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Thanks, but no tanks

BY Michael Morris

Building code requirements limiting energy and water use and government initiatives encouraging conservation are becoming increasingly important as population growth and electrical consumption increase demand on water and energy supplies.

An on-demand tankless water heater can help.

In years past, most tankless heaters sold here were electric point-of-use units with limited capacity, relegating them to consumer niche markets, such as in-home apartments and vacation homes with low hot water demand. The development of more efficient natural or propane-fired units and the introduction of high-capacity, whole-house gas-condensing units have made tankless a viable alternative.

Tankless units account for 5% to 8% of all water heaters sold. Gas-condensing units — which increase efficiency by using exhaust heat to warm water — account for almost a quarter of the 400,000 tankless units sold in the United States, said Trey Hoffmann, global product manager of Rinnai America in Peachtree City, Ga. The units initially cost more, he added, but their greater efficiency results in lower utility bills.

Milwaukee-based A. O. Smith recently introduced a "hybrid" unit that combines the best features of tankless and conventional technologies to create a new category of water heating. It uses a secondary heat exchanger to route heated exhaust gases back through a "buffer" water tank to extract additional heat. While the hybrid enlarges the unit’s installation footprint, the company said it increases the unit’s efficiency.

Good news for the category is that the federal energy tax credit program was extended through Dec. 31, 2013, allowing buyers to claim up to $300 for high-efficiency water heating equipment, including tankless units with an Energy Factor of 0.82 or better. Moreover, many local and state utilities offer rebates for homeowners who purchase these appliances.

This story appeared in the digital pages of HCN sister publication Residential Building Products and Technology.

Download the "Residential Building Products and Technology" app for your iPad. Or visit ResBuildMag.com.

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Whirlpool showcases ‘Ice’ sculptures

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The spending news from the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) could have been better, but it could have been worse.

The NKBA Design Trends Survey, which asked designers for the total average cost of the kitchens they design, slipped in the 2013 survey to $47,308. That’s down from 2012, but is well ahead of 2010 and 2011 (See chart).

One of the design nuggets from the NKBA survey of kitchen designers shows a "transitional" design — defined as "a seamless blend of traditional and contemporary" — has surpassed "traditional" as the preferred design for the first time in the association’s history.

Whirlpool says it’s firmly on top of that design trend with its Ice Collection.

Available in White Ice or Black Ice, both contemporary finishes are accented with stainless steel handles that reach for a sophisticated design for ranges, refrigerators and dishwashers. Other features include:

  • Ice Collection ranges feature temperature management systems that cook food uniformly and with less energy.
  • Ovens with a true convection system roasts up to 30% faster (versus a conventional oven roasting a 12-lb. to 14-lb. turkey).
  • Counter-depth refrigerators with MicroEdge shelves provide 25% more shelf space (compared with Whirlpool refrigerators without MicroEdge shelves).
  • Ovens feature EasyView extra-large window and AquaLift Self-Clean Technology.
  • Dishwashers feature Sensor Cycle and PowerScour Option.
  • Ranges feature the AccuBake temperature management system, TimeSavor true convection cooking system and Flex Power Burner.
  • Refrigerators are Energy Star-qualified and feature MicroEdge spill control shelves.

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d-CON takes stand against EPA in rodent wars

BY Ken Ryan

For the first time in 20 years, a company has declined to voluntarily implement the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) risk mitigation measures for a pesticide product. And that company, Reckitt Benckiser, makers of the d-CON branded mouse and rat poison products, said it has done nothing wrong, and would rather fight than switch.

And so goes this cat-and-mouse game that will eventually be decided by the courts.

While the EPA has charged that 12 d-CON products fail to comply with its current safety standards agreed upon in 2011; pose "unreasonable risks to children, pets and wildlife;" and thus should be removed, d-CON’s take is that the government agency is "forcing consumers to choose from ‘inferior’ or ‘less safe’ rodent control product."

Hal Ambuter, d-CON director of regulatory and government affairs, said the company has spent "considerable time" over the past several years trying to work with the EPA to develop alternate mitigation measures "to address our mutual concerns about accidental exposures to children, pets and non-target wildlife."

But removing d-CON products from the shelves is not the answer, according to Ambuter, who argues that doing so would leave consumers with less effective alternatives and "could put the public health and environment at greater risk."

Some competitors disagree with d-CON’s stance that the new EPA standards, which focus on packaging and the elimination of certain toxins, render products less effective. "We developed new products that met EPA guidelines and, since June 2011, have manufactured and sold rodent control products that incorporate these new safety standards," said Steve Levy, president and CEO of Bell Laboratories, makers of the Tomcat pesticide. "When faced with the new EPA requirements, we chose the responsible route."

POINT/COUNTERPOINT

In lieu of product cancellation, d-CON proposed alternative measures for the EPA to consider, among them modifications that eliminate all outdoor uses of its second-generation anticoagulant products and a thorough redesign of the product labels that make them easier to read and understand through pictures, icons and Spanish language text with simplified directions. Ambuter claims the EPA has used some of these measures on other household use products, such as flea/tick treatments and insect foggers. "The mitigation measures we proposed combine the best practices of all these other programs," Ambuter said.

However, on Feb. 5, 2013, the EPA rejected d-CON’s "alternative measures" and announced it was proposing to cancel the registrations of 12 d-CON bait products. In response, d-CON on March 6 filed documents objecting to the proposed cancellation and requested a hearing before an EPA administrative law judge.

"During these proceedings we intend to present evidence demonstrating why EPA’s proposal should be modified or rejected," Ambuter said.

RISK TO EXPOSURE

James Jones, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said the agency has worked with several companies during the last five years to develop safer rodent control products that are effective, affordable and widely available to meet the needs of consumers. He cited Tomcat products, PM Resources’ Assault brand products and Chemsico’s products as meeting the standard.

The EPA now requires rodenticide products for consumer use to be contained in protective tamper-resistant bait stations and prohibits pellets and other bait forms that cannot be secured in bait stations. In addition, the EPA prohibits the sale to residential consumer products that contain brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone and difenacoum because of their toxicity to wildlife. The EPA estimates that approximately 10,000 children a year are accidentally exposed to mouse and rat baits, and 1% of those need medical attention, an agency spokesman said, citing data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

The 12 d-CON mouse and rat poison products under probe are sold to consumers as pellets or powder without adequately protective bait stations that prevent access by children and pets, the EPA said. Eight of the 12 products also contain one of four second-generation anticoagulants.

d-CON counters that "there are better solutions to addressing those concerns than removing the affordable and effective options from consumers that d-CON products provide," Ambuter said. "We agree with the EPA and environmental groups that non-target wildlife should not be exposed to consumer-use rodenticides. We don’t agree that consumer products are the issue. Our d-CON brand consumer products are packaged in small-size containers of 1 to 3 ounces in shapes and sizes that can be placed out of reach and behind appliances."

d-CON also believed consumers "should have the ability to choose wisely and to use the product they choose appropriately. With additional consumer education and awareness on the proper use of our d-CON bait products, the incidents of accidental exposures of children and pets can be reduced even further, which is a goal we all share," Ambuter said.

Until the issue is resolved, the d-CON products will be available at retail stores. "We remain confident that, at the end of this process, our products will remain available for consumers to use to treat and manage rodent problems in their homes," Ambuter said.

The EPA, meanwhile, is encouraging retailers to stock "only those products that meet EPA’s safety standard."

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