By Mike Duff
Energy efficiency is an emerging trend in major cooking appliances as manufacturers develop products to meet new consumer preferences.
Traditional cooking appliances lack definitive efficiency standards, keeping energy issues on the backburner, some sources said.
“We’re really not out there promoting the image of energy efficiency, not in that category,” said Sears spokesman Larry Costello.”
At Haier, which provides a basic range of traditional cooking major appliances, Mike Stawicki, director of large appliances, said energy efficiency isn’t a certain topic. “One problem is usage,” he said. “You don’t know if you can reasonably ‘guesstimate’ about how consumers are using the product.”
Usage issues and the lack of performance differentiation among standard ovens and ranges has discouraged the Unites States Environmental Protection Agency from adding cooking major appliances to its Energy Star program. “We don’t expect to add ovens or ranges in the short term,” said Amy Castellano, an EPA-affiliated research analyst.
Still, consumers who seek energy-efficient options can look to newly available and existing technologies.
Energy efficiency may accelerate sales of induction cooking appliances, which have lagged in the United States. Advocates assert that 90 percent of energy produced by induction converts into the cooking process, with little lost to ambient air.
Bosch sees energy efficiency becoming more significant to cooking appliances across segment lines.
“Bosch is all about efficiency and offers complete ECO solutions that any family can rely on,” said Jason Avila, a Bosch spokesman, including induction cook tops.
Although still a smaller consumer segment, induction is moving beyond professional kitchens as energy issues loom larger to homeowners.
“Not only will our induction cooking system boil water quickly, the induction units are 50 percent more efficient than gas and 25 percent more efficient than electric cooking elements,” said Tony Evans, an Electrolux spokesman. “Now it is expanding into consumer kitchens.”
GE, while offering induction cook tops, also is developing speed-cooking and double-oven options, products that offer energy savings with faster heating and a smaller cooking cavity option, respectively.
“You have different demographics,” said Kim Freeman, a spokesperson for GE consumer and industrial. “A lot of people don’t need to heat up a whole oven to heat casserole. They might use the full oven once or twice year cooking for holidays.”
Induction cooking already is popular in Japan, so Sharp is keeping an eye on the U.S. market and considering plans for the technology. Still, not every means of meeting energy concerns has to be based on unfamiliar technology. Sharp microwaves afford inductionlike advantages as “a way of imparting energy directly into food,” said Tom Kelly, associate director of product planning and development for appliances, Sharp has been dealing with energy and preparation issues simultaneously with the Sharp SuperSteam Oven, a product that combines convection, “super steam” convection, steam and conventional cooking in a small energy saving cavity. A countertop version of the SuperSteam Oven will launch in the November/December timeframe.
Convection also may have some energy-efficiency benefits manufacturers can tout.
While it promotes the benefits of its induction appliances, Sue Bailey, Viking’s manager of product development for major appliances, said the company also alerts consumers to the ability of convection ovens to provide energy savings through more efficient cooking.
“If you are cooking something in the oven and convection helps it cook in 10 minutes rather than 12, it’s not a big deal. But if you are cooking a roast, it reduces cooking time by 15 percent, so there is a customer benefit,” she said.