What's new on ConsumerReports.org: October 2009 home-related content

Consumer Reports News: August 31, 2009 07:55 PM

Tests that reveal the pros, cons and long-term costs of pellet-burning stoves and solar water heaters headline the new Energy Saving and Green Living Guide that we've published in tandem with these stories from our October 2009 issue. Among the key findings:

Pellet stoves and solar water heaters. Our Alternative Energy overview reveals how both pellet-burning stoves and solar water heaters could reduce heating costs. But their high prices ($1,300 to $3,900 for pellet stoves; $2,200 to $6000 for solar water heaters, not including installation) and in the case of pellet stoves, higher operating costs (burning pellets is more costly and more polluting than burning natural gas) can lengthen payback times. Both also require upkeep and maintenance. Ratings of pellet stoves and an interim report our solar water heater testing are available to subscribers.

Simple energy savings. Cut your Energy Bills lists more low-cost and cost-effective ways to reduce your utility bills, including specific tactics for heating and cooling, water consumption, and electricity use.
• Tracking federal incentives.
See qualification criteria, installation costs, and annual monetary savings from the many energy-savings products and projects eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit. We also describe how energy audits (done by private firms or on your own with help from government Web sites) can spot home energy wasters.

CFLs now offer savings and style. Choosing the right compact fluorescent lights is another great way to cut your electric bills. They've been showing up in more and more fixtures, and our ratings (available to subscribers) include models that will work in conventional lights and recessed and track lights, outdoor and flood lights and porch/post lights.

• Readers share mattress ratings. When it's lights out, tap into the wisdom of 17,444 Consumer Reports readers who shared their ratings of the best mattress brands and retailers.

• Vacuums for tough times. Our report on Vacuums rates the performance of both the high-powered high-end and low-priced (but still well performing) models that manufacturers are rolling out during this recession.

• Standout shower towers. Our tests of shower towers revealed three models that could provide an invigorating spray while staying within federal water-consumption regulations and avoiding surcharges imposed by some utilities for heavy water use.

• The scoop on a robotic gutter cleaner. We unleashed the iRobot Looj 155 robotic cleaner on some sections of leaf-clogged gutters and found its promise exceeded its performance. Subscribers can read the full report here.

• Snow blower problem.
We found a Toro snow blower that l acks an essential safety feature and gave it our Don't Buy: Safety Alert rating. But safe and cost-effective blowers did abound in our new ratings of 17 models (available to subscribers).

• Green dishwasher detergents wash out. Our tests of three phosphate-free dishwasher detergents also proved disappointing, although you can find capable phosphate-free performers in our August 2009 review of dishwasher detergents. —Gian Trotta | | Twitter | Forums | Facebook

Essential information: Find our more about upcoming increases in federal incentives for energy-efficient appliances.

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