Polly put the kettle on
We look at whether kettle companies are quick on the boil.
According to Chris Goodall in the new edition of How to live a low carbon
life, a typical electric kettle uses a surprising amount of energy
about 150 Kwh/year. That is about 4% of the total electricity consumed in the
The problem of overfilling
If everybody boiled just the amount of water they needed for just
one day, we could save enough energy to light every street lamp in the UK the
Go Make a Difference(2)
People often boil about twice as much water as they need and many kettles only
boil a minimum of half a litre or more.(5)
Kettles which help people use the right amount of water are therefore a step
forward. The ECO Kettle, for example, has two compartments and you can release
as little as one cup of water from one compartment to the other to be boiled.
The Breville Hot Cup and Tefal Quick Cup are hot water dispensers
which also limit the amount of water that you boil at one time.
Increasingly other electric kettles are being marketed as Energy Efficient
or Energy Saving because they have a water level indicator that
helps you to boil only a cupful at a time.
Most new kettles now have 3kW heating elements rather than 2kW. Although this
means that boiling a litre of water will use the same amount of energy, it will
be one minute quicker. There is therefore less incentive not to overfill the
kettle so as to reduce the boiling time.
On the plus side, most electric kettles now have heating elements which are
concealed by a stainless steel plate. This means you can put in just what you
need rather than having to make sure youve covered the element.
Another reason why we overfill new kettles is their shape, according to Chris
Goodall.(1) The current fashion is for jug kettles to no longer be cylindrical
but wider at the bottom which means that the minimum fill is greater.
Chris Goodall argues that its important to fill your kettle accurately,
de-scale it regularly to keep it energy efficient and boil it only once. Kettles
with variable temperature settings will also save energy. Herbal teas and fresh
coffee are meant to taste better when made with water just below boiling point.
Morphy Richards Ecolectric and Intelliboil kettles and the ECO3 Kettle
all have variable temperature settings.
Green Electric Kettles
- All the ECO Kettle models and the Tefal Quick Cup are Energy Saving Trust
- ECO3 Kettle and Morphy Richards Intelliboil kettles both have variable
temperature control and one cup water level indicator.
Gas hob kettles
According to Chris Goodall, in terms of carbon emissions and expense, the best
option is a whistling kettle on a gas hob as the table below shows.
The saving is however not a great one: an average household would only save
£10 a year and 30kg of CO2.(1)
The cost of boiling water
||amount used to boil 1 litre (kWh)
||price per kWh (p)
||cost per litre of boiled water (p)
||CO2 emitted per boiled litre (kg)
Pit falls to avoid with gas hob kettles are:
Electric kettles turn themselves off, whilst hob kettles can be left
boiling. It is possible to minimise this by getting a whistling kettle to alert
Some heat can be wasted up the sides of the kettle if not placed correctly.
But this heat wont be wasted in the winter as it will help
heat your home.
It is usually much harder to gauge how much you are filling a hob kettle
they dont seem to come with water level guides. It seems the manufacturers
have missed a trick here that their electric competitors have already cottoned
Green hob kettles
Bodum make a glass kettle called Clara which means you can see how much you
are putting in.
Recycling and Disposal
An electrical item can be recycled if it has a plug, uses batteries, needs
charging or has the crossed out wheelie bin logo on it.
If you have any small electrical items that fit the bill, find out where your
nearest recycling centre is from the Recycle
Now website or contact your local council. You can even arrange for your
old equipment to be collected which some councils do for free.
The WEEE Directive means that retailers and manufacturers have to either pay
towards electrical recycling facilities at a council site or offer a service
themselves. Ask whether they will take away your old item if you get a new one
delivered from them, or whether you can bring it into the shop or send it back
to the manufacturer for recycling.
There are lots of other ways to dispose of those unused and unwanted electrical
items that are tucked away in our drawers and cupboards.
Electricals that are in good working order can be donated to selected branches
of Cancer Research UK, Oxfam and British Heart Foundation. However, the British
Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK are two of a number of charities that
conduct or fund medical test on animals, according to Animal Aid.(7)
The Furniture Reuse Network
has an interactive map which will find your nearest re-use charity, and many
of these will take electrical goods.
There is also the option of donating them to someone else through sites such
Did you know?
Three out of every four of us have at least one old or unused electrical item
in our home which could be recycled to help save precious resources.(8) Many
of these items contain plastics and metals that can be recycled to make new
products. For example, just one toaster can provide enough steel to make 25
1 How to live a low carbon life Chris Goodall (Earthscan 2010)
2 Go make a difference over 500 daily ways to save the planet (Think
3 How bad are bananas? - the carbon footprint of everything: Mike Berners-Lee
(Profile Books 2010)
4 Which? April 2010
5 The Guardian - 7th March 2008
6 Ms Harriss Book of Green Household Management Caroline Harris
(John Murray, 2009)
7 Health Charities and Animal Testing Animal Aid website www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/CAMPAIGNS/experiments//281//
8 Recycle Now website www.recyclenow.com
Supply chain policies
A poor showing as per usual for the electrical equipment industry. Manufacture
in the Far East is the norm and many of the bigger companies in this report
(Siemens, Philips and Panasonic) have been criticised for using subcontractors
there that have abused workers rights. For example, the following problems
were detected at a Philips supplier factory in China:
Workers were not always allowed to resign unless the company were able
to recruit new employees.
Wages were low and, after deductions for meals and dormitory fees, were
often below the stipulated minimum wage. Even 50 hours of monthly overtime was
not always enough to bring in enough money to cover daily expenditures.
The factory had a union, but according to interviewed workers it often
favoured the managements interest.
Some workers mentioned compulsory overtime.
Others complained that they sometimes had to stand for an entire 11 hours
shift, and as a result of high productivity quotas, found it difficult to get
pauses for short rests.
In addition wages were found to be docked even for minor offences.(3)
Although none of the top scorers in this report have been name checked in any
critical reports, they are likely to be using subcontractors with similar problems.
And if they dont even have a supply chain policy, there is no evidence
that this is even a concern for them.
None of the top overall scorers had a policy or, in most cases, any mention
at all of workers rights at supplier companies. Because we find this unacceptable,
we have recommended companies lower down in the tables in our Best Buys.
Home Retail Group (Argos and Cookworks) and John Lewis just miss getting our
best rating for supply chain policy because of their lack of detail about independent
Bialetti did not have a formal supply chain policy but did state that its coffee
makers were made in Italy.
The failure of the better scoring companies to have adequate supply chain policies
means that none of the companies are currently eligible for our Best Buy label.
Only ECO Kettle and Philips get our best rating for environmental reporting.
Of the rest of the companies, it is the big players and poor overall scorers
that do best and get a middle rating John Lewis, Bosch/Siemens, Procter
& Gamble, Home Retail and Panasonic.
Animal rights group Uncaged lead a global consumer boycott of Procter &
Gamble in protest at their continued use of animals in cruel and deadly toxicity
tests for the sake of cosmetics and cleaning products. The full list of P&G
brands to boycott appears at www.uncaged.co.uk/pgproducts.htm. See also our
Boycotts News page for details of an Uncaged campaign against P&G sponsoring
the London Olympics in 2012.
Rutland Partners, a UK private equity firm, owns the small domestic appliance
brands which include Breville, Hinari, Bush and Dirt Devil. It says that its
products are manufactured by third party suppliers in the Far East but there
was no mention of a supply chain policy for workers rights.
German companies Bosch and Siemens have a joint venture for domestic appliances.
Robert Bosch is owned by a charitable foundation. Siemens constructs all sorts
of power plants including nuclear and fossil fuel fired ones.2 There is a boycott
of Siemens for supplying oil company Total with gas turbines in Burma.1
Japanese company Panasonic supplies meters and monitoring equipment to the
nuclear industry. It came 6th out of 18 in Greenpeaces latest ranking
of electronics companies policies on toxics, recycling and climate change.
It also appears in the Solar Panels report in this issue.
Since the introduction of the ECO Kettle, Product Creation Ltd has concentrated
on the design of energy saving products for the home. However, their website
stated that the companys ECO Kettle was manufactured in China the
very best in European design together with the economic benefits of manufacturing
in China. We could not find any mention of safeguarding workers
rights at supplier companies.
The BODUM Group is a 100% family-owned business based in Switzerland. Today,
it is owned by the daughter and son of the founder Peter Bodum and produces
coffee presses (aka cafetières), teapots and electric kettles.
The Italian company Bialetti has production plants in Italy, India, Turkey
and Romania. It says its coffee makers are made in Italy where it manufactures
the iconic Moka Express stove top espresso maker which was invented in 1933.
It has patented a sound system for its Moka and Dama models which warns you
when the coffee is ready.
Silampos is a Portuguese company which owns the UK Judge and Stellar brands
which are all stainless steel and come with a 25 year and lifetime guarantee
La Cafetière is owned by the Welsh Greenfield Group which also owns
a company that makes explosion prevention systems for industries such as oil,
gas and petrochemicals hence its Climate Change mark. La Cafetière
distributes Bialetti products in the UK.
US company Spectrum Brands not only owns Russell Hobbs but also Rayovac and
Varta batteries, Remington shavers and several pet food companies.
1 Burma Campaign Dirty List July 2010
2 Hoovers website May 2009
3 SOMO report - Philips Electronics. Overview of controversial business
practices in 2008