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Appliances and Saving Energy

If you are looking for ways to cut your home energy use, do not overlook your appliances. They account for about 20 percent of your household energy use, with refrigerators and clothes dryers topping the consumption list.

When shopping for appliances, look for two price tags. The first one covers the purchase price. The second is the cost of operating the appliance during its lifetime. Remember, you will be paying on that second price tag every month for the next 10 to 20 years, depending on the life of the appliance, so it pays to do your research.

Here are some tips for selecting appliances and operating them to reduce your energy costs.

Refrigerators

Since refrigerators are the biggest energy users, it pays to pay special attention to them. The Energy Guide label on new refrigerators will tell you how much electricity a particular model uses in a year. The smaller the number, the less energy consumed -- and the less it will cost you to operate.

Here are some other energy-saving ideas:

  • Refrigerators with the freezer on top are more efficient than those with freezers on the side.
  • Keeping your refrigerator or freezer too cold wastes energy. Recommended temperatures are 37 to 40 degrees F. for the fresh food compartment and 5 degrees F. for the freezer section. For free-standing freezers, keep the temperature at 0 degrees F.
  • Refrigerators and freezers operate most efficiently when full but not overcrowded. Put items slightly apart on refrigerator shelves to let air circulate.
  • Regularly defrost manual-defrost refrigerators and freezers; frost buildup increases the amount of energy needed to keep the motor running.
  • Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Test them by closing the door on a piece of paper. If you can pull the paper out easily the latch may need adjusting or the seal may need replacing.
  • Cover liquids and wrap food stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.
  • Let food cool slightly before putting it in the refrigerator.
  • Move your refrigerator out from the wall and vacuum condenser coils once a year (unless you have a no-clean condenser model). Your refrigerator will run for shorter periods with clean coils.

Clothes Dryers

The next heaviest energy using appliance is your clothes dryer. 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.

There are some easy steps you can take to cut down on energy use:

  • Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight fabrics.
  • Do not over-dry your clothes. If your machine has a moisture sensor, use it.
  • Clean the lint filter in the dryer after every load to improve air circulation.
  • Use the cool-down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying with the residual heat in the dryer.
  • Periodically inspect your dryer vent to ensure it is not blocked. This will save energy and may prevent a fire. Manufacturers recommend using rigid venting material, not plastic vents that may collapse and cause blockages.

Washing Machines

When shopping for a new washing machine, look for a front loading (horizontal-axis) model. This machine may cost more, but it uses about a third of the energy and less water than a top-loading machine. With a front loader, you will also save more on clothes drying, because the machine removes more water during the spin cycle.

Remember, about 80 percent of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water. So there are two ways to reduce the energy consumption -- use less water and use cooler water.

  • Unless you are 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.
  • Wash your clothes in cold water using cold-water detergents whenever possible.
  • Wash and dry full loads. If you are washing a small load, use the appropriate water-level settings.