Moving toward Energy-Efficient Appliances - dummies

Moving toward Energy-Efficient Appliances

By Eric Corey Freed

Upgrading your major appliances to those with a high Energy Star rating improves your carbon footprint, reduces your utility bills, and gets you to a greener lifestyle. The federal government rates appliances for energy efficiency, and buying the highest Energy Star–rated appliances you can find can save you a great deal of money. Appliances produced before 1990 are the least energy efficient — and may be on their last legs anyway — so replace them first.


If you have solar panels on your home, choose electric appliances. Otherwise, if you have access to natural gas, choose appliances that run on that. Gas is a cleaner alternative to traditional electricity.

The major appliances you may want to look at replacing are:

  • Refrigerator: New refrigerators consume 75 percent less energy than those produced in the late 1970s. Upgrading to a modern refrigerator can save you more than $100 a year on your utility bill.

    If possible, place the refrigerator away from direct sunlight and the oven to keep it from having to work that much harder to stay cool. Also, keep in mind that models that have the freezer above the fridge use 10 percent to 15 percent less energy than side-by-side models.

  • Clothes washer: Energy Star washers use half the energy of standard models, saving you about $110 a year. Also, front-loading washers use less water than top-loaders.

  • Clothes dryer: A $5 clothesline is free to operate and leaves your clothes smelling fresh. Save the dryer for rainy days and make sure it has as high an Energy Star rating as possible. Run the dryer only when it’s full. And because most of the energy a dryer consumes is used to create heat, it’s better to run it for a longer time at a lower heat setting.

  • Water heater: If your gas water heater is more than ten years old, it probably operates at less than 50 percent efficiency, and it’s time to replace it. Investing in an on-demand system costs you up front, but saves you money every day it doesn’t have to keep 30 or more gallons of water hot. If you’re sticking with a traditional water heater, choose a model with a timer so it only heats water when your family needs it. Be sure to insulate it with a heater wrap, which can save even more money on your energy bills.

Some states and local utility companies offer rebates for buying new Energy Star appliances. You can save hundreds of dollars off the purchase of that new refrigerator or washer!