I don’t know about you, but I simply can’t afford to throw away appliances that are still working, in order to buy new energy-efficient models. There’s a fair bit of hype these days about how much energy old appliances guzzle that it’s hard to know if there really is any benefit to upgrading.
With this in mind, I decided to do some research to get to the true story; this article tells you what I found out so you can make your own informed decisions.
What The Numbers Say
According to the Energy Star people, the average US household uses 13% of its total energy bill on running appliances, of which about 8% is attributed to the refrigerator. To put this in perspective, appliances use more power than lighting but less than water heating. The appliances referred to are the big ones – clothes washers, clothes dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, room heaters and air-conditioners.
Seeing the refrigerator is the biggest energy user, let’s look at it first. The EPA suggests that a refrigerator manufactured prior to 1993 is using way more power than a more modern model. In fact, it could be using double the power of a newer one. The saving you make on your power bills could pay for the new appliance within five years, at average electricity prices. If you live in an area where energy costs are high, it will obviously take longer. The cost saving on your energy bill would be $40 to $100 a year with a new, energy efficient model. Of course, the other side of the equation is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions could be as high as 50%, which is wonderful news for the planet.
Energy Star’s figures are very similar to the EPA’s. Energy Star rated refrigerators use 40% less energy than the pre-1993 models and 15% less than a 2001 model. They also report that if you replaced all your big appliances with Energy Star Rated ones, your total power cost saving would be around the 5% mark. When the average energy bill amounts to over $1,900 a year, a 5% saving would be $95 – not to be sneezed at, I reckon.
Obviously, few people are going to trash every big appliance and go out and spend thousands of dollars on new ones just to save $95 a year. The message is, when you do need to replace an older model appliance, do your homework and buy smart.
The Ecological Effects
Another incentive from Energy Star is this little fact – if one in ten households changed all their appliances to Energy Star rated ones, the environmental effect would be the same as if 1.7 million trees were planted. That’s some environmental impact!
One last word on refrigerators – save more money and help the environment by turning off that second fridge. So many of us keep a second one going for drinks and extra food; it’s using extra power that we have to pay for, whether the refrigerator is needed or not. Also, in winter, when the air is colder anyway, turn the temperature of your refrigerator down a few degrees and save more off your bill. Experiment a bit to see where you can reduce the temperature to; you’ll be surprised at how much power this simple strategy can save.
Buying Smart and Saving Energy
Even though other large appliances don’t use the same amount of energy to operate, there are still ways you can reduce energy consumption in your home when using them. Maria Vargas from Energy Star says that it isn’t about throwing out all your old appliances unless they are more than 20 years old. She says the rating system was established to help consumers to make educated buying decisions, not to encourage people to throw out working appliances. The rating system also encourages people to think about how they use these appliances in their homes.
Obviously, the more you use these appliances, the more energy your household will consume, so limit their use by only doing full loads in clothes and dish washers. Use the most energy-efficient cycles to save power and water, which in turn saves you money.
Finding the Biggest Bang for Your Buck
Energy Star Rated appliances will cost more to buy, although the price difference seems to be narrowing as more people are seeking out the energy efficient models. The saving on your energy bills will pay for the price difference over a period of time and you will be helping the environment at the same time.
Look into any rebates that might be on offer when you buy your new energy rated appliance. These vary between cities but there is money to be claimed back in most cases. This helps to offset the price difference between an unrated and an energy efficient appliance. You need to weigh up the extra cost against the cost saving on your energy bills and decide whether the math works in your favor.
Hopefully this information will help you decide on your own strategy for going green and saving money with large household appliances. I’ve decided to junk my second refrigerator and not replace it; we now line dry our clothes, and are finding a new washing machine to replace my current 12 year-old model that’s starting to make strange noises anyway.
So, what kind of appliances do you have? Have you gone more energy efficient with your use?