29 April 2008

Ich Liebe Liebherr!

My brand loyalty to Sub Zero refrigerators is under attack again, and this time it's from a Swiss Company called Liebherr. Liebherr has been in the refrigeration business for 50 years and showed up on my radar about three years ago. I think they've been in the US for about the last ten years and based on what I've seen of their increased efforts to tap into the US market, they are planning to stay around for a while.

Like Sub Zero, Liebherr uses dual compressors (that's a separate motor and cooling system for the refrigeration side and the freezer side). Dual compressors make for a more efficient use of electricity and better temperature control. Better temperature control equals longer-lasting food.

Liebherr is also onto something that caught my eye in their latest product bulletin an they call it their "Active Green Initiative." Active Green means that Liebherr goes above and beyond the call of EPA regulation in the manufacture of their appliances and most notably to me, they comply with something called the RoHS. From their website:
The second key element of ActiveGreen is Liebherr’s RoHS compliance. As of summer of 2007, all Liebherr appliances in North America met RoHS compliance making Liebherr the FIRST refrigeration manufacturer to comply with this practise worldwide. RoHS stands for the “Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment” and eliminates the use of major hazardous substances in the production of Liebherr products such as lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd) and certain types of chrome and biphenyl.

The RoHS is a directive adopted and phased into practice in the European Union in 2006. With the coming change in US administrations, look for something similar to start showing up in the US. But in the meantime, the EU has presented a pretty noble goal in reducing the amount of toxic substances that show up in households.

For the life of me, I will never understand why people have such a cavalier attitude about bad news elements such as lead or mercury in their appliances. Lead shows up in Chinese-made children's toys and people freak out and demand Congressional action. Yet at the same time, these same peoples' US-made refrigerators and dishwashers are awash in the same levels of lead, mercury and cadmium.

Anyhow, a Liebherr refrigerator will set you back anywhere from five to ten thousand dollars, placing firmly in the luxury appliance market. So for the time being unfortunately; lead-, cadmium-, mercury- and hexavalent chromium-free refrigerators aren't available to the middle and lower ends of the market. But as is always the case, upper end innovation works its way down the market until it becomes a standard. I wish it would hurry up.

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