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Green product watch: CFLs, solar water heaters, and pellet stoves

Here’s the latest news and advice on greener products, adapted from the October 2009 issue of Consumer Reports.

How to choose CFLs. After testing more than 20 compact fluorescents, our experts found that certain CFLs are better for some purposes than others. CFLs that take longer to brighten, for example, would not be ideal for staircases or other areas where you need instant light. In our tests, CFLs took from 27 seconds to 3 minutes to fully brighten—spirals are the quickest; floodlights and covered outdoor bulbs, the slowest. Also, CFLs should not be used in lamps that children could tip over easily and break the bulb. Here are more tips to consider (full report available to subscribers).

Pellet stoves & solar water heaters could take decades to pay off. Consumer Reports recently tested six pellet stoves that are claimed to heat roughly 1,500 to 2,200 square feet and found that a pellet stove could help you save if your current fuel is pricey. All that we tested qualify for a federal tax credit of 30 percent of the purchase and installation costs for a principal residence, up to $1,500, if installed in 2009 or 2010.

Our testers also installed four solar water heater systems on the roof of our Yonkers, N.Y., headquarters. Solar water heaters with the recently enacted Energy Star qualification are designed to slash at least 50 percent off your water-heating bills. All four of the tested heaters qualify for a federal tax credit of 30 percent of the installed cost with no limit. State and utility incentives could add to those savings.

But we also found you could easily pay $4,000 to $8,000 to buy and install a pellet stove or solar heater and wait years to recoup the costs. Read Alternative energy (full report available to subscribers).


 
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