Energy efficiency – helping the planet, one appliance at a time

Recently my (LG) dryer started to play up, spiralling to oblivion after 10 years. The fridge it seems was not far behind. Our society has become one of throwaway appliances – things that once lasted 20-30 years, now we’re lucky if they last a dozen. It’s partially because they are poorly built, and partially because they are too complex – refrigerators with ice-makers, and LCD screens, washing machines with steam. People also don’t really like paying more for quality… or are drawn in by  advertising. The problem with some lower-cost appliances is that they are energy hogs. Clothes dryers are second only to refrigerators and freezers in the amount of energy they use.

So I bought a new washer (W1) and dryer (T1), and the brand I chose was Miele. Expensive? Somewhat. But I bought them because of previous long-term experience with my Miele dishwasher. They also came with a 10-year warranty. But in reality, the largest impact of these appliances is the technology they use to improve efficiency. The washer has a smaller capacity then my previous one, but the machine allows for a multitude of programs, and is easy to use. The benefit of a smaller drum is that higher speed spin cycles result in hardly any vibration.

The dryer is missing one thing – an exhaust vent – and that’s because it is a heat pump dryer, like many dryers sold in Europe. This dryer uses hot air to absorb moisture from the damp laundry, which then passes through an evaporator which removes the moisture, and so on. The side benefit of this is that we will no longer be venting warm air outside the house at any time, but especially in the winter. The dryer has a pull-out drawer that collects the condensed moisture, and it replicates the detergent drawer in the washer. The water can also be diverted via a drain hose to the sink to allow the condensate to automatically drain. I’m just using the moisture drawer for the moment, because it’s not that much of an issue to empty. There is of course the issue of lint – and Miele covers this using a double layer ultra-fine lint filter. How well does it dry? Extremely well, on a multitude of cycles. It is somewhat reflective of the RPM used in the washing cycle.

The washer cleans exceptionally well, and has the benefit of using Miele’s CapDosing system if you want –  they aren’t cheap though on a per wash basis, although I imagine they could be good for things like stain removal, or washing delicate woolens. The washer has one interesting feature – if the machine notices that not many cycles use warm water, i.e. if you predominantly wash in cold water, it will suggest running a clean or sanitize cycle, to clean the washer. Makes sense, and likely it helps prevent the washer developing bad smells. The washer and dryer are also smaller, so they take up less room in my small basement. The other benefit is that both the washer, and the dryer use 110V – and Miele provides an adapter which converts the 220V to 2 × 110V sockets. The lower power requirements of the dryer mean that it only consumes 126 kWh per year. Compare this against the 945 kWh my last dryer was spec’d at (our monthly electricity consumption is about 900 kWh).

All-in-all a good purchase, well see how it affects the electricity bill in the long term.

Note: A standard dryer vents approximated 240 cubic feet of air per minute. In a standard semi-detached like mine, which is 1200 ft² (including the basement), which at 8′ ceilings equates to 9,600 cubic feet. This means all the air in the house is expelled every 40 minutes – most of my cycles with the dryer were about 40 minutes, so in winter I was expelling all the conditioned air in the house every time I used the dryer, which obviously makes the furnace work all that much harder.


Re-roofing a house with a metal roof

This year I completed a project that I have been meaning to do for a while now – adding a metal roof. Not a trivial thing to do on a semi-detached house, because of the obvious issues with the division of the roof (made more challenging because more than 20 years ago someone put in a cathedral ceiling next door, and must have insulated from the outside, making that roof 2″ higher). I had been considering this for a while, as our “30-year” architectural shingles reached 12-odd years old. Now metal roofs, either aluminum or steel aren’t as popular in North America yet, for whatever reason. I always find it odd that people buy brand new, $2 million houses, that have crappy cheap asphalt shingle roofs on them. Make it sustainable and add a metal roof. But cities are as much at fault as homeowners, they could require greener more sustainable roofing.

Metal roof on the front of the house.

So metal roofs do cost more. I likely paid nearly twice what I did 12 years ago for the asphalt roof, but it will last probably 50 years. It also doesn’t deal with the flat roof at the back of my house, but honestly 3-layer flat roof technology is pretty good these days. There are of course a bunch of different metal roofing technologies, some use strapping, others attach directly to the existing roof (I chose the later). I settled on an aluminum roof made by Classic Products Roofing Systems. These come as long panels, 12″×60″, and they lock into one another.

Locking edges on the top and side of the metal panel.

Asphalt shingles first appeared in north America  in 1901, and gained a foothold in the 1920s in a market dominated by wooden shingles (wood = cheap roofing). The use of fire-clay tiles or metal roofs never really caught on in Canada, although they are extensively used in cold climates such as Norway, and Iceland. They are popular in cottage country, probably because people realize they are less maintenance than an asphalt roof. Asphalt roofs are also very environmentally unfriendly, although there are now some companies recycling them.