This article was originally published in the July/August 1996 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.


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Home Energy Magazine Online July/August 1996



Ozone-Friendly Fridges? Ozone Action, the Environmental Law Foundation, and Earth Day 2000 settled one lawsuit against refrigerator manufacturers in December, then filed another. The settled case revolved around the claim that ozone-friendly, CFC-free refrigerators from General Electric, Amana, and Whirlpool were misleadingly labeled. The refrigerators-including the Super-Efficient Refrigerator Contest winner-all contain HCFC 141b, a less potent, but still significant, ozone-depleting chemical. Unlike the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) prohibits CFC-free labels on products containing HCFC 141b. According to Caroline Harwood of Earth Day 2000, The manufacturers agreed to relabel their units without environmental claims. The new labels must mention that they contain HCFCs, and stores must post notices revealing that HCFCs can be ozone-harmful. Further, the manufacturers agreed to give $100,000 to ozone depletion research.

The new lawsuit alleges that Maytag, Sanyo, and several retailers in California have failed to display environmental warning labels on fridges containing ozone-depleting chemicals. The Federal Clean Air Act requires products made with CFCs to prominently disclose that they contain these chemicals, which are known to harm public health and the ozone layer. According to plaintiff attorney Suzanne Bevash, Maytag still makes fridges with CFC refrigerant. In the past, she claims, Maytag put warning labels on the back of the fridges, where consumers were unlikely to see them. She hopes that the court will require Maytag to warn all potential buyers, including stores, of the units' CFC content and of the potential effects of CFCs. Appliance, February 1996. 1110 Joorie Blvd., CS 9019, Oak Brook, IL 60522-9019. Tel:(708)990-3484; Fax:(708)990-0078; e-mail:

Radiant Barriers Test Well. Radiant heat gain is an important contributor to a house's cooling load-a single-story ranch home typically gains 30%-50% of its cooling load from rooftop radiant heating. Radiant barriers are one way to reduce this heat gain. In a recent experiment at Kansas State University- Manhattan, engineers used a commercially available paperboard radiant barrier along with attic ventilation to reduce ceiling heat gains by 24%-42%. Even without ventilation, the barriers reduced ceiling gains by 17%-26%.

Researchers Byron W. Jones, Hussam R. Al-Asmar, and Dennis K. Matteson built a full-scale test roof, attic, and ceiling in a lab. Under instructions from ASHRAE, they heated the roof to constant temperatures of 120oF-160oF, approximating summer rooftop temperatures. Best results were obtained from barriers installed against the roof, but researchers found that radiant barriers also worked well when mounted atop the ceiling. The full report will soon be released in ASHRAE Transactions; preprints are available from ASHRAE, 1791 Tullie Circle, NE, Atlanta, GA 30329-2305. Reference paper No. 3962, presented at ASHRAE winter 1996 meeting. Story from Energy and Housing Report, February 1996. 9124 Bradford Road, Silver Spring, MD 20901-4918. Tel:(301)565-ALFA; Fax:(301)565-FAXUS.

Vent-Free Heater Claims Debunked. Unvented gas space heaters are touted as 99.9% efficient in some manufacturers' advertisements. However, only about 90.5% of the energy released by burning natural gas is released as radiant or convected heat. The rest is latent heat, which keeps water vapor in its high-energy gaseous state. Only by condensing that vapor into water can a furnace release the heat as usable energy-a process for which condensing gas furnaces are specially designed. Condensing furnaces have a cooler metal plate where vapor condenses, and a drain where the resulting water can escape. Since vent-free gas appliances have no condensing heat exchanger or drain, they can be only 90.5% efficient. The steam may condense in the living space, releasing the latent heat, but then you can have moisture and mold problems. Many indoor air quality professionals are also concerned because the heaters release combustion products directly into living space-a potential health hazard.

Unvented gas space heaters are currently sold at a rate greater then gas wall furnaces and vented gas space heaters combined, and the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) expects sales to increase by almost 50% by the turn of the century. Energy Design Update, February and March 1996. 235 W 102nd St., New York, NY 10025. Tel:(212)662-7428; Fax: (212) 662-0039; e-mail:

Habitat for Humanity (and Other Species). Habitat for Humanity has spent the last few years building over 10,000 very inexpensive houses annually in over 40 countries. More and more of those houses have included energy efficiency measures from the start. In Lynchburg, Virginia, for example, new homes are built with passive solar design, thicker-than-code insulation, superwindows, compact fluorescent lamps, solar water preheaters, and high-performance plumbing fixtures. A new development in Florida will have natural cross-ventilation, white roofs, and on-site graywater reclamation. Rocky Mountain Institute, which has helped implement these measures, has found that their high cost can be recovered by getting smaller heaters and air conditioners than would otherwise be necessary. Indeed, mechanical climate control is sometimes eliminated altogether. The low operating costs that result from these measures are especially helpful for the low-income clients who buy the homes. Rocky Mountain Institute Newsletter, Spring 1996. Rocky Mountain Institute, 1739 Snowmass Creek Road, Snowmass, CO 81654-9199. Tel:(970)927-3851; Fax:(970)927-4178; e-mail:; World Wide Web:

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