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If you live in a typical U.S. home, your appliances are responsible for about 20% of your energy bills. Refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, dryers, dishwashers, and ranges and ovens are the primary energy-using appliances in most households. Taking steps to save energy while using these appliances, and replacing old inefficient appliances with modern ones, can save you money.
In the United States, all refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, and dishwashers are sold with yellow EnergyGuide labels to indicate their energy efficiency. These labels provide an estimated annual operating cost for the appliance, and also indicate the cost of operating the models with the highest annual operating cost and the lowest annual operating cost. By comparing a model's annual operating cost with the operating cost of the most efficient model, you can compare their efficiencies.
Another label to help you identify energy-efficient appliances is the ENERGY STAR® label. Promoted by DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the ENERGY STAR is only awarded to appliances that significantly exceed the minimum national efficiency standards.
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 is the cost of operating the appliance during its lifetime. You'll be paying on that second price tag every month with 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.
What's the Real Cost?
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 DOE as being the most energy-efficient products in their classes. They usually exceed minimum federal standards by a substantial amount. The appliance shopping guide lists some of the major appliances that carry the ENERGY STAR® label and provides helpful information on what to look for when shopping for an appliance.
To help you figure out whether an appliance is energy efficient, the federal government requires most appliances to display the bright yellow and black EnergyGuide 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.
How Much Electricity Do Appliances Use?
This chart shows how much energy a typical appliance uses per year and its corresponding cost based on national averages. For example, a refrigerator uses almost five times the electricity the average television uses.
Most of the energy used by a dishwasher is for water heating. The EnergyGuide 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.
Refrigerators with the freezer on top are more efficient than those with freezers on the side. The EnergyGuide 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 EnergyGuide 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 average 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. Keep in mind that gas dryers are less expensive to operate than electric dryers. The cost of drying a typical load of laundry in an electric dryer is 30 to 40 cents compared to 15 to 25 cents in a gas dryer.
Credits: US Department of Energy (http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumerinfo/saveenergy/save_appliances.html. http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumerinfo/energy_savers/appliances.html)