Ever wonder how much energy a coffee maker uses? Or, perhaps more importantly, how much that usage costs? John Jabara started asking those questions three years ago while shopping for appliances, but could find no answers.
He learned the federal government’s Energy Star program only rates the efficiency of larger appliances, like dishwashers and refrigerators. To fill the void, Jabara founded Savenia Labs, a Bethesda-based company that provides energy and environmental impact ratings for a variety of household items.
Now those ratings are available for coffee makers, toaster ovens and microwaves sold at Strosniders True Value Hardware Stores in Bethesda and Silver Spring.
“One of the best ways to make a societal impact is to get into retail,” Jabara said. “With Energy Star, manufacturers responded by making their products more efficient, getting rid of functions that drained power. We have the potential to have the same impact here. ”
The rating labels list a product’s lifetime energy cost and carbon dioxide emissions. A $50 microwave, for instance, might cost $85 to run over its 5-year life cycle and produce 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent. Another of the same price might cost half that much to run and create less carbon dioxide. Consumers read an accompanying pamphlet or scan the QR code on the label for more information on the product.
“The fact that all the information was right there made it easier to make a decision,” said Susan Marinelli, who used the ratings at the True Value in Bethesda to compare toaster ovens. “I could add up what the toaster cost today and what it will cost tomorrow.”
Savenia partners with the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering to conduct tests on top selling models. Jabara, a former health care executive, pulled together a team of scientists and researchers to create a 10-step methodology.
The process includes consumer research, the use of zip codes to calculate electricity costs and regional power grid CO2 output to calculate emissions. To avoid any bias, Savenia purchases the products for testing. The company is certified in Maryland as a “benefit corporation,” a legal designation binding it to the socially conscious commitments written into its mission.
Savenia sells stores annual subscriptions to the ratings for a few hundred dollars a month. Retailers can “differentiate their stores with a service offering, and from what we’ve seen so far, it actually moves product,” Jabara said.
He hopes to roll out the rating system across the country next year and broaden the categories of appliances. Savenia, a startup with five employees, hasn’t turned a profit, but Jabara is optimistic the company will get there.