Major Appliances: Tips for Choosing Green, Using Green

choosing green appliances

photo credit: axeldeviaje

We all know that major appliances use the majority of the power consumed in our homes. According to U.S. Department of Energy figures, the refrigerator accounts for 15% energy use in the average home, the water heater uses about 10% and an electric dryer can eat up 7%.

These number represent an opportunity to cut down on energy costs. It takes two steps to do this. First, make energy-conscious choices when choosing green appliances. Secondly, once they are installed, be energy-wise about how you use them.


How to Choose Ecofriendly Appliances

These tips will guide you in the selection of major appliances that use less energy and reduce the carbon footprint of your home.

Tip #1: Choose Gas over Electric

Electric dryers and electric water heaters are extremely energy-inefficient. Electric ranges aren’t much better. When replacing any of these appliances, always select an efficient gas model. The unit will cost a bit more, and may cost more to install if gas pipe and vent aren’t in place. However, they will dramatically cut your energy use and will cost less to operate as an added benefit.

Tip #2: Don’t Buy Too Big

Large-capacity refrigerators, clothes washers, dryers, ovens and dishwashers are very popular. They can help you cut down on energy use, but only if they are used at full capacity. Running a 4.3 cubic foot clothes washer and a 7.4 cubic foot dryer when they are half full creates significant energy waste. If you keep up with laundry through the week, then you probably don’t need a large-capacity set of appliances. If you’ve got a big pile of laundry on the weekend, and are willing to combine loads, then a large-capacity model is the right choice.

The refrigerator is similar. Purchase the smallest refrigerator you can get by with. If you currently have a 28-cubic foot model, is it always full? Are there things in it like extra bottles of drinking water or soda that could be stored in the pantry? Does food go bad on you because you forget about it in the back or tucked in a drawer? If you answered “yes” to these questions, your refrigerator is too big! When you replace it, choose a smaller model, and then keep it full. A full refrigerator stays cold more easily than one with empty spaces.

As for the water heater, consider a tankless gas water heater to serve your entire home. You’ll reduce costs and carbon emissions when compared to a any storage water heater, gas or electric.

Tip #3: Go Beyond Energy Star Ratings

Considering only Energy Star appliances is a good place to start. But some qualified appliances are more efficient than others. First, compare Energy Guide labels on models you are researching. They state the number of kilowatt hours per year (kWh) the unit is expected to use. Another helpful rating is the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) rating. It rates appliances Tier I, II or III which you may see as 1, 2 or 3. The higher the rating, the more energy-efficient the unit is. Energy Star models may be Tier I, II or III, so it’s a more exact rating of efficiency.


Tips for Green Use of Appliances

There are several things you can do to use your appliances in an ecofriendly way. We’ve already mentioned running full loads. Here are a few more.

Tip #1: Only Use One Refrigerator

A wine cooler is a very nice accessory in the kitchen. A mini fridge is convenient in the basement or the man cave. But since they aren’t necessities, both use energy that doesn’t need to be consumed. Buy a good cooler and use that when entertaining. Keep a nice variety of wines in the refrigerator, and store the rest of the bottles elsewhere. In cold months, let things cool naturally outside or in the garage.

Tip #2: Reduce Dryer Use

Energy Star doesn’t even bother rating dryers, gas or electric. They simply devour too much energy. Instead, dry clothes the old-fashioned way. Use racks and lines. For towels and other things you want soft, wait until they are nearly-dry and throw them in the dryer with a softening sheet. Following this tip can reduce dryer energy costs by $85 a year.

Tip #3: Use the Microwave Wisely

Do reheat small amounts of food in the microwave instead of turning on the oven to do the job. Don’t use microwave for thawing foods. A more energy-efficient manner is to plan ahead, and to thaw food in the refrigerator.

These tips will help you shrink the energy pie in your home. The refrigerator might still use 15% of the energy your home consumes, but if you are practicing similar principles in choosing and using HVAC equipment, lighting and building materials, the overall electric pie will be significantly smaller. You’ll save money while doing your part to achieve a greener, healthier planet. For other tips on how to reduce your energy use on your appliances check out the site Appliance Aficionados here.

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