Sunday, August 24, 2008

Just Chillin'

As I completed my energy usage analysis for my post about my new washer and dryer, I realized another big factor in our reduced electricity usage has been our snazzy new refrigerator. Also, my in-laws are in the market for a new fridge, so here's a review of possibly my most favorite new appliance: my Amana ABB1921DEW.

When we were negotiating the terms of our purchase of our current abode, we tried to buy the refrigerator off the sellers. They declined. This was a good thing. Why? Because it gave me the opportunity to purchase a new efficient refrigerator.

We considered CR's GreenerChoices' suggestions about buying a greener refrigerator.

Type makes a difference. Consumer Reports has found that on average, top- and bottom-freezer models cost less and have generally been more reliable than side-by-sides. They also tend to be slightly more energy-efficient, saving $5 to $20 per year in electricity usage. You’re likely to save even more with a smaller model.

Think twice about add-ons. Icemakers and dispensers increase energy usage by up to 20 percent. Plus, they can raise the sticker price by $75 to $250, and Consumer Reports surveys show that they increase the likelihood that your refrigerator will need repair.
So we went with a small bottom-freezer without an icemaker or dispenser.

The little Energy Guide yellow label says that its Estimated Yearly Operating Cost is $51. Well, that's based on a probably accurate estimated yearly electricity use of 476 kWh and an incredible $0.1065 per kWh, which was allegedly the national average electricity cost in 2007. This has me convinced that utility companies are paying people to use electricity in other parts of the country because here in California, we pay, bottom line $0.18 per kWh. But the point is the cost range of similar models is $47 to $61 per year, which translates to an estimated yearly electrical use between 441.3 and 572.8 kWh per year, so this baby, at 476 kWh per year, is near the bottom.

Moreover, Consumer Reports included the Amana ABB1921DE as a Quick Pick. CR rated it Excellent for Temperature Performance and Very Good for Noise, Energy Efficiency, and Ease of Use. It's overall score was a 77, just two points (and $1400) below the top scorer. Of the 30-inch wide refrigerators scored, it had the second largest Total Usable Capacity at 13.4 cu. ft. It's dimensions are 30 inches wide, 69 inches high, and 31 inches deep.

We love the top fridge. We've had side-by-sides and we've had top-freezers. Side-by-sides leave you with narrow shelves that don't fit, say, large pizza boxes or turkey platters. Here you can see the top shelf contains both the mixing bowl (full of New York Times chocolate chip cookie dough, Dough 3) from my KitchenAid Standing Mixer, but also our tupperware full of homemade dog food (another post for another day), along with a ton of other stuff. And by the time we left Indiana I had just about had it with crawling around on my hands and knees to get into the veggie drawers at the bottom of the top-freezer fridge. The two produce drawers in our new fridge are easily accessible and you can set one to the correct humidity for leafy greens and one to the correct humidity for fruit and veg with skin. And it's not just the top fridge-ness of it that we love.

The adjustable shelves on the door are AWESOME. They can really hold gallon containers of milk without groaning. And the butter unit has the neatest little flip top. All of the adjustable shelves are quite easy to adjust. Anyone have any suggestions for how to rearrange the door shelves or the other interior shelves to maximize efficiency and ease of use?

We love the bottom freezer. Initially I was charmed by the idea of a drawer freezer, but the swing-open freezer door makes more sense, and there's a pull out drawer inside. There's also a really wide and pretty tall fixed shelf, for when, say, you want to freeze individual slices of cake on a cookie sheet, or whatever other large precarious thing that needs to be frozen. And the pull out drawer is a wire basket, so you can see what's on the bottom without having to dig.

The freezer door also has a fairly substantial shelf that is just perfect for our frozen dog treats (more on that in another post) and ice packs for when I break my toe (be thankful I have not posted "broken toe pictures of the day" to catalog the ever expanding technicolor nightmare bruise that is my pinky toe).

One interesting thing I found in the Refrigerator User Instructions was under Refrigerator Care. Specifically, to clean your refrigerator the manual admonishes the cleaner NOT to use window sprays, bleaches, or paper towels. A spritz of Windex on a square of Bounty had been my refrigerator cleaning tool of choice. And to really impress landlords on inspection day, I have been known to deploy Clorox and a scouring pad - also a no no. The manual offered a clean sponge or a soft cloth as an alternative to the paper towel. But no Windex? What is a girl to do?

I called the Amana customer service line and asked just that. An EXTREMELY nice customer service representative also expanded the list of prohibited cleaners to anything containing ammonia. But she did offer a solution.

Amana's Cleaning Solution
  • 1 qt. water
  • a dash of dish soap
  • 4 Tbsp baking soda
You can use this on every surface except the door gaskets (which can be cleaned with soapy water without the baking soda). Then rinse with plain water and dry immediately to prevent spots on the glass shelves. How good for the environment is that?

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Rebecca said...

I'm very jealous of all your super cool appliances. I can't justify getting a new fridge yet because ours is ok, but the compressor is loud and sometimes makes a high pitched whining noise. I will be excited when it dies and we have an excuse to get a new one. Also, I despite all my cooking, I can't get used to the electric stove. It's so unresponsive! I'm really surprised I haven't seriously burned something because you can't turn the heat down when you want too.

Sarah said...

Don't be jealous. You wouldn't be jealous of the concomitant credit card debt.

I hear if you stab the compressor all the coolant will leak out and that will kill your refrigerator so you can buy a new one. Neil Stephenson wrote that in Zodiac, so it must be true. Of course I don't imagine that's a very environmentally friendly way to go about it, but still.

I took a class at Bloomington Cooking School with Chef Matt O'Neill, and someone asked him what to do if they have an electric stove. I believe his initial response was, "Replace it with a gas stove." But then his more serious response what that all you can do is turn the heat up to as high as your pots can stand it (our stove in Bloomington actually got so hot that the chrome on the burner shield peeled off - that's too hot) and then move the pot off the heat when it gets too hot for whatever you're doing. I have since taken to turning on another heating element to a lower temperature and letting that heat up with nothing on it, then shifting what I'm cooking onto that burner and shutting off the hotter burner.

But these are all just make-dos until y'all save up the cash for your gas Jenn-Air, no?