22 Jun 2014


The kitchen design was coming along as so attention turned to appliances...

Washing machine & dishwasher shopping is a nightmare! Finding the balance between cost/energy efficiency/long term sustainability has meant that I have tied myself up in knots!

For example, do you buy Miele- machines that will hopefully last for 15-20yrs? They have a higher initial cost but should be cheaper in the long run as the machine doesn't need to be replaced.  It's better for the environment as there is less landfill. But will a machine still be efficient in 20yrs? Technology seems to be changing and improving so could there be an environmental payoff with upgrading after 5 or 8yrs? But how much more efficient can these machines get?  Does the production cost of a huge hunk of metal outweigh relatively minor improvements of energy consumption costs?

AAARRRGGGHHH!  To make things more confusing the energy rating stickers are not helpful...

Since most things have to be A-rated now, they differentiate between themselves with a A+, A++, A+++, A++++.  So stupid.  Each + means a 10% greater efficiency so a A++++ machine uses 40% less energy than a A-rated appliance (I think!).  But you still have to look at the detail of energy consumption in order to compare machines in the same group.  Some  brands will give you an estimated annual consumption figure and some tell you the per wash figure.  It is NOT easy!  Also, these figures are based on a 60ºC wash, not the 30º/40º wash most people use everyday. 

You also need to look at the water consumption figures of the washing machines and dishwashers.  Is lower water consumption worth more in the balance against lower energy consumption?  It seems so.  

And THEN, you need to know that it is good at what it does.  The WHICH consumer report has found that 

"Unfortunately, extreme energy efficiency is not always a good thing for you as a consumer: some of the washing machines we've tested that use the smallest amount of electricity and water also produce the worst results. A washing machine needs to balance good cleaning with relatively low energy and water use. "

And, for the dishwasher, I want a low decibel rating as we have an open plan living area.  I just want to run away screaming...! We haven't been able to make any choices yet.  

Ovens, induction hobs, extractor fans, were all relatively painless in so far as there isn't much variation in energy efficiency across brands. So the choices were based on cost, functionality & aesthetics. 

As we have an airtight home we can't duct out the extractor fan, so we need a recirculating one.  These use carbon filters to remove the particles and smell, but there were rumours that this would compromise the efficiency of the fan.  I didn't want to waste money on a powerful fan if it wasn't going to work properly.  So, as usual, I talked to my favourite people- the engineers.  I wanted an Elica fan, this is their sole business so I reckon they know what they are doing.  I gave the technical department a call, and they were brilliant!  Elica recirculating fans work to pretty much the same efficiency as the ducting fans. As my fan is to be hidden within cabinetry we identified the fan which gives the most bang for a buck and that is the Elicbloc HT 80.  Easy.  

We are going to have two ovens.  There has been endless discussion about what to get.  Do you get two identical ovens? Seems like a missed opportunity.  Do we want one of those steam ovens?  No, doesn't a tray of water in the base of a normal oven do the same job...? (I would like to also reject the tonnes of different cooking programmes available on some ovens, stop the madness, no one uses them!)  So we considered one electric fan oven and one gas oven?  This solution seems ideal- maximum flexibility.  Only a limited number of companies sell built in gas ovens and we decided to go with SMEG.  Dimitri has scored maximum points for finding the SMEG outlet store.  We found they had a reconditioned gas, and pyrolytic electric fan oven.  We gave them a call and found out that these ovens were under a year old, and had scratches to their fascias,  but nothing wrong with the technical gubbin's.   We also discovered that a replacement fascia, should we need one, is about £60!  So we bought the two ovens for £429 incl delivery.  HOORAY!

For the hob we are going for maximum flexibility again with a standard size induction hob and two gas burners.  The best priced 2- ring ceramic (which is actually black glass?!) gas hob we can find is the IKEA Möjlig. The induction hob is going to be a bit of a splurge, but as the most used appliance in the kitchen I think it's worth it.  I seem to have barely any conductivity in my fingers and technology in general seems to ignore my presence. So, once I had tried the NEFF point and twist magnetic knob, I was a lost cause.  Never again will I need to jab repeatedly and pointlessly at the controls. 

I would like to highly recommend Sust-it, a brilliant website that allows you to compare appliance energy efficiency.  We met Ross, the founder, a few years ago when we went to visit his eco house, he told us about his website.  He set it up as a result of having the same issues about what appliances to put in his energy efficient home.  The website has now expanded to analysing electronics in the home, motoring and travel.  It is stuffed full of really good advice.  It's here, as well as WHICH consumer report, where I end up when I want to find useful information.

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