Appliances account for about 20% of your household’s energy consumption, with refrigerators and clothes dryers at the top of the consumption list.
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.
Most of the energy used by a dishwasher is for water heating. The Energy Guide 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.
Check the manual that came with your dishwasher for the manufacturer’s recommendations on water temperature; many have internal heating elements that allow you to set the water heater to a lower temperature.
Scrape, don’t rinse, off large food pieces and bones. Soaking or prewashing is generally only recommended in cases of burned on or dried on food.
Be sure your dishwasher is full, but not overloaded.
Don’t use the “rinse hold” on your machine for just a few soiled dishes. It uses 3 to 7 gallons of hot water each time you use it.
Let your dishes air dry; if you don’t have an automatic air dry switch, turn off the control knob after the final rinse and prop the door open a little so the dishes will dry faster.
Remember that dishwashers use less water than washing dishes by hand, about 6 gallons less per load; dishwashers also use hotter water than you would use if you were washing the dishes by hand, so they can do a better job of killing germs.
Refrigerators with the freezer on top are more efficient than those with freezers on the side.
The Energy Guide 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.
Refrigerator/Freezer Energy Tips
Look for a refrigerator with automatic moisture control. Models with this feature have been engineered to prevent moisture accumulation on the cabinet exterior without the addition of a heater. This is not the same thing as an “anti sweat” heater. Models with an anti sweat heater will consume 5% to 10% more energy than models without this feature.
Don’t keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold. Recommended temperatures are 37° to 40°F for the fresh food compartment of the refrigerator and 5°F for the freezer section. If you have a separate freezer for long term storage, it should be kept at 0°F.
To check refrigerator temperature, place an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator. Read it after 24 hours. To check the freezer temperature, place a thermometer between frozen packages. Read it after 24 hours.
Regularly defrost manual defrost refrigerators and freezers; frost build up increases the amount of energy needed to keep the motor running. Don’t allow frost to build up more than one quarter of an inch.
Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Test them by closing the door over a piece of paper or a dollar bill so it is half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the paper or bill out easily, the latch may need adjustment or the seal may need replacing.
Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.
Move your refrigerator out from the wall and vacuum its condenser coils once a year unless you have a no clean condenser model. Your refrigerator will run for shorter periods with clean coils.
Other Energy-Saving Kitchen Tips
Be sure to place the faucet lever on the kitchen sink in the cold position when using small amounts of water; placing the lever in the hot position uses energy to heat the water even though it never reaches the faucet.
If you need to purchase a gas oven or range, look for one with an automatic, electric ignition system. An electric ignition saves gas – typically 41% in the oven and 53% on the top burners – because a pilot light is not burning continuously.
In gas appliances, look for blue flames; yellow flames indicate the gas is burning inefficiently and an adjustment may be needed.
Keep range top burners and reflectors clean; they will reflect the heat better, and you will save energy.
Use a covered kettle or pan to boil water; it’s faster and it uses less energy.
Match the size of the pan to the heating element.
If you cook with electricity, turn the stovetop burners off several minutes before the allotted cooking time. The heating element will stay hot long enough to finish the cooking without using more electricity. The same principle applies to oven cooking.
Use small electric pans or toaster ovens for small meals rather than your large stove or oven. A toaster oven uses a third to half as much energy as a full-sized oven.
Use pressure cookers and microwave ovens whenever it is convenient to do so. They can save energy by significantly reducing cooking time.