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Stop throwing away food

Organic waste


We’ve already looked at how you can dispose of food scraps without sending them to a landfill. But what about the food that goes bad, or those leftovers you simply didn’t get around to eating? Putting them through your food waste disposer might be an option, but wouldn’t you rather they hadn’t gone bad in the first place?

While we aren’t advocating that you eat spoiled food, there are steps you can take to consume more of the food you purchase and cut down on wasted food in your household. A lot of it comes down to planning and preparation:

  • Watch the calendar: Are you heading out of town soon for vacation or business? Scale down your shopping as your departure date gets closer so you aren’t buying food that you won’t have time to eat, or that will go bad while you’re out of town.
  • Have a backup plan: Power outages can happen in any season, and they’re unpredictable. Know in advance what you’ll do to preserve your food if the power goes out. It might mean asking friends or family to store your food until the power comes back on. If you’re expecting bad weather, placing bags of ice in your refrigerator or freezer can help keep things cool if the power is only out for a short time. If it’s winter and temperatures are cool enough, consider storing your perishables outdoors or in an unheated garage where the temperature is at or near freezing.
  • Can’t find a backup? Donate the food to a local food pantry or shelter. You may need to arrange this in advance, as not every organization will accept every kind of donation. Know where you’ll take the food as part of your emergency plan.
  • Take the temperature: Keep the doors to your refrigerator and freezer closed if you lose power or your refrigerator stops working. Keeping a thermometer inside your fridge can let you know if the temperature inside is staying at or below the recommended 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Call a service provider immediately if the temperature is running high. Follow AHAM’s advice on keeping the bill under control if you need to call for repairs.

Appliance manufacturers know that keeping track of expiration dates can be tricky. A new generation of refrigerators uses cameras and touch screens to help you attach expiration dates to products and see what’s inside the fridge without opening the door. Some can help you keep a shopping list or even order groceries for you.

Food waste disposers cut trash in neighborhoods and landfills

Are you going to eat that? We hope so. If not, you could be throwing away more than a few extra bites. A 2015 survey by the American Chemistry Council put the cost of wasted food at $640 per year, per household.

Regardless of whether the food is scraps, leftovers, uneaten portions or spoiled food, it all becomes food waste once it’s thrown away, and it’s a big problem. Food waste is the biggest single contributor to municipal landfills. According to the EPA, food waste made up 21 percent, or 35 million tons, of discarded municipal solid waste in the U.S. in 2013.

The environmental fallout from food waste can be severe. When food waste breaks down it releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. Food waste also attracts pests and rodents when it’s left out in garbage cans or bags. And walking within a few yard feet of a trash bag or can containing food waste on a hot summer day isn’t a pleasant experience.

But when they’re put through a food waste disposer, those leftover scraps can provide environmental benefits in the form of reduced household waste and fewer rodents and insects. Perhaps most importantly, it can make sure you send less food waste to the landfill. Here’s how: Food that is put through a food waste disposer ends up at a wastewater treatment plant, not a landfill. But it isn’t discarded. Instead, it’s used as food for the microscopic organisms that are used to treat wastewater. If this happened in a landfill, the methane those organisms produce would be released into the atmosphere. Many wastewater plants use the methane they capture to help power the treatment facility. Leftover scraps can be turned into fertilizer or soil conditioner.

Several cities around the U.S. have reaped the benefits of food waste disposers that were installed on a widespread scale in some of their neighborhoods. In Philadelphia, residents of the Point Breeze and West Oak Lane neighborhoods reported a significant drop in trash volume—an average of 1.4 pounds of trash per household, per week—after AHAM member InSinkErator installed 175 disposers into homes in those areas. Households in Tacoma, Wash. InSinkErator also installed food waste disposers in neighborhoods in neighborhoods in Tacoma, Wash., Milwaukee and Boston. Participating households reported the following average weekly reductions in waste after food waste disposers were installed:

Tacoma: 1.9 pounds

Milwaukee: 3.3 pounds

Boston: 4.1 pounds

In Philadelphia, residents also reported fewer problems with pests and rodents after the food waste disposers were installed, and said they were putting out one fewer trash bag per week.

How to keep appliance repair costs under control

Woman Looking At The Repairman Repairing Dishwasher
Appliances play a major role in your life, and it can be stressful when they break down. But when they do, you want a quick, inexpensive repair. That may not always be possible, depending on the nature of the issue and service required to address it. But how you initially respond can reduce the chance that you’ll be surprised by a hefty repair bill.

First, it helps to understand how your bill is calculated. Time spent on the repair is not the only factor. There are a number of costs that go into hiring a repair technician, including:

  • Tools and testing equipment
  • Parts
  • Vehicle maintenance, gas and insurance
  • Training
  • Clerical staff

Some of the bill you’ll receive following a repair visit has already been determined before the technician arrives at your home. That might include a trip charge or diagnostic charge, which many technicians charge to travel to your home to investigate the issue. Once the technician arrives, many companies bill for time in 15-minute intervals.

Before you call, check to see if the issue you’re having with your appliance can be resolved without a technician’s visit. Make sure you check power sources, plugs and fuses before making a service appointment.

If you still need help, check to see if your appliance is still under warranty. If it is, some or all of the costs of repair may be covered, depending on the nature of the problem. However, you’ll need to choose an authorized service technician—a service branch owned by the manufacturer or an independent business recognized by the manufacturer to do in-warranty service on the product. Working with a repair technician who is not authorized could cost you in the form of a voided warranty and a much larger bill for parts and service.

It’s a good idea to select an authorized service technician even if your appliance is no longer under warranty. They are most likely to be familiar with your appliance and will likely have access to the tools and parts necessary to make the repair.

How to find a technician: Check the appliance’s use and care manual or call the manufacturer’s customer service line for a list of authorized technicians. Many manufacturers also include lists of authorized service technicians on their websites.

When you call, have the following information ready:

  • Any receipts from previous repairs. These can serve as proof of excessive service or related problems and may help in obtaining manufacturer assistance should problems occur after the warranty expires.
  • Appliance model number
  • Appliance serial number
  • Purchase date

After the visit: Keep your receipt and stick to the technician’s instructions on any preventive measures to reduce the chance that the problem will happen again.

Cooking in your dishwasher: A bad idea

Pretty, young woman in her modern and well equiped kitchen putting cups into the dishwasher - an appliance that helps her keep the home tidy

A number of cooking and lifestyle blogs have reported on the novelty of using a dishwasher to cook food. Recipes might include salmon, eggs, chicken and other foods. It’s a unique concept that most people probably haven’t considered. It’s also a bad idea, and appliance manufacturers don’t recommend it.

Many of the articles tout the alleged energy savings, ease of cleanup and unique cooking approach as reasons to try dishwasher cooking. But there has been little said about the risks, and there are many, including:

Harmful bacteria: Would you like a side of E. coli or salmonella bacteria with your dishwasher-cooked meal? Probably not. But that’s what you might end up with. Many factors, including water supply, determine how hot it gets in a dishwasher during a cycle. That means it may not reach the 140-degree minimum cooking temperature the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends to kill potentially harmful microorganisms. You could end up giving harmful bacteria an environment they can thrive in, as they tend to multiply at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Contamination: Regardless of how food is sealed, even a tiny opening will allow spray from the dishwasher and possibly detergent to reach the food. Like dishes, food can move during a cycle, and that movement may cause punctures or tears in water-tight wrapping.

Fire: Food could become dislodged during the wash cycle and end up on the dishwasher’s heating element, potentially causing a fire.

It’s a waste of energy: While dishwashers have reduced their water use more than 41 percent since 2005, they still require about five gallons of water per cycle to effectively clean dishes.

Appliances are designed to perform specific tasks quickly and efficiently. So, take the advice of the people who make the dishwashers, and leave the cooking to ranges and ovens.

How to avoid returning home appliances

blog, purchasing, replacing

Are you going to take advantage of Memorial Day or Father’s Day sales on appliances?  While everyone loves a great deal, it’s important to make sure you’re buying the right appliances for you, your home and your loved ones. Fortunately, a little bit of research can save you another trip to the store to return the product.

AHAM partnered with Bellomy Research to study the leading reasons portable appliances—including small kitchen, personal care, garment care, air treatment and floor care appliances—are returned. Here are a few of those, plus some advice that can save you the hassle of a return and help you choose the appliances that work best for you.

Is it the right appliance for the job? Aside from mechanical, electrical or functional defects, unmet expectations about performance are by far the top reason portable and floor care appliances are returned. AHAM’s advice: Ask the retailer for an in-store product demonstration before you buy, including trying it out for yourself. Consider the set-up process. Many consumers who made returns say an easier set-up process would have made them less likely to return the product.

Is the appliance a good fit? Size matters, and many appliances are brought back because they’re too small. AHAM’s advice: Ask a sales representative if you may remove the appliance from the package before you buy it to make sure it’s the right size for you and your home.

Does it match? Choosing the right size, color and model is a big deal. Second thoughts about those, or later finding a preferred model, are both common reasons for returns. AHAM’s advice: Spend time researching what you want to buy, and get a sense of the different sizes, colors, styles and models available.

Research is key to finding the appliances you want and need the first time around. About 18 percent of customers who had made returns said more research on their part would have cut down on the chances of them making a return. Appliance manufacturers have a number of resources available, including their websites and online instruction manuals, to customers who want to learn more about their products.

Contact the appliance manufacturer even if you’ve already bought the appliance and are thinking about bringing it back. Only 40 percent of consumers surveyed said they had spoken with the product’s manufacturer before returning an item. The manufacturer may be able to help you address the issue, eliminating the need for a return.

How do manufacturers measure your oven’s baking ability? It’s a piece of cake.

 

Homemade cake "Red Velvet" decorated with cream.

Your oven’s baking ability has already been tested long before it makes it to your kitchen. Appliance manufacturers put ranges and ovens through a rigorous series of tests to make sure they’re capable of churning out a steady stream of treats for you and your family.

AHAM’s ER-1 standard for household electric ranges offers a specific recipe that manufacturers use to test their baking/browning performance.
• 1 cup (185 g) hydrogenated vegetable oil shortening
• 2 teaspoons (10 cc) vanilla extract
• 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
• 4 eggs (192 g) (Note: Mix 4 eggs, but use only 192 g)
• 1 ½ cups (352 cc) whole milk
• 4 ½ cups (425 g) sifted soft wheat cake flour
• 4 ½ teaspoons (16 g) double-acting baking powder
• 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt

After providing a detailed mixing process, AHAM’s standard instructs testers to place four, 22 gauge aluminum 8 inch (200 mm) round cake pans, 7 5/8 inches (190 mm) in diameter (bottom) by 1 1/2 inches (40 mm) deep, each containing 0.8 lb. (363 g) of cake batter, in an oven which has been pre‐heated to 375 degrees. The cake pans’ surfaces should not be discolored to affect performance.

After 25 to 30 minutes of baking and 10 minutes of standing, and cooling to room temperature on a cake rack, the cake is judged not on the taste, but on the consistency of color across on the top and bottom of the cake.

A consistent and effective baking performance has a major impact on how your foods taste and look. Uniform heat distribution, which is measured as part of the standard, plays a critical role in your baking success.

While AHAM’s recipe may not result in the fanciest, or tastiest cake, it provides product testers with consistency in the testing process. And consistency, as any baker knows, can make or break a recipe.

AHAM Verifide, Energy Star, Energy Guide: What they mean

AHAM Verifide®. Energy Star. Energy Guide. What do those appliance labels mean?

They aren’t just labels. If you take a closer look, you’ll get valuable information on how much energy the appliance uses, and how much you might be saving.

AHAM Verifide: This signifies that the appliance meets certain attributes of the AHAM Verifide program, including volume, energy, and for some products, performance. All products that carry the AHAM Verifide mark have been randomly selected and independently tested against rigorous federal energy test procedures. You’ll find the mark on clothes washers and dryers, dehumidifiers, dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers, room air conditioners and room air cleaners. AHAM Verifide is a voluntary program, meaning appliance manufacturers decide whether or not to participate.

Energy Star: You’ll find the blue ENERGY STAR label on certain major appliances like clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers, dehumidifiers, refrigerators, freezers and refrigerator-freezers, as well as lighting, residential heating and cooling systems. The label, launched by the Department of Energy in 1992, means that the products have been independently tested in labs to ensure they meet certain energy-efficiency criteria. AHAM has been approved by the Department of Energy as a verification body for ENERGY STAR products. This means AHAM can administer testing to ensure that products seeking the ENERGY STAR designation meet the program’s criteria. Like AHAM Verifide, participation in ENERGY STAR is voluntary for manufacturers.

Energy Guide: The yellow Energy Guide label provides a snapshot of how much energy the appliance uses. You’ll get an estimated yearly operating cost compared to other models and an estimate of how many kilowatts the appliance uses each year. The manufacturer, model number and capacity are listed. Energy Guide labels may also contain the ENERGY STAR label if the product meets those criteria. The Federal Trade Commission requires Energy Guide labels to be put on clothes washers, refrigerators, freezers, water heaters, dishwashers, room air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, heat pumps and pool heaters. Manufacturers are required to test their products using Department of Energy procedures and report the results to the FTC.

Buying energy efficient products is just one step you can take to reduce your energy costs. Need more ideas? Take a look at AHAM’s energy saving tips.

Appliance buying tips for Mother’s Day

Little cute girl with her mother eating orange while cooking. Kitchen interior. Concept for young kitchen hands

Mother’s Day is the biggest day of the year for portable appliance sales, and with good reason. Millions of people are looking to show their mothers how much they love and appreciate them with a gift that will give your mom a few minutes of escape, provide some comfort and relaxation, or even take over a chore entirely. Appliances can provide all of those. Here are a few tips from AHAM to help you make this year’s Mother’s Day gift a memorable one:

Get Mom what she wants: Mother’s Day is all about mom! Does your mom have her eye on a particular appliance? Surprises are nice, but ask enough questions to make sure you’re buying the color, style and model she wants. Odds are she’ll appreciate that more than a surprise. A recipient not liking or wanting a gift is one of the top reasons appliances are returned.

Get the right fit: Appliances should blend in to your home. The appliance’s color, style and size should fit in with your current home layout and décor. Do you have plans to remodel soon? Decide whether the appliance you’re buying fits in with your plans.

Put some time back on her hands: Does your mother hate to vacuum? Go high-tech with a robotic vacuum. Let her get a few more minutes of sleep with a smart coffee maker. Take a look at manufacturers’ emerging lines of connected appliances to see what aspects of the household chores you can automate.

Ask for a demonstration:  Will your gift meet mom’s expectations? One way to find out is to ask for an in-store demonstration. This is common, and many dealers will have a model on-hand for the occasion.

Do your homework: Learn about the appliance before you buy it. Take the time to read through the manufacturer’s website and take a look at the instruction manuals of the models you’re considering to learn what features and functions they offer. Compare online reviews of the products.

Remember, it’s about creating memories, not chores. The right appliance can help your family build memories on Mother’s Day and for years to come.