You may think that sticking with your ancient home appliances is the thrifty thing to do – but their inefficiency is actually costing you. If you’re looking to save money on utility bills, energy-efficient appliance upgrades are in order. New appliance technologies help you do more with less — a great help for tighter household budgets. Refrigerators now operate on less energy than it takes to power a 75-watt light bulb, dishwashers deep-clean with less water, and clothes washers likewise can get the job done with less electricity and water.
Let the Energy Star be your guide to efficient solutions as you select appliance upgrades. Detailed Energy Star labeling provides information on how much energy a given model consumes, and you can also reap rewards through the local utility rebates and tax credits that may accompany some purchases. Here’s an overview of what to look for in green appliances, and how to use them to best effect.
- Dishwashers: If you thought you were going the eco-friendly route by hand washing dishes, you thought wrong: An Energy Star-labeled dishwasher saves nearly 5,000 gallons of water and more than $40 a year over washing the old-fashioned way. As you review dishwashers, pay attention to each model’s capacity and cycle options to select the right washer for your household’s typical dirty-dish volume. Also remember to run full loads for better efficiency and to select the no-heat drying option for good results on less energy.
- Refrigerators: Better insulation and more efficient compressors help today’s refrigerators keep food fresh for less. An Energy Star refrigerator uses 20 percent less electricity than other models and trims $165 from your energy bills over its lifetime. Still, the larger the refrigerator, the more energy consumed, so try to make a purchase in the range of 16 to 20 cubic feet. Refrigerators with bottom-mount or side-by-side freezers use 10 to 25 percent more energy than top-mounted models, and fancy extras like ice-makers and through-the-door dispensers both cost more and eat up energy.
- Freezers: If you must have extra food storage, choose wisely. Energy Star freezers use 10 percent less electricity and trim around $70 from annual energy costs, and a chest freezer is an especially good choice since it allows less cold air to escape every time it’s opened. To save even more energy, follow these tips: Get a freezer with manual defrost, defrost it regularly, keep the temperature at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, maintain door seals, and leave a few inches between the freezer and neighboring surfaces for proper air circulation around the unit.
- Clothes washers: If your family is like most, you’re running 400 loads of laundry every year, which can exhaust both you and your utility budget. A more efficient washer saves the day, cutting energy costs by about a third and water costs by over half for around $135 a year in overall utility savings. When selecting an Energy Star clothes washer to purchase, consider your household’s typical laundry loads for additional efficiency, and look for both a high Modified Energy Factor (MEF) and low Water Factor (WF) to get the most out of less. Front-loading washers use less water than top-loaders with central agitators, and high spin speeds extract more water from clothes for less dryer time. Speaking of dryers, they aren’t currently rated by Energy Star (not much variance in energy use among models), but you can reduce their energy consumption by using the moisture sensor option to avoid over-drying loads, and cleaning the lint filter regularly for improved air circulation and safety.
It’s worth mentioning that some of these high-efficiency appliances require high-efficiency detergents, often in smaller amounts per load of clothes than you’re used to. This may seem like just another marketing ploy, but such products really help a machine do its best work. Get the results and savings you expect by following manufacturer instructions for installation and operation to the letter. The savings you earn in return will be well worth the adjustment to your usual laundry routine.
Energy Star labeling makes it much easier to shop for major home appliances that will help you save on utility bills while also doing your part for the environment. Energy-efficient appliances can also be a major selling point when it comes time to put your home on the market, since buyers will appreciate the opportunity to partake in those same savings.