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Energy-Efficient Appliances: Where to Find Real Savings

December 31 2009

In the average U.S. home, the electricity used to power household appliances and electronics can amount to as much as 20 percent of your annual utility costs. The energy costs associated with a single device may not seem significant, but together, providing power to our TVs, DVD players, computers, stereos, dishwashers, fridges, washers and dryers, water heaters, air conditioners, and more can really add up. Read on to learn which of your home’s appliances and electronic devices consume the most energy and what you can do to try to bring your electric costs down.

Furnaces and Water Heaters

These two products consume more energy than any others in your home, making it especially important to consider efficiency when you choose which models to install.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ENERGY STAR qualified oil and gas furnaces have annual fuel utilization ratings of 85 to 90 percent or greater, which makes them 15 percent more efficient than standard models. Water heaters are next in terms of energy consumption, and the average household spends between $400 and $600 each year to run them. Again according to the EPA, today’s new ENERGY STAR qualified water heaters include smart design enhancements that increase efficiency and can cut your water heating costs in half. 


Next to your furnace and water heater, your refrigerator is the biggest energy guzzler in your home. To help cut costs, be sure that the fridge you select is the smallest it can be while still providing adequate storage space for all of your family’s food needs. Note that models with freezers on the top or bottom are generally more efficient than side-by-side models. Here, too, look for the ENERGY STAR label, which can reduce an energy expenditure of more than $100 a year to run the fridge to just half that.


Consider how often you really cook when choosing between ovens and stovetops. Today, there is little difference between gas and electric stovetops in terms of cost. You should make your decision between the two based on your cooking comfort – but do bear in mind that gas stovetops require less energy than electric stovetops. In the case of ovens, though, an electric model makes more sense if you do a lot of baking or other oven cooking. You might consider purchasing the units separately, which gives you the flexibility to choose a gas range and an electric oven.

Clothes Washers and Dryers

According to the EPA, front-loading horizontal-axis washers use 50 percent less energy, less water, and less soap, which can translate into savings on average of about $95 a year for the average household. And by choosing an ENERGY STAR qualified washer, you’ll save enough over its lifetime to cover the cost of a matching drier. ENERGY STAR does not label dryers because most consume around the same amount of energy. But to cut costs and energy waste, look for one with a moisture sensor that will cause it to shut off automatically as soon as clothes are dry.

Air Conditioners

Once again, ENERGY STAR is the label to look for when selecting room air conditioning units. Models that bear the label consume 10 percent less energy than models that don’t. In fact, the EPA reports that if every room air conditioner sold in the United States were ENERGY STAR qualified, it would prevent 1.3 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, or the equivalent of 115,000 cars. Also be sure to select an air condition that is the right size for the room you are trying to cool and not too big.