Appliances have come a long way since the era of adjusting antennas on tube televisions and struggling to set the time on the VCR. The dark and dismal days of only being able to toast two pieces of bread at once are but a distant memory. Today’s appliances are not only more convenient, they’re also more energy-efficient than ever. Keep these tips in mind to help you lower your monthly energy costs when using or purchasing major appliances.

Saving on Refrigerator Energy Costs

Besides being a unique canvas to display childhood macaroni art, the refrigerator is the single biggest power consumer in most households. Consider these tips if you’re trying to lower your current energy costs or if you’re in the market for a new refrigerator.

  • The temperature of your fridge is a vital factor in its energy consumption, so make sure your refrigerator isn’t running a fever. To test your refrigerator’s “chill factor,” place a thermometer in a jar of water and leave it in your refrigerator or freezer overnight. In the morning, the water temperature in your refrigerator should read between 33 and 40 degrees and between 0 and 5 degrees in your freezer. If the temperature is too warm, check your control settings or determine if service is needed. (Note, these tips are measured in Fahrenheit.)
  • Planning tomorrow’s meal? Defrost your food by putting it in the refrigerator the night before you want to use it. The frozen item will cool the refrigerator and reduce its power consumption.
  • Refrigerators are not fans of hot air and should be placed away from heat sources like stoves, vents, and similar major appliances. The hotter the fridge gets, the more energy it will consume to keep itself cool.
  • Vacuum the coils in the back of your refrigerator every couple of months to maximize energy efficiency, just make sure the unit is unplugged first.
  • Looking to buy a new refrigerator and save (yes, that is possible)? Look for the ENERGY STAR label when buying a new refrigerator. ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency. In order to earn the label, ENERGY STAR products must be third-party certified based on testing in EPA-recognized laboratories. Also, refrigerators under 25 cubic feet should meet the needs of most family households and purchasing a larger size could result in wasted energy.
  • If you’re tempted to buy the refrigerator with the most gadgets, remember “more features = more money.” Refrigerators with conveniences like icemakers and water dispensers, while helpful, do use more energy.

Before purchasing a new one, take advantage of a free refrigerator calculator to estimate how much you’ll save by replacing your old one.

Washer and Dryer Energy Saving Tips

A second culprit of high energy consumption is your washer and dryer. If you’ve decided it’s time to clean house of energy wasting habits, try these tips.

  • Dry multiple loads in row. Dryers use energy to warm up to drying temperature, so once yours is warm, take full advantage by drying as many loads as you can.
  • The faster the spin cycle you select, the less time your clothes will need to be in the dryer. If you have the option, choose a faster spin cycle.
  • Do you know what type of water your washer uses? Call your water utility company and ask them how “hard” or “soft” your water is. You may be using up to six times more laundry detergent than you need. Your appliance manual will tell you how much you need for your water type.
  • ENERGY STAR washers use eight gallons of water less than standard machines per load, saving an average of 27,000 gallons over the machine’s lifetime.
  • Buying a new dryer? Look for a model that comes with a sensor that automatically stops the dryer when the clothes are dry.
  • Choose a 'perma press' cycle. No heat is supplied in the last few minutes, but drying continues as cool air is blown through the tumbling clothes.
  • Don’t let lint build up. To check the efficiency of your lint screen, pull out the filter and run it under hot water in the sink. If the water pools up on the filter, then you need to replace it.                        

Save On Stove Energy Costs

Don’t get burned by a stove when it comes to energy costs. Reducing energy waste from your stove is easy as pie if you follow a few simple tips:

  • Use the burner that is the closest match to the pot size. Heat is lost and energy is wasted if the burner is larger than the pot.
  • Trap the heat. Use lids on pots and pans so you can cook at lower settings.
  • After baking in the winter, leave the oven door open to allow the warm air to heat up your home.
  • Avoid opening the oven door while baking. Every time the door is opened, approximately 20% of the inside heat is lost. Instead, try using the oven light to monitor your meal.
  • Turn the oven off a few minutes before food is ready and let the oven’s heat finish the job.
  • Microwaves are small and powerful. They use only 33% - 50% as much energy as conventional stoves.

Whenever you’re looking to purchase a new appliance, keep these general energy and money saving tips in mind:

  • Measure the space the appliance will occupy to be sure your new purchase will fit. Check that there's enough room for proper ventilation.
  • Read the EnergyGuide label. It states the estimated annual energy consumption of the appliance. This information can help you compare the efficiency or annual energy use of similar models.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR logo. Appliances with this logo are more energy-efficient than the average model.

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