Appliances have the second largest energy consumption in the home next to the heating and cooling systems. They draw large amounts of energy when they are being used and even continue to suck energy when turned off. Clocks, timers and power indicator lights can account of up to 20% of the total energy consumption of any appliance. This is what is called phantom energy consumption. While we may think and appliance is off, it really isn't for as long as it is plugged in. Deciding to go with an energy efficient choice will not only help the environment but it will lower your energy bill.
Choosing an Energy Efficient Fridge or Freezer
Start by thinking about how much room you will need and what you will use it for. You may be an avid cook who likes using fresh ingredients everyday so a larger fridge may be essential. But if you find that you only use the fridge for drinks and snacks it might be time to down size. A larger fridge will require more energy to keep it cool but can be justified if its always full whereas a large empty fridge is just a waste of money and space. Stay away from a second freezer if you don't think you will need it for most of the year or at least unplug it for the time its not being used.
Once you know what size you need you can then choose your model and features. Freezers on top use the least amount of energy and side by side options typically use an additional 10%. Find units that have energy saving statistics or Energy Star which means the unit is 15% more efficient than the federal standard. Also be wary towards icemakers, electronic features, televisions and drinking water taps as this will only increase energy consumption even when these features are not being used. One feature you may consider if full glass doors so that you can see what is inside. This means less time looking for something with the door open letting the cool air out.
Energy Efficient Ovens and Ranges
Ovens and ranges have taken longer to get up to the same level as other energy saving appliances. Guidelines and requirements are more relaxed which means there are not quite as many options available but there are some things that you can do to reduce energy consumption when cooking food.
Start by selecting an oven with a convection option. Hot air is circulated around the food which means it will cook faster without drying it out. Less power is used since the oven is on for less time but always remember to adjust cooking times. Induction cook tops are also a great energy efficient option. They use electromagnetic fields which directly heat the pot. This can also cut down on cooling bills since the heat is not transferring into the air. Induction cooktops are about 90% efficient whereas a traditional electric or gas range is about 50% efficient.
There is always the option of using different methods for cooking or heating food. The microwave is surprisingly good at cooking eggs which only takes a matter of minutes. A hot plate can be used for smaller meals that feed only one or two people and a toaster oven requires less energy since its a smaller appliance.
Things to look for when choosing appliances
- Always try to choose an Energy Star appliance
- Best energy efficiency as noted on the EnergyGuide labels
- Maximum water conservation features
- Front loading washers
- Short but efficient wash and dry cycles
- Always recycle any old appliance that you are replacing
What to avoid
- Do not choose added luxury features
- Avoid purchasing appliances that may not get used
- Garbage disposal units
General Tips to Follow
- Choose the smallest pan, burner or oven possible for cooking a meal
- Turn off the oven or burner a few minutes prior to completion. The radiant heat will continue to cook
- Defrost foods in the fridge instead of the microwave
- Preheat the oven for the shortest possible time and put the food in as soon as its ready
- Do not open the oven door unless necessary and close directly after removing or adding an item to the oven
- Use self cleaning options when absolutely necessary and only when the oven is already hot from cooking
- Dry dishes by hand
- Use the coolest water setting and choose cool water detergent
- Use the lowest water setting possible
- Only wash full loads
- Hang dry clothes if possible