Appliances account for about 20% of your household’s energy consumption, with refrigerators and clothes dryers at the top of the consumption list.
When you’re shopping for appliances, you can think of two price tags. The first one covers the purchase price—think of it as a down payment. The second price tag every month is your utility bill for the next 10 to 20 years, depending on the appliance. Refrigerators last an average of 20 years; room air conditioners and dishwashers, about 10 years each; clothes washers, about 14 years. Every appliance has two price tags a purchase price and the operating cost.
When you do have to shop for a new appliance, look for the ENERGY STAR ® label. ENERGY STAR ® appliances have been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and D.O.E. as being the most energy efficient products in their classes. They usually exceed minimum federal standards by a substantial amount.
To help you figure out whether an appliance is energy efficient, the federal government requires most appliances to display the bright yellow and black Energy Guide label. Although these labels will not tell you which appliance is the most efficient, they will tell you the annual energy consumption and operating cost for each appliance so you can compare them yourself.
Most of the energy used by a dishwasher is for water heating. The Energy Guide label estimates how much power is needed per year to run the appliance and to heat the water based on the yearly cost of gas and electric water heating. When it is time to buy a new unit look for the ENERGY STAR ® label.
The Energy Guide label on new refrigerators will tell you how much electricity in kilowatt-hours (kWh) a particular model uses in one year. The smaller the number, the less energy the refrigerator uses and the less it will cost you to operate. In addition to the Energy Guide label, don’t forget to look for the ENERGY STAR ® label. A new refrigerator with an ENERGY STAR ® label will save you between $35 and $70 a year compared to the models designed 15 years ago. This adds up to between $525 and $1,050 during the 15-year life of the unit.
About 80% to 85% of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water. There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy used for washing clothes—-use less water and use cooler water. Unless you’re dealing with oily stains, the warm or cold water setting on your machine will generally do a good job of cleaning your clothes. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load’s energy use in half.
When shopping for a new washer, look for an ENERGY STAR ® machine. These machines may cost more to buy but uses about a third of the energy and less water than typical machines. You’ll also save more on clothes drying, because most remove more water from your clothes during the spin cycle. Look for the ENERGY STAR ® label.
When shopping for a new clothes dryer, look for one with a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the machine when your clothes are dry. Not only will this save energy, it will save wear and tear on your clothes caused by over drying.