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Building America house in Longmont, CONearly one in five typical energy dollars pay to run appliances. The ongoing energy cost is like a hidden cost of a new appliance - or a new television set, for that matter. That's why it's important to compare energy use when you shop for appliances. Even if you spend a little more to buy highly efficient appliances, the money you save on energy will put that cash back in your pocket before the product wears out.

Photo Courtesy of DOE/NREL, Building America house in Longmont, CO

Some of the benefits of efficient appliances include:

Energy Savings
According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy or ACEEE (, a typical new refrigerator with automatic defrost and a top-mounted freezer uses about half the energy used by a typical 1990 refrigerator. The ACEEE's website offers tips on buying a new refrigerator, along with other appliances,and saving energy on the ones you have.

Many rebates are available now for buying efficient appliances and you can find them here (

Increased Home Value
Having updated, efficient appliances such as dishwashers and built-in microwaves are a key selling-point. As energy costs rise, this return on investment grows.

By reducing the amount of energy your appliances use each month, you will reduce your home's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

Tips for buying and using new appliances


An Energy Star-labeled refrigeratorRefrigerators are the biggest energy users of all typical household appliances. Old refrigerators plugged in to a garage outlet storing a few beers can suck a lot of money out of your pocket each month.

ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerators require about half as much energy as older models.  Efficient models use high efficiency compressors, improved insulation, and more precise temperature and defrost mechanisms to improve energy efficiency.  Calculate the savings by retiring your old refrigerator and upgrading to an ENERGY STAR model (


ENERGY STAR qualified freezer models use at least 10 percent less energy than required by current federal standards. Qualified freezer models are available in three configurations:

Photo Courtesy of DOE/NREL, An Energy Star-labeled refrigerator

  • Upright freezers with automatic defrost
  • Upright freezers with manual defrost
  • Chest freezers (only available with manual defrost)

Ways to reduce the energy your freezer or refrigerator uses:

  • Position your refrigerator away from a heat source such as an oven, a dishwasher, or direct sunlight from a window.
  • To allow air to circulate around the condenser coils, leave a space between the wall or cabinets and the refrigerator or freezer and keep the coils clean.
  • Make sure the door seals are airtight.
  • Keep your refrigerator between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Minimize the amount of time the refrigerator door is open.
  • Recycle older or second refrigerators, rather than reselling them or putting them in the garage.


An Energy Star-labeled dishwasherENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers use at least 10 percent less energy than the federal minimum standard for energy consumption, and use much less water. Dishwashers made before 1994 are likely costing you an extra $40 a year to run.

Ways to reduce your dishwasher's energy use:

  • 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 using the heat-dry, rinse-hold and pre-rinse features. Instead use your dishwasher's air-dry option. If your dishwasher does not have an air-dry option, prop the door open after the final rinse to dry the dishes.

Photo Courtesy of DOE/NREL, An Energy Star-labeled dishwasher

Room Air Conditioners.

ENERGY STAR qualified room air conditioners use at least 10% less energy than conventional models. Many people buy an air conditioner that is too large. ENERGY STAR suggests making sure your unit is properly sized (

Clothes Washers.

  • Appliances to wash and dry your clothes use more energy than any home appliance except the refrigerator.
  • Compared to a model that is more than 10 years old, an ENERGY STAR qualified clothes washer can save about $135 per year on utility bills. Clothes washers qualified as ENERGY STAR must use about 37 percent less energy and about 50 percent less water than standard models. 
  • You can download a list of qualified equipment from the ENERGY STAR website. (

Clothes Dryers.

  • Use the moisture sensor option on your dryer, which automatically shuts off the machine when the clothes are dry.
  • 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.
  • Air dry clothes whenever possible. You can hang them up in the sun like our grandmothers did and get the benefits of a fresh air smell along with energy savings. Home improvement stores sell new designs for wooden and metal racks that make air drying clothing a snap!

Photo Courtesy of DOE/NREL, An Energy Star-labeled washer and dryer


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