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Home Energy Appliance Face-off: Which Appliances Use the Most Energy?

Home Appliance.

Are you frustrated by high energy bills? While it’s natural to blame heating and cooling costs for your high bills, the culprit could actually be your older home appliances.

The average U.S. household spends around $2,000 annually, according to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 2009 Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS). For decades, space heating and cooling accounted for more than half of all residential energy consumption. Thanks to more energy-efficient equipment, better insulation and population shifts toward warmer climates, heating and cooling consumption actually dropped between 1993 and 2009. Conversely, energy consumption for appliances, electronics and lighting jumped from 24 percent of total home energy usage to 34.6 percent. If you’re keeping the thermostat at a balmy 78 in the summer and a cool 65 in the winter but still facing high energy bills, older appliances could be an overlooked factor for these costs.

Appliances come with two prices. There’s the purchase price for the appliance, and then there’s the actual cost of operating that appliance. The older the appliance, the more it may cost you due to inefficient operation compared with newer, energy-efficient appliances. For example, replacing an old refrigerator with a new ENERGY STAR-certified refrigerator could save you $260 in energy costs over the next five years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Rebates from participating utility partners and retailers could help you save even more.

Swapping out older washing machines could result in significant savings, too. ENERGY STAR-certified clothes washers use approximately 280kWh of electricity, saving you about $45 a year on your utility bills versus a standard model, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. These washers also use 13 gallons of water compared to the 23 gallons used by standard machines, saving the average family more than 3,000 gallons of water per year. Washing machines made before 2003 are usually significantly less efficient that newer machines.

While switching to energy-efficient appliances will require an upfront upgrade cost, the resulting savings may offset this cost after just a few years.

Not sure which appliance is the culprit for those high energy bills? These are some of the most common electricity-consuming appliances and the amount of energy they use, according to the Energy Use Calculator:

  • Clothes dryer. Energy usage varies, with the typical dryer using around 3000 watts per hour (Tip: Use a dryer with a moisture sensor that will automatically turn off once clothes are dry.)
  • Washing machine. Older top-loading models use about 1300 watts, while ENERGY STAR-certified models use about 500 watts.
  • Microwaves. Compact microwaves use 500 to 800 watts during heating; regular-sized microwaves use, on average, 1200 watts.
  • Refrigerator. The average refrigerator uses 1000 watts per hour. For extra energy savings, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting the internal temperature between 35-38 degrees and leaving space behind the fridge for air circulation.
  • Dishwashers. The average dishwasher uses about 1800 watts per hour. Save more energy by skipping the heated drying cycle and letting your dishes air-dry.

One final step for appliance upgrades? Be sure to document your purchase and let your insurance agent know if your upgrades lead to a bigger remodel. Your agent can help you determine if your current coverage is appropriate for your needs.


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