Trying to decide whether it's worth using energy-efficient appliances at your community? Consider this: If every household in the United States used a Whirlpool-brand Duet or Ensemble washing machine, the country would save approximately 1.4 trillion gallons of water per year, according to Whirlpool Corp. It's hard to say no to that. The environmental impact is huge—and so are the potential water bill savings.
More developers today are opting to include energy-efficient appliances both for long-term savings and simply because it's the right thing to do. And much of the interest is coming from residents. “Part of the reason builders are promoting this trend is because there is a high level of consumer awareness,” says Butch Gaudette, director of trade relations at Whirlpool Corp. “Consumers are being barraged with green energy savings messages, and builders recognize that.”
It's not too difficult to find these green products—just look for the Energy Star label. Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Health, gives a seal of approval to products that use 10 percent to 50 percent less energy and water than standard models. Rated household appliances include refrigerators and freezers, washing machines (not dryers), and dishwashers.
Each year, manufacturers take green appliances to the next level with fresh and innovative features. At this year's International Builders Show, Bosch debuted the EcoOption “green” button for its Nexxt collection of laundry washers. With the push of a button, users can choose to reduce water and energy consumption by as much as an additional 20 percent. This summer, the company plans to launch a line of dishwashers with the same feature.
Green products do tend to have a higher upfront cost than their non-efficient counterparts, but the cost is recouped due to the lower cost of operations, says Danyel Tiefenbacher, a brand manager for Bosch, whose entire appliance product line is Energy Star rated. The manufacturer recently launched a new online Green Resource Center (www.boschappliances.com) featuring an energy savings calculator that computes the annual energy costs and savings for individual Bosch appliances.
In addition to cost savings, Energy Star-rated appliances can earn properties points toward LEED certification and even help secure project funding. The tax credit allocation committee for the State of California provides points for the 9 percent tax credit application and a boost in the amount of credit you can get for a 4 percent tax credit application, says James Coles, a senior project manager for the Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit Resources for Community Development, which uses energy-efficient appliances at all of its communities.