Induction Stove Tops
An induction cooktop heats 30% more efficiently than a gas range and about 12% more efficiently than an ordinary electric range. Induction cooktops also heat more quickly than regular electric ranges and significantly faster than gas ranges. Induction cooktops heat the molecules in the pan rather than heating the cooktop itself. When you are done cooking, the cooktop usually is warm, but not hot, so it is safe to touch and easy to clean. Gas stoves create indoor air pollution that often exceeds EPA limits for indoor air quality, making it best to avoid installing them in very airtight homes.
Microwave ovens are significantly more energy efficient and faster than electric or gas ovens. Microwaves should be sized so they can be used for most cooking. Recipes and techniques for cooking a wide variety of foods in a microwave oven are readily available online.
High RPM Washer with Cold Water
A front-loading high RPM clothes washer with a 1400 RPM spin cycle and a fan fresh (fluff) option will take almost all of the moisture out of wet clothes without heat, minimizing the use of a dryer or time needed to line-dry laundry. All washers have energy-saving cycles that use only cold water. Since hot water heating uses more energy, it makes sense to recommend cold water washing to zero energy home buyers.
Standard electric or gas dryers use a considerable amount of energy and must be exhausted to the outside, creating the equivalent of a large (though intermittent) air leak in an otherwise super-tight building shell. Air drying clothes saves a lot of energy. Outdoor clothes lines and indoor drying racks are cost effective. In dry climates, indoor drying can bring welcome moisture to household air. In moister climates, outdoor clothes lines are a better option.
Heat Pump Dryers
If an automatic clothes dryer is needed, consider a heat pump condensing dryer. Using the same technology as refrigerators, space heating heat pumps, and water heating heat pumps, these dryers get more heat from each unit of electricity than a typical electric dryer, typically saving 50 to 60% on energy costs. Heat pump clothes dryers have been used in Europe for many years but are new to the U.S. market. The models currently available are more costly than standard dryers, but may pay for themselves within about 5 years. In the future, as costs come down, they will be the electric dryer of choice.
In selecting a dishwasher, look for those with an Energy Factor of 0.85 or greater. For example, the Bosch dishwasher is a highly energy efficient, water-saving dishwasher with an energy factor of about 1, however it’s price tag may make it less cost effective than other, somewhat less efficient, Energy Star dishwashers.
The biggest energy users in today’s energy efficient homes are big screen TVs, gaming consoles, computers, and other electronics. Most electronics are energy hogs and almost all electronics have large “phantom loads” due to energy being used even when they are turned off – wasting energy 24/7. Encourage buyers to consider purchasing the most energy efficient electronics available, install manual on-off switches, and use power strips for electronics in order to reduce these phantom loads. Install electric outlets in rooms where electronics are likely to be used so they can be turned completely off with a wall switch. Special switches are available for turning off plug loads for entertainment centers without prolonging the start-up time.
When building a smaller house as part of your zero energy strategy, consider selecting smaller appliances as well. When the building itself costs hundreds of dollars per square foot, shaving a few square feet from the total can save thousands of dollars in construction costs. Similarly, a 20-cubic-foot refrigerator uses less energy, square footage, and purchasing power than a 28-cubic-foot model. Consider downsizing the dishwasher from the standard 24-inch model to an 18-inch or a drawer-type dishwasher. Of course, appliance size will need to reflect the needs of the household.
The way occupants use appliances and select and use electronics has a big impact on overall household energy use. For a zero energy home that has met the energy modeling requirements to be successful in real life application, builders must provide homeowners with the technologies and education necessary for their success. Please see our Zero Energy Living Guidelines (link) to share with your homebuyers. The Zero Energy Project strives to be a complete resource for homebuyers, builders, designers, real estate professionals, and advocates for the zero energy home market.