By Trish Holder
Relating the Greenbuild experience to my readers, most of whom have not had the opportunity to attend the world’s largest green building conference and expo, is a lot like trying to thread a needle with a pillow. I have to narrow down the most interesting things I saw into a few paragraphs.
This year’s show, held the week before Thanksgiving in San Francisco, was no different. I needed a week rather than a jet-lagged day and a half to see it all. Nevertheless, I’ve narrowed down the list of what stood out to me as a homeowner who is concerned first and foremost with practicality and convenience, and secondly with things like energy efficiency, sustainability, greenness, and my overall impression of the company. Taking all that into consideration, three companies left an impression on me: LG Electronics, Fireclay Tile, and GE Lighting.
LG Washer Dryer Combo for Space Challenged Consumers
LG Electronics had a knockout product display set up inside two freestanding units situated between the North and South Halls of the Moscone Center. One, a living kitchen, was dedicated to their residential products, including the LG all-in-one, compact washer dryer combo, which immediately caught my attention.
This space-efficient unit offers 2.3 cubic feet of washing and drying capacity in a single ventless unit. The delightful concept is that you put your dirty clothes in and don’t return until they are clean and dry. No switching out loads. No forgetting to dry a wet load. As one who does a lot of laundry, it seemed like heaven to me, perhaps even too good to be true.
“But does it work?” I asked skeptically, knowing that there is nothing more frustrating than having a washer or dryer fail you in the middle of busy week. Of course, the representative said “Yes!” but what else would he say?
So I decided to do some research on my own about all-in-one laundry units. Turns out they have been around for a few years and have received mixed reviews. Almost all of the reviews I found on this particular unit, the LG Electronics WM3455HS, were very, very good, with just a few exceptions, which were very bad. One thing seems clear–while families of all sizes might appreciate the space efficiency and convenience of an all-in-one unit, this is not a suitable appliance for a household that generates a lot of laundry. Additionally, it seems fairly clear that the wash and dry cycle take longer than conventional appliances. If a reviewer did have complaints, they typically revolved around the overall drying time and capability.
The users who were happy with their units read the manuals and learned to operate and maintain them according to manufacturer’s recommendations—which vary considerably from typical washers and dryers. These happy users also seemed to have done their homework ahead of time and were well aware of the limitations, including the limited capacity, lengthier cycle times, and drying issues.
All that said, it was a snazzy looking appliance and I believe it could be well-suited for many owners who wash just a few small loads a week.
Fireclay Tile, Made in California, Focuses on Triple Bottom Line
Several years ago when we built the Greenspiration Home I was disappointed to learn how few tile products are produced in the US. So I was delighted to learn about Fireclay Tile, which not only produces a wide range of decorative tile all in California but also uses a lot of recycled content. They offer more shape, style, and color than any other U.S. manufacturer I have encountered thus far, including hand-painted decorative tile. I especially liked their new eco-friendly Glazed Thin Brick in the color “Harbor”. It’s a gorgeous, textural teal that had me thinking of ways I might use it in my own home. If I were starting over or redecorating, I would be tempted to work this into my color scheme just because I loved the color and the tile so much.
If you’re into multi-colored decorative tiles, you won’t be disappointed with Fireclay’s selection. You’re only limited by your imagination since all Fireclay tiles are made-to-order.
It is a very cool company that takes its triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) seriously. The tiles are all hand-molded from extruded clays using recycled materials, unprocessed stoneware clays, and minerals. Glazes are mixed in-house and never contain any lead material. Fireclay also recycles their kiln heat, water, and all manufacturing waste.
Replacing a Light Bulb Is Cheaper and Easier Thanks to GE Lighting
Few topics confuse or bore me as much as light bulbs. In fact, the only time I think about lighting is when there’s not enough or a bulb has to be replaced. But I was intrigued by the energy-efficient “soft white” halogen bulbs from GE Lighting. These bulbs are only a few dollars more than the energy intensive incandescents we all grew up with, but are about 20% more efficient. They do not last as long as CFLs or the extremely long lasting LEDs, nor are they nearly as efficient; but they do offer a high quality light without the baggage associated with either.
Halogen bulbs have a tungsten filament like incandescent bulbs but they are also filled with halogen gas. When the bulb is lit, tungsten from the filament is evaporated into the bulb’s gas, providing illumination. The halogen gas then carries the evaporated tungsten particles back to the filament and re-deposits them. This creates the lower energy use.
The pros to Halogen lights are:
- Added efficiency. Many are 10 to 20 more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs.
- Instant start. There is no delayed warm-up or flickering that you get with CFLs.
- They are fully dimmable.
- Light is bright and crisp.
I learned something else at the GE Lighting exhibit at Greenbuild. The company has initiated new color-coded packaging for all of their light bulbs, so that people like us can pick out a replacement bulb without becoming an expert in lighting technology. Different packaging colors represent different levels of brightness modeled after the natural cycle of daylight, from sunrise to sunset.
- Yellow indicates bulbs with strong, vibrant light that is ideal for home cooking, cleaning and grooming (2,000 lumens or more, 150 watts or more).
- Green represents fresh, energizing light good for focused tasks like reading, studying and game playing (1,050 – 1,999 lumens, 100 or 75 watts).
- Blue emits an inviting, comfortable light, which is just right for entertaining, socializing and family time (600 – 1,049 lumens, 60 watts).
- Orange is considered best for relaxing and watching TV because it gives off a cozy, soothing light (400 – 599 lumens, 40 watts).
- Purple provides subtle and reassuring light for nightlight applications (less than 400 lumens, 25 watts).
This color-coding is in addition to the new standardized “Lighting Facts” label now mandated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on light bulb packaging. This label provides information about lumens (brightness), energy cost, life expectancy, light appearance (warm vs. cool light), wattage and mercury content much like the nutritional label on packaged food.
I think that those of us who have wasted more time than we care to admit trying to pick out a lighting product will agree that this is a welcome change.