use in my project. Cabinets, Soffits, Counter tops, Sink, Disposer, Flooring, etc.

Step 3 takes you through your kitchen appliance selection.
Step 4 Provides a complete breakdown by category.
Based on my selections with mid range cabinetry, mid range appliances, premium sink selection, quartz counter tops and splashes and updating plumbing and electrical, my average budget comes to $ 48,976. I can redo the numbers if I want to change my selections from basic to premium. This is an incredibly handy tool for saving time without running around to appliance, cabinets, and tile stores. Of course that time will come next, but now you have basic information that will be a jumping off point for evaluating bids you will start to acquire from contractors, appliance stores, flooring, etc.

Another Quick Cost Calculator is from Omega Cabinetry. The tool is much more basic but handy still for getting a ballpark estimate based a percentage of your homes worth.

Omega’s calculator has you pick a percentage of your home’s value. For this example, I picked 10% of my home’s value. (The inflated value of homes in Southern California will skew my budget so I picked a lower percentage). The problem I see is that the appliance budget of $4,790 is too low for what I want to purchase. Now I know, I can choose to increase my project budget to perhaps 15% or reselect my appliances and design features. Ironically, the Consumer Reports detailed calculator came in at $48,796. About $896 variance between the two calculators.

How realistic are some of these line item figures from an actual estimate? Here in California, I see a trend with many homeowners selecting higher end appliances, much more than 10% of a client’s budget is spent on appliances. As far as sticking to budgets, I don’t think any one ever does. Will you stay with a $1,800 refrigerator or will you upgrade to the $4,500 model. You may fall in love with the $20 per piece deco tile instead of a $8.00 deco tile.

Now, the hard part is sticking to a budget. Plan on spending 15% or 20% more than what you planned. Check out these Quick Cost Calculators for yourself. I would be interested in hearing how it compares with your actual remodel costs.

On the flip side, you may have won the budget battle and plan on doing most of the installation yourself. My best advise, is to consult a professional Kitchen Designer before you embark. Check the NKBA Website for Kitchen Designers in your town. There are Kitchen Designers who work independently, without being tied to selling you any product. Kitchen Designers who work in showrooms will rebate the design fee into the cabinetry you purchase from their showroom. Consultation fees vary based on the level of service you require. It may be simply to evaluate your plans. Or you may want a full set of plans prepared for contractors to bid from.

And finally, the more concise you are in your specifications for your project the more precise your estimates will be from the contractors who will be putting in a bid for your project.
Happy remodeling!