Local company provides consumers with more information about energy consumption and costs on new appliances

In 2009, Bethesda’s John Jabara found himself frustrated.

After spending six years in Asia as a healthcare executive, he returned to the States to realize his electricity bill was higher than he recalled.

“I rented a house, and tried to buy appliances,” Jabara recalled. “And I noticed very quickly that most of the things I needed to buy, like microwaves, toaster ovens, etc. didn’t have any kind of environmental impact ratings.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program offers ratings for 19 electrical appliance categories and approval seals for others, but Jabara did not think that was enough.
In March 2009, Jabara founded Savenia Labs, a for-profit company aimed at promoting “sound purchasing decisions that save energy and money.”

The company spent two years researching at the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering, conducting tests to measure how much energy various appliances consume. Jabara’s goal was to offer the research results to consumers, to increase their environmental awareness.

“It’s like miles per gallon for your appliances,” Jabara said. “These ratings give consumers the information they need to save cash and energy.”

The average American home spends $100 every year in standby energy, when appliances are not in use, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Additionally, electricity prices in Maryland have risen by 38 percent since 2001, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

On Sept. 27, Savenia launched its partnership with Strosniders Hardware Stores in Bethesda and Silver Spring, offering energy ratings labels for coffee makers, toaster ovens and microwaves.The labels feature the yearly cost to run the appliance and its carbon dioxide output, based on the zip code of the retailer, and local utility companies’ rates.

“People notice it. … They say, ‘we’ve had a toaster oven, we’ve had a microwave oven for 20 years. We never knew we were using this much energy.’ It helps them make better decisions,” Jabara said.

However, the step toward higher energy efficiency has not been without its own hiccups. Strosniders General Manager Jerry Bennett says there has been a learning curve to the new labels.

“There’s been a little bit of confusion. ‘Oh this costs $47,’” Bennett said, pointing to a toaster oven label. “’No the cost is different.’ It’s an educational thing, but it gives us an opportunity to talk to customers where we might not have before.”

Overall though, Bennett is pleased with the new service.

“It’s a cutting edge thing. It’s something nobody else is fooling with,” he said. “Nobody else is doing this for small appliances.”