article courtesy of Reliant, an NRG Company
To have the most energy efficient home possible and save energy, you need to go beyond the proper use of appliances (e.g., turning them off, unplugging them, and regularly cleaning them). In some cases, the only way to see true energy gains is to replace outdated appliances. Older appliances can be extremely inefficient, especially compared to the more modern ENERGY STAR®-rated appliances. Below you will find a list of some of the best appliances on the market today in terms of energy efficiency, according to ENERGY STAR, as well as some tips on how to get the most out of these modern machines.1
Source: U.S. EPA via ENERGY STAR
Clothes dryers consume massive amounts of energy compared to other appliances, but most ENERGY STAR-certified models are guaranteed to use less energy than conventional dryers, sometimes by as much as 20%. Top-of-the-line dryers use sensor drying through moisture-sensitive controls to automatically stop the cycle when your clothes are dry. This is much more efficient than timed drying. When the dryer senses that your clothes are dry, it will stop automatically, as opposed to dryers without sensor technology, which will simply run until the timer reaches the end of the preset cycle.
Gas dryers are an infrequently considered option (only 20% of dryers in the U.S. use gas) that will save energy and reduce the impact on the environment. Check the available connections in your laundry room before choosing between gas and electric. Also, don’t forget to use low heat settings to maximize your dryer’s energy efficiency.
To look up dryer models according to annual energy use and a variety of other factors, use the ENERGY STAR product finder tool.
Clothes washers are another energy guzzler you might want to replace if you have an older model, especially if it is a top loader, which is much less efficient than a front loader. Washing machines built before 2003 are known to be especially inefficient and could be costing you around $210 per year on average to hold onto.
ENERGY STAR-rated clothes washers use up to 10 fewer gallons of water a load, meaning you can save more than 3,000 gallons of water a year. On average, a new ENERGY STAR-certified washer uses 280 kWh per year, but some use as little as 38 kWh per year. You can find the most efficient large washers of 2016, as ranked by ENERGY STAR, on the ENERGY STAR website.
Dishwashers do not drain your energy as much as other appliances, but if you want a home that is energy efficient through and through, then you’ll certainly want to ensure you have a modern, energy-efficient dishwasher. In addition to electric use, you’ll definitely want to consider the water usage of your dishwasher. Modern dishwashers have all kinds of technologies meant to maximize water usage, including soil sensors to test how dirty your dishes are and how much water and heat will be needed, clean-water rinse cycles, efficient spray jets and strategic dish rack designs that ensure every dish gets a complete cleaning.
Consider the size of dishwasher you need. If you are more inclined to wash dishes by hand or you simply don’t use very many dishes, you can probably purchase a smaller dishwasher. There are even countertop-sized dishwashers available for people who might lack space for a full dishwasher, renters who want a dishwasher they will be able to move to their next home or people who use very few dishes and don’t want to run their full-size dishwashers. Just be sure you get the right size for your household needs. If you get too small a dishwasher, you could end up running the dishwasher more often, which will reduce your savings overall.
Whichever dishwasher you select, be sure to choose one with several washing options — and then use those options. Choosing a lighter wash whenever possible will help cut down on water and electricity costs. And stay away from the heated dry option. It’s usually not needed and can rack up energy costs with little to no benefit to you.
Refrigerators, especially outdated ones, are notoriously inefficient. More than a third of the refrigerators and refrigerator/freezers in the United States are over 10 years old. Replacing an older, inefficient refrigerator can save you hundreds of dollars, as ENERGY STAR-certified refrigerators are around 9% to 10% more efficient than standard models.
Be sure to choose the right size for your home, and opt for a model with the freezer on top, since those tend to be more efficient than side-by-size models. ENERGY STAR calculates that if you replace a 10-year-old refrigerator with a new ENERGY STAR fridge, you could save up to $260 in five years.
To compare ENERGY STAR-certified refrigerators, use the ENERGY STAR product finder tool. You can also see the most efficient refrigerators of 2016, according to ENERGY STAR, at the ENERGY STAR website. The list includes bottom freezer, top freezer and side-by-side models in medium, large and extra large sizes.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, water heating is the second biggest consumer of electricity next to HVAC systems. As is the case with most appliances, the older your water heater is, the more likely it is to be quite inefficient. Not only are modern water heaters incredibly more efficient, but today, the market includes a variety of technologically advanced, highly efficient water heaters that take energy efficiency to a whole other level, including solar water heaters and whole-home tankless water heaters. We’ll detail the various pros and cons of these different options below.
High-efficiency dlectric and Gas water Heater
Traditional electric and gas water heaters are still very efficient if you choose the right model. The chart below shows how much energy and money you can save with an ENERGY STAR-certified high efficiency water heater. If you have a larger family, you can save even more and quickly recoup the initial cost of a new water heater. Also, electric water heaters in general are slightly less expensive up front than gas water heaters, but the cost for gas once you are using the water heater can be less than electric costs would be. Consider your gas and electric bills in addition to the efficiency features and the up-front cost of the water heater itself if you have a choice between the two types.
Potential savings with an ENERGY STAR-certified water heater
|Household size||Annual savings (kWh)||Annual savings||Payback (years)||Lifetime savings|
Assumes: 12 cents/kWh; incremental cost = $800; 13-year lifespan
Source: ENERGY STAR
Solar Water Heater
It goes without saying that using solar energy can boost energy efficiency and lower your electric bill, but it might surprise you to learn that a solar water heater can actually cut your annual hot water costs in half. Check out the economic benefits of solar water heaters as described by the U.S. Department of Energy.
There are several types of solar water heater systems. Active-type systems rely on an anti-freeze fluid constantly pumped between the storage tank and a solar plate/panel heated by the sun. Passive solar water heating systems can be more expensive, depending on the system, but can also be more reliable and last longer. They are also not quite as efficient.
Source: ENERGY STAR via U.S. Department of Energy
Tankless Water Heater
Tankless water heaters, also known as demand-type water heaters, offer an alternative to traditional water heaters that rely on a reservoir of heated water to supply hot water around a home. Tankless water heaters only heat water once a hot water tap is turned on. This has several benefits. Most importantly, it means that there is no standby energy loss, helping you save energy and money. However, since water is heated on demand, the amount of hot water available is limited by a flow rate. Gas tankless water heaters generally have a higher flow rate than electric, but if you have a larger household, a even a gas tankless water heater will have trouble keeping up with demand.1
However, if you have relatively low hot water needs, a tankless water heater can be 24%-34% more efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. They can also be 8%-14% more efficient for households that use a lot of water. Tankless water heaters are more expensive up front, but will also have lower maintenance and energy needs.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy
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