Energy Star appliances may be bright choice Department of Energy, EPA want consumers to fight air pollution


December 07, 1997|By Karol V. Menzie & Randy Johnson

WHEN YOU CHOOSE the cycle and switch on the washing machine, you're probably not thinking much about air pollution.

But the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy think you should. In fact, every time you turn on anything in your house that uses electricity or gas to operate, they want you to think about air pollution, and how you can reduce it.

And in return, they want to reduce your yearly energy bill by a third.

The two federal agencies have teamed up on a program called Energy Star, designed to get consumers to buy energy-efficient appliances, lighting, and heating and air-conditioning equipment.

Manufacturers who voluntarily develop appliances that meet Energy Star requirements will get marketing help from the two agencies. They've already begun a public-service television and print campaign that shows Energy Star appliances in gorgeous outdoor settings.

It's a major effort by the government to make consumers aware of the technology -- as opposed to the self-discipline -- that can help save energy.

"Remember the '70s, freezing in the dark? This isn't like that," said Department of Energy representative Kathleen Hogan. "This is something consumers can do that doesn't involve sacrificing something. You can rely on technology instead."

The government is not advocating trashing all your old appliances and buying new ones, Hogan said. "But as things need to be replaced, you replace them with more energy-efficient choices."

And, of course, anyone who is planning a rehab or renovation could use Energy Star products to make the project more energy efficient.

Items that meet the requirements will bear the Energy Star logo.

One goal of the program is to make the link in consumers' minds between energy use and pollution. "The average house contributes more to air pollution than the average car," Hogan said.

And the savings can be substantial, she said. "In Baltimore, the average household spends about $1,400 a year on energy -- that's both heating and cooling costs." Using Energy Star products, she said, can save as much as $400 on that bill.

For now, appliances and lighting make up most of the products in the program, but the departments are looking at computers, televisions and VCRs for the next stage.

"If everybody started buying Energy Star products now, over the next 15 years we could save $100 billion in energy costs," Hogan said.

Organizing drill bits

Have you got a drawer full of drill bits? Can't ever find the right one? Black & Decker has introduced a set of accessory containers for drilling, screw driving and other power tools that organize the items and make them easily accessible. One product is a set of 20 Bullet Pilot Point drill bits in a stand-up plastic case, which retails for $20. Another set, in a plastic snap case, includes nut drivers, sockets, spade bits, drill bits and Phillips bits, among other things, and retails for $50. Look for them wherever Black & Decker items are sold.

On the Web

The Internet is full of sites of interest to homeowners and do-it-yourselfers. Here are a couple of new ones that might be worth checking out:

* Sears has introduced a site where you can buy more than 3,500 Craftsman hand and power tools. The Craftsman home page's address is

* Wm. Zinzer & Co., which makes specialty paints, preservatives, bonding agents and accessories, has a new site that offers tips on interior and exterior painting, faux finishing techniques, and wallpaper hanging and removal. The address is

Randy Johnson is a Baltimore home-improvement contractor. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, e-mail us at or, or write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

Pub Date: 12/07/97

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