The Energy Information Administration says that home appliances produce the third largest energy expenditure in the home, representing about 9% of the typical energy bill. Only heating and cooling, and water heating use more energy. Specifically, refrigerators and clothes dryers have the highest operating costs per year.
Here’s what uses the most energy in your home:
Cooling and heating: 47% of energy use
Water heater: 14% of energy use
Washer and dryer: 13% of energy use
Lighting: 12% of energy use
Refrigerator: 4% of energy use
Electric oven: 3-4% of energy use
TV, DVD, cable box: 3% of energy use
Dishwasher: 2% of energy use
Computer: 1% of energy use
To decrease the amount of energy used in our homes, we can choose energy smart, Energy Star appliances and products. Energy Star is a voluntary program that promotes energy efficiency. It’s run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy. Energy Star helps us save money and the environment by encouraging energy efficiency within residential and commercial products. And the Energy Star label and website help consumers easily identify products that are more efficient than conventional, non-Energy Star models.
The federal government currently sets baseline efficiency standards for appliances for sale in the United States, and that means that none of the products on the market are “inefficient,” per se. But Energy Star appliances are the most efficient models on the market.
Because the average home appliance lasts for 10 to 20 years, choosing Energy Star certified appliances can give you significant savings over the life of each appliance. An Energy Star appliance will use anywhere from 10 to 50% less energy each year than similarly sized
non-Energy Star models.
While energy efficient appliances can cost more than less efficient appliances, Energy Star appliances and products can save you money in the long term by reducing your utility bills. So the price premium you pay for Energy Star appliances will be more than offset by your savings.
Energy Star tests for efficiency and performance, and provides consumers with unbiased, comparative information. And the testing and information allows you to compare apples to apples. For example, The Energy Star website has their efficiency information organized in a way that gives consumers the ability to compare refrigerators of different capacities, from compact fridges to oversized models. Plus the Energy Star site shows you how different
french door or side-by-side refrigerators compare to each other. You’ll see separate comparisons of gas dryers and electric dryers, and (commercial) gas and electric ranges in different sizes.
Now, I’m sure you realize this, but to be clear, not all models and brands will be included on the Energy Star website. Only appliances and products that have earned the Energy Star label can be found for comparison.
How Do Products Earn the Energy Star Label?
They meet the energy efficiency requirements set forth by the EPA, including that:
1. Products must contribute significant energy savings nationwide.
2. Products must deliver the features and performance demanded by consumers, in addition to increased energy efficiency.
3. If the certified product costs more than a conventional, less-efficient counterpart, purchasers will recover their investment in increased energy efficiency through utility bill savings, within a reasonable period of time.
4. Energy efficiency can be achieved through broadly available, non-proprietary technologies
5. Product energy consumption and performance can be measured and verified with testing.
6. Labeling would effectively differentiate Energy Star products and be visible for purchasers.
Now, let’s look at how much Energy Star appliances can save over conventional, non-certified appliances…
New Energy Star washing machines use 25% less energy and about 70-75% less water than old school agitator washers did 20 years ago, according to Energy Star. One statistic I read said that if you're not using an Energy Star certified clothes washer, you're wasting 6 gallons of water every time you wash.
And what about dryers? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a typical, non-Energy Star labeled dryer can consume as much energy per year as a new energy efficient refrigerator, washing machine, and dishwasher combined .
Energy Star certified dryers are about 20% more efficient than conventional, non-Energy Star dryers. Many Energy Star dryers have Advanced Moisture Sensing technology that can sense the need of each load and adjust the drying times accordingly, stopping automatically, the minute your clothes are dry. This way, you’ll significantly reduce drying time, and avoid extra long, heat- and energy-wasting drying cycles. If that’s not enough, with less time in excessive, potentially damaging heat, your clothes will stay in top condition for much longer.
Moving on to refrigerators. Thanks to recent improvements in insulation and compressors, today's refrigerators use much less energy than older models did. Energy Star certified refrigerators and freezers use about 10% less energy than the minimum federal efficiency standards of other models.
Take note that refrigerator-freezers with total refrigerated volume exceeding 39 cubic feet are not eligible for Energy Star certification. And wine refrigerators and other products that do not meet the definition of an electric refrigerator or electric refrigerator-freezer are not eligible for the Energy Star label.
Dishwashers may not use as much power as a constantly-running refrigerator or a high-heat clothes dryer, but the electricity and water needed to run a dishwasher cycle can add up. Energy Star certified dishwashers are about 12% more energy efficient than the average dishwasher on the market.
Although there is a list of Energy Star labeled commercial ovens, unfortunately, Energy Star does not certify residential ovens or ranges. But to save energy and decrease environmental impact at home, choose brands that make other energy efficient appliances. And consider a dual door range— one with a large and a second small oven compartment. Having two separate oven compartments allows you to use just one section at a time, so you won’t need to heat up the large part of the oven just to bake something small. Alternatively, you can add a small toaster oven or convection oven to your kitchen to use when you need to heat up small dishes.
Take some time and peruse the Energy Star website and learn what brands and specific models in each category are the most energy efficient. Energy Star tests and gives energy usage information for refrigerators and freezers, washers and dryers, dishwashers, HVAC systems, windows and doors, electronics such as televisions and computers, ceiling fans, light fixtures and light bulbs, water heaters, and some miscellaneous items.
There is also a section where Energy Star lists, by category, the most energy efficient products of the year.
If you live in a smaller city like I do, be careful to make sure that certain energy star certified brands are sold and serviced in your area. Some of the most energy efficient products are European brands which cannot be found or serviced in some non-metropolitan areas. Although we definitely want efficient appliances, we also want to be able to get them readily repaired if necessary. So you may have to forgo purchasing the most energy efficient brand for an energy star model that is a little less efficient, but easily found in your area.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you learned as much as I did and I hope you'll join me next week for another episode/edition of Build Your House Yourself University -- BYHYU.