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Refrigerators

Fast & Easy Info

Appliances account for about 20% of your household's energy consumption. Refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, and stoves/ovens use the most energy of any appliances in the house.

When you buy an appliance, remember: it has two price tags - what you pay to take it home, and what you pay for the energy and water it uses.

ENERGY STAR qualified appliances use 10-50% less energy and water than standard models; the money you save on your utility bills can more than make up for the cost of a more expensive but more efficient ENERGY STAR model.

 
   

Dollars & Sense Options

 
Refrigerators

Refrigerators & Freezers

ENERGY STAR refrigerators use at least 15% less energy than standard models.

  • Refrigerators with freezers on top are more efficient than those with freezers on the side.
  • Look for heavy door hinges that create a good door seal.
  • Keep the refrigerator compartment set between 38 and 42 degrees F, the freezer about 0 degrees to 5 degrees.
  • Periodically clean condenser coils on the back of your refrigerator to improve overall efficiency.

Dishwashers

ENERGY STAR dishwashers use at least 25% less energy than standard models. You can save around $100 over the life of the dishwasher if it's an Energy Star model.

  • Run your dishwasher with a full load. Most of the energy used by a dishwasher goes to heat water. Since you can't decrease the amount of water used per cycle, fill your dishwasher to get the most from the energy used to run it.
  • Avoid the heat-dry, rinse-hold, and pre-rinse features. Instead use your dishwasher's air-dry option, or prop the door open after the final rinse to dry the dishes.
  • Install your dishwasher away from the refrigerator or freezer. Dishwashers produce moisture and heat, which will make your refrigerator or freezer use more energy.

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Clothes Washers

ENERGY STAR clothes washers use less than 50% of the energy used by standard washers.

  • Look for these specific design features that help clothes washers cut water usage: varying water level controls, "suds-saver" options, spin cycle adjustments (which extract more water from the clothes to minimize drying time), and the capacity to wash large loads.
  • Wash full loads to save water and energy on every load you wash.
  • Use cold water for washing and rinsing to reduce your hot water heating needs.

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Clothes Dryers

ENERGY STAR does not label clothes dryers because most dryers use similar amounts of energy. You can save the most energy by using a gas dryer, rather than an electric model.

  • Use the moisture sensor option on your dryer, which automatically shuts off the machine when the clothes are dry. A moisture sensor typically cuts energy use by about 10 to 15%.
  • If your clothes washer has spin options, choose a high spin speed or extended spin option to reduce the amount of remaining moisture, thus starting the drying process before you put your clothes in the dryer.
  • Dry only full loads, but don't overload the machine. Separating loads into heavy and light items will also help save drying time.
  • Dry loads consecutively to take advantage of the built-up heat.
  • Don't overdry clothes. In fact, remove clothes when they are slightly damp and hand press or hang up to minimize wrinkling and ironing needs.
  • Use a "solar" clothes dryer - hang your clothes on a clothesline to dry outside and save 100% of the energy you would use in any other kind of dryer. For small loads of laundry, use an indoor drying rack.

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Gas Stoves, Electric Ranges

Electric stoves use less energy than those fueled by gas but usually cost more to operate due to the high cost of electricity. Stoves that rely on natural gas have an added benefit: natural gas emits only half the carbon of coal, none of the sulfur, and less nitrogen. Using a gas stove instead of one powered by coal-fired electricity does not add significantly to global warming.

Another option: induction cooktops. Induction cooking uses 90% of the energy produced compared to only 40% for a gas burner and 50% for traditional electric ranges. Induction cooking is based on magnetic fields: each 'element' or induction coil generates a magnetic field that induces heat into steel cookware placed on top of it. Induction cooktops have the same instant control as gas and are the fastest of all cooktop types to heat and cook food. For more information, see induction cooktops .

Microwave Ovens, Toaster Ovens, Slow-Cook Crockpots

  • These are additional energy-saving options, especially when cooking or reheating small- to medium-sized meals and for defrosting. A microwave oven will use between one-fifth and one-half less energy than a conventional oven.

ENERGY COSTS OF VARIOUS COOKING METHODS

Appliance Temp. Time Energy Cost
Electric oven 350 F 1 hr 2.0 kWh 16c
Convection oven (elec) 325 F 45 min 1.39 kWh 11c
Gas oven 350 F 1 hr 1.12 kWh 7c
Frying pan 420 F 1 hr .9 kWh 7c
Toaster oven 425 F 50 min .95 kWh 6c
Crockpot 200 F 7 hr .7 kWh 6c
Microwave oven "High" 15 min .36 kWh 3c
* Source: Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings 

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For Your Shopping List:

Look for the EnergyGuide Label

The EnergyGuide label developed by the U.S. Dept. of Energy gives you two important pieces of information you can use to compare different brands and models when shopping for a new appliance:

•  Estimated energy consumption on a scale showing a range for similar models

•  Estimated yearly operating cost based on the national average cost of electricity.

When buying an appliance, look for how much electricity, in kWh, the appliance will use in one year. The smaller the number, the less energy it uses.

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In My House

I use gas appliances as much as possible. That goes for my oven and range, clothes dryer, and the way I heat my house. When I replaced my clothes washer five years ago, I bought a water- and energy-saving front-loader. Given the four active people (plus dog, cats, and out-of-town guests) that generate laundry here, I needed it. When I replaced my range last year, I got a gas oven that has a convection option on it (I don't have room in my kitchen for two ovens). Using the convection feature saves me time and money, since it's quicker cooking with convection heat. Convection heat also seems to do a better job baking cookies!

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What Else?

One thing I should have done with my new appliances is bought extended warranties on them. Their parts don't wear out that fast, but the computers running them seem to. This probably has less to do with their energy-efficiency than with the state of developing technology. I've had the computer panel replaced on the washer, and the dryer needs it soon. It would have been cheaper to get an extended warranty that covered all repairs on the lifetime of the appliance.

Buy energy efficient appliances here.

If you want more info on energy-efficient appliances, see:

Save Our Planet: 750 Everyday Ways You Can Help Clean Up the Earth - Diane's book has dozens of tips on ways to save energy and money at home.  
Save Our Planet
Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings - Listings of the most efficient products you can buy, prepared by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy  
Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings

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