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Toaster ovens do much more than toast

If you ever need to cook dinner in a hurry, or maybe you are only feeding one or two people, a toaster oven may provide you with added convenience to bake, broil, toast and roast smaller portions in a flash.  This small appliance is capable of much more than cooking frozen food for college students to eat during late night study breaks.  In the Washington Post article "The little oven that could" Joe Yonan describes several gourmet toaster oven recipes inspired by well respected chefs.  He notes that over 40% of households own a toaster oven, according to NPD Group, so read through the article and realize the full potential of your tiny oven!  Your taste buds will thank you for it!

AHAM Supports Annual LifeSmarts Championship

The 2009 National LifeSmarts Championship was held in St Louis, MO, where a team of high school students from Wisconsin took home the grand prize.  AHAM was proud to sponsor a portion of the grand prize for the second year in a row, which included scholarships, savings bonds and gift cards for the winners. 

LifeSmarts is a national competition for high school students hosted by the National Consumers League.  According to the NCL, LifeSmarts "competitively tests high school students’ knowledge of consumer awareness, with subjects including personal finance, health and safety, consumer rights and responsibility, technology, and the environment."  

Watch the short video below to see how LifeSmarts has helped more than 20,000 teens across the country.

The Need for Balanced Federal Energy Legislation

Congress is spending significant time this year on energy efficiency legislation, with a keen focus on appliance efficiency.  Both houses of Congress have committees developing new provisions relating to the development of appliance efficiency standards while the Department of Energy is struggling to comply with a federal court ordered schedule to complete work on several appliance standards.  This is while the agency is also attempting to adhere to additional new requirements on appliance efficiency included in laws enacted in 2005 and 2007.  AHAM is involved in influencing the outcome of the 2009 energy legislation to ensure an adequately funded federal program that blends national efficiency requirements, and education and incentive programs that encourage manufacturers and consumers to seek even higher efficiency products.

While AHAM is encouraged that the new legislation embraces the potentially game changing application of smart grid technology to home appliances, we are nonetheless concerned that portions of the legislation will do more harm than good to a well thought out national appliance efficiency program.  

Let me point out the areas we strongly support and the provisions we question.  Smart grid is a great place to begin.  As refrigerators undergo a fourth generation appliance efficiency standard at DOE, the law of diminishing returns begins to apply.  Today’s average refrigerators consume the same amount of energy over a year as a 60 watt light bulb.  The costs and benefits of tightening energy efficiency further are much more challenging.  But the energy bill encourages DOE and manufacturers to produce smart grid appliances that have the capability of communicating with a utility to defer certain energy consuming functions such as refrigerator defrost or heated tumbling in a clothes dryer from peak to non-peak energy generation times of day.  Nationwide, deployment of such products can materially assist in avoiding additional peak power plant usage and even serve as a backup for use of renewable energy generation.  We encourage national energy policy and utility rate policies to encourage development and use of smart grid technologies.

But at the same time, we have expressed our concern with portions of the House Energy and Commerce energy bill which could undermine the national appliance efficiency system.  For example, the bill increases by 60% the number of factors DOE must analyze when setting appliance standards.  Additionally, DOE will be required to take on redundant data requirements from product manufacturers which will only pile more onto their already heavy work pace and add burdens to product manufacturers.  We also believe the bill weakens the preeminence of national standards over conflicting state requirements.  Our view is that we give DOE the funds it needs to do its job and encourage a strong and innovative national system.  DOE’s basic test when setting appliance efficiency standards, which balance environmental benefits, consumer costs and manufacturer impact, should be protected and enhanced where possible.  But we must preserve the balance of these three main tests, akin to a three legged stool, so that the consumer can step up to a more efficient appliance.

Will Climate Change Reach Pennsylvania Avenue?

It is safe to say that the momentum is not behind the enactment of a broad climate change bill this year.  However, the more important question is whether it will happen next year.

For those who are still unsure whether the climate change bill will be completed this year, let me provide a few reasons it is unlikely:

  • Chair of the Senate Committee with jurisdiction (Environment & Public Works) hasn’t released legislation yet.
  • Midwest Democratic Senators have said they don’t see a bill moving this year.
  • Congressman Van Hollen (D-Md.) has suggested a vote might not take place this year.  This is significant because Van Hollen is head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and is responsible for electing more Democrats to the House and ensuring vulnerable Democratic members get re-elected.  This tells me that there is a worry that a climate change bill may not be selling well in swing districts.
  • Chairman Waxman is still struggling to find a majority of votes in his committee to pass a bill.

Using a crystal ball to look at the political landscape in 2010 – which is President Obama’s first mid-term election year—I see that politicians will be more risk averse the closer it gets to an election, and this one is just 6 months away.  Also, will politicians feel that the climate change “issue?? is better to have at their side during the 2010 campaign rather than trying to campaign on the success of a compromised climate change bill, which no one may be excited about?  And what will the state of our economy be and will it provide fodder for the opponents of climate change legislation who characterize it as an energy tax?

I see no improved political landscape for the enactment of climate change legislation next year.  With that said, for the home appliance industry, a separate agreement on HFC’s could splinter off and move on its own, which would provide some measure of success for the proponents of climate change legislation. But, there are many unknowns, politically, as we approach the mid-term elections.

Charlie Cook, a weekly columnist on national politics, recently wrote: “So we wait to see if President Obama will be a liability for Democrats, as presidents going into midterm elections often are, or if the momentum that Democrats built in 2006 and 2008 carries through.  We wait to see if Republicans either effectively regroup from their massive losses and mount a strong counterattack or if they are positioned to take advantage of political misfortunes and win simply because they are not Democrats.??

The legislative and political atmosphere can change quickly and we, as an industry, need to be prepared for anything that could enter the fray of climate change politics.  Remember, if climate change doesn’t get enacted into law in 2010, 2011 is a non-election year, but 2012 is right around the corner, and that, believe it or not folks, is another presidential election year.

New Data Shows Home Appliance Energy Savings

AHAM has released the 2008 Energy Efficiency and Consumption Trends data for home appliances.  This data, based on 2008 shipments of major appliances, shows the continuing pattern of decreased energy consumption.

Manufacturers continue to make improvements every year that reduce the amount of energy used to operate home appliances.  The average refrigerator made in 2008 consumed 3% less energy than those made in the previous year.  In fact, the average refrigerator sold today uses less energy than a 60 watt light bulb that is left on 24 hours a day.

In a time where people are making an effort to make their homes more efficient, appliance manufacturers are also committed to making the most efficient products.  Replacing older, less efficient appliances with newer models can lead to major savings on your next energy bill. 

Click here to purchase the new 2008 Trends in Energy Efficiency Data.