Renting a place where your landlord doesn’t supply major appliances? The reasons to buy energy efficient home appliances just keep getting more convincing. Not only are they better for the environment, they will probably be better for your wallet. Although their initial cost may be higher, energy efficient appliances can pay for themselves in what you save in electricity, water and heating bills. Look for appliances that have earned the Energy Star qualification. These meet strict energy efficiency requirements set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Energy. Before making a new purchase, consider resource efficient options for some of these common appliances.
1. Washing Machines: Washers can waste a considerable amount of energy and water. Resource-efficient washers use tubs that do not need to fill completely, reducing the amount of water used. These models also have faster spin cycles than conventional models, reducing the remaining moisture in your clothes. This means clothes need to spend less time in the dryer, reducing energy use. Familiar brands such as Whirlpool and Kenmore sell energy efficient models in both retail stores and online. Eurotech, a newer brand that makes several of the most efficient washer/dryers and dishwashers, lists independent distributors on its website.
2. Dryers: While energy usage of washers varies widely, there is much less variability for dryers. The EnergyGuide label, which shows the amount of energy used by an appliance, is required for washers but not dryers. The most efficient dryers have a moisture sensor option that allows the machine to sense when clothes are dry and automatically turn off. Of course, using a washer with an effective spin cycle will reduce the amount of time your clothes spend in the dryer in the first place. If you have a backyard or large porch, try drying your clothes on a line whenever possible to save the most energy of all.
3. Dishwashers: The most efficient dishwashers on the market were made after 1994. Efficient models use less water; this also cuts down on energy usage because a dishwasher uses most of its energy to heat the water. Many newer models come with soil-sensors that automatically adjust water use depending on how dirty the dishes are. Energy efficient dishwashers are made by companies such as GE and Frigidaire and can be found at national chains such as PC Richard & Son and Best Buy. To further cut down on your dishwasher’s energy use, run it with full loads and use the air-dry option, rather than the heat-dry option.
4. Refrigerators: Like energy efficient dishwashers, efficient refrigerators are newer models. If you are planning to replace your fridge, send your old, inefficient model to be recycled rather than keeping it in the basement as a backup. Again, the most efficient refrigerators carry the Energy Star label and can be found at most major suppliers, including Home Depot.
5. Heating and Air Conditioners: Heating and cooling systems likely use the bulk of your household’s energy. If you rely on seasonal air conditioners that are placed in the window, you can buy efficient models at most appliance stores; they will carry an Energy Star rating. Newer air conditioners typically use 10% less energy than older models.
If you are buying an apartment and are considering installing central heat and air conditioning, efficient appliances will help cut your energy bill. Equipment maintenance and making sure ducts and windows are properly sealed will also help. Clean your system’s air filters regularly because a dirty filter will slow your system and use more energy to maintain airflow. If you work outside of your home or travel often, programmable thermostats can help you reduce energy use when you aren’t home. If you plan to install central air conditioning or a new furnace, you may be eligible for a tax credit if you install an energy efficient unit. Visit Energy Tax Incentives for more information.
6. Lighting: Typical household light bulbs are incandescent lamps. According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, only 10% of the energy they use produces light; the rest produces heat. These bulbs can make your air conditioner work harder in the summer. Newer compact fluorescent lamps use much less energy and last up to 10 times longer than conventional bulbs. Fluorescent lamps are popping up in national chains such as CVS and Rite Aid. Wal-Mart recently announced that it is offering these bulbs at all of its stores. Fluorescent bulbs have received some resistance from the general public because they are several times more expensive than conventional light bulbs. However, they will pay for themselves and actually save you money in the course of their lifetime. While some complain that the quality of the light they give is not as pleasing as that of incandescent bulbs, recent adjustments have improved the visual quality of the fluorescent bulbs considerably. Look for the unusual spiral-shaped bulbs at your local drugstore or grocery store.
And what to do with the old appliance? Consider donating it to Salvation Army or a local non-profit. They’ll usually pick it up, you may get a tax write-off (if you itemize), and best of all, you feel good about helping someone in need!