Whirlpool drives sustainability from factory to home

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Whirlpool drives sustainability from factory to home

Photo courtesy of Whirlpool

To make it easier for consumers to go green, appliance manufacturers are building sustainability into their products from the factory floor to the laundry room and kitchen.

While Whirlpool Corporation's sustainability strategy engages nearly every aspect of its business, from materials and processes, to product technologies and end-of-life recycling, consumers often are simply looking for appliances that will serve their family well.

"We're doing a lot of things at our manufacturing facilities, we have LEED certified buildings throughout our portfolio, and many other initiatives to reduce energy use and waste, water and materials," Maureen Sertich, North America Sustainability Lead, told ProudGreenHome.com.

While the performance of an appliance is important, behind-the-scenes aspect of production, such as materials sourcing, waste management, transportation, and products used can have a major influence on the overall environmental impact.

"We're focusing on more than the use of products in the consumers' home, we're looking at a strategy of sustainability related to the entire lifecycle," Sertich says. "We're creating an emphasis on end of life and how do we reuse or recycle materials from our products when consumers are done using them."

Consumers are beginning to pay more attention to the total impact of their choices, from using cloth bags at the grocery or drinking Fair Trade coffee. They're expecting more environmental awareness from the companies they do business with.

"Consumers are expecting companies to do the right things and expecting to purchase from responsible companies," Sertich said. "But, consumers aren’t necessarily willing to pay more for that."

Sustainability culture

UL Environment - AHAM Sustainability Standards: 

Whirlpool currently has Refrigerators and Clothes Washers certified under the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers Sustainability standards and the UL Environment label. AHAM is developing additional standards for Dishwashers, Cooking Products, Small Appliances, Clothes Dryers, and Microwaves.

Heat pump dryer

The hybrid heat pump dryer technology popular in Europe will be available in the U.S.. later in 2014 in the Whirlpool HybridCare clothes dryer (WED99HED). The hybrid heat Pump technology is designed to regenerate energy during the drying cycle to reduce energy consumption while providing dryer speed and performance flexibility.

Compared to typical dryers that use large amounts of energy in the form of venting hot, moist air, the HybridCare dryer is a ventless heat pump dryer that uses a refrigeration system to dry and recycle the same air.

"Instead of releasing hot air out the vent while drying clothes, it recirculates the hot air so you only have to heat it from warm air to hot air," Sertich said. "These don't require an external vent so you can install it in any room; you don't have to install it on an external wall."

The ventless dryer technology will allow consumers in North America to reduce their carbon footprint and the estimated $4 billion in wasted energy attributed to dryers.

Recycling dishwasher

The resource-efficient KitchenAid Architect Series II dishwasher reduces water consumption 33 percent by recycling water from the dishwasher’s final rinse cycle and uses it in the next load’s pre-rinse cycle. Fresh water is then used to finish the cleaning cycle.

Other features of the dishwasher include:

  • A cycle that determines the appropriate setting for washing dishes and makes real-time adjustments for the best cleaning performance;
  • The ProScrub option that uses 40 targeted spray jets at the back of the dishwasher to help eliminate soaking or pre-scrubbing;
  • Premium sound insulation that makes it convenient to operate day or night, including when homeowners are entertaining; and,
  • A four-hour delay option that allows users to set the dishwasher to start at a more convenient time for them.

The dishwasher model with the AquaSense Recycling System earned a 2014 PCBC Parade of Products Award, one of 16 home building products to receive the recognition.

Refrigerators

While the insulation in the refrigerator may not be top of mind, it's actually a significant contributor to the environmental impact of the appliance. Refrigerators use a closed-cell spray foam insulation, similar to what's found in the walls of many homes.

In 2014 Whirlpool Corporation incorporated a new kind of insulation blowing agent into its American refrigerator and freezer production lines that will dramatically lower the impact of these appliances on the environment. This change is the equivalent of removing 400,000 cars from the road, Sertich said.

This conversion also means that Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air and Amana refrigerators are now using insulation that is more efficient than competing refrigerators.

"Most refrigerator purchases are done when your old one fails and you have about 24 hours to find a new one," Sertich said. "Making our refrigerators more sustainably helps consumers make the right choice while they also think about price and features."

To understand the impact of Whirlpool Corporation’s decision to use Solstice, it is helpful to understand how refrigerators are assembled. Just like the homes they go into, refrigerators require insulation to help them maintain temperatures. The insulation used in refrigerators is a closed-cell, spray-foam insulation applied between the refrigerator cabinet and interior liner. For the insulation to work, a special additive known as a liquid blowing agent is required to accelerate the foam’s expansion.

Whirlpool was the first in its industry to implement Honeywell Corporation’s Solstice liquid blowing agent into its refrigerator production. By doing so, Whirlpool Corporation will dramatically lower the emissions related to the insulation of its refrigerators and freezers, and in the process, every refrigerator and freezer produced in the U.S.. by Whirlpool Corporation will perform better, be more environmentally sustainable and allow the home building industry to deliver greener homes to their clients.

Solstice is nonflammable, not a volatile organic compound and has received U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program, EPA's program to evaluate and regulate substitutes for the ozone-depleting chemicals that are being phased out under the stratospheric ozone protection provisions

“It’s a no-compromise approach for the masses that is an ‘and’ strategy rather than an ‘or’ strategy,” said Ron Voglewede, Global Sustainability Director at Whirlpool Corporation. “We are making products that perform better, but at the same time doing so with a smaller environmental footprint.”

Read more about energy-efficient appliances.


Topics: Appliances, Bathroom, Cooktops, Dishwashers, Energy Star, Going Green, Healthy Homes, Insulation, Kitchen, Sustainability Trends & Statistics, Sustainable Products, Washers & Dryers

Companies: Honeywell International Inc., Whirlpool Corporation


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