When you're shopping for appliances, you can think of two price tags. The first one covers the purchase price — think of it as a down payment. The second price tag is the cost of operating the appliance during its lifetime. You'll be paying on that second price tag every month with your utility bill for the next 10 to 20 years, depending on the appliance. Refrigerators last an average of 20 years; room air conditioners and dishwashers, about 10 years each; clothes washers, about 14 years.
When you do have to shop for a new appliance, look for the Energy Star label. Energy Star appliances have been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DOE as being the most energy-efficient products in their classes. They usually exceed minimum federal standards by a substantial amount.
To help you figure out whether an appliance is energy efficient, the federal government requires most appliances to display the bright yellow and black EnergyGuide label. Although these labels will not tell you which appliance is the most efficient, they will tell you the annual energy consumption and operating cost for each appliance so you can compare them yourself. Dishwashers Most of the energy used by a dishwasher is for water heating. The EnergyGuide label estimates how much power is needed per year to run the appliance and to heat the water based on the yearly cost of gas and electric water heating. When it is time to buy a new unit, look for the Energy Star label.
Refrigerators The EnergyGuide label on new refrigerators will tell you how much electricity in kilowatt-hours (kWh) a particular model uses in one year. The smaller the number, the less energy the refrigerator uses and the less it will cost you to operate. In addition to the EnergyGuide label, don't forget to look for the Energy Star label. A new refrigerator with an Energy Star label will save you between $35 and $70 a year compared to the models designed 15 years ago. This adds up to between $525 and $1,050 during the average 15-year life of the unit.
When you cook a pot of rice for 1 hour, you use 1000 watts of electricity! One thousand watts equals 1 kilowatt-hour, or 1 kWh. Your utility bill usually shows what you are charged for the kilowatt-hours you use. The average residential rate is 8.3 cents per kWh. A typical U.S. household consumes about 10,000 kWh per year, costing an average of $830 annually.
About 80 percent to 85 percent of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water. There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy used for washing clothes — use less water and use cooler water. Unless you're dealing with oily stains, the warm or cold water setting on your machine will generally do a good job of cleaning your clothes. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load's energy use in half.
When shopping for a new washer, look for a front loading (horizontal-axis) machine. This machine may cost more to buy but uses about a third of the energy and less water than a top-loading machine. With a front loader, you'll also save more on clothes drying, because they remove more water from your clothes during the spin cycle. Look for the Energy Star label.
When shopping for a new clothes dryer, look for one with a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the machine when your clothes are dry. Not only will this save energy, it will save wear and tear on your clothes caused by over-drying. Keep in mind that gas dryers are less expensive to operate than electric dryers. The cost of drying a typical load of laundry in an electric dryer is 30 to 40 cents compared to 15 to 25 cents in a gas dryer.