Appliances

Efficient Appliances Cost Less in the Long Run

UPDATED on September 5, 2014

Bird's eye view

Appliances use one-fifth of household electricity

Appliances account for about 20% of all residential electrical consumption, according to the government's energy office. Buying Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. models when they are available and simply reducing the size and number of appliances (one refrigerator, not two) are good strategies for trimming power use.


Key Materials

Try an outdoor clothes line

Refrigerators and electric clothes dryers use more electricity than other appliances. Little can be done to improve the efficiency of electric clothes dryers, so the best way to reduce energy used to dry clothes is to hang the clothes on an outdoor line.

When it comes to refrigerators, clothes washers, and dishwashers, however, the energy consumption of different models range widely. If you are purchasing a new appliance, choosing a model with low energy needs will pay dividends for years.

As a bonus, most energy-saving clothes washers (especially front-loading models) save water as well as energy.


Design Notes

Efficient form and function

Appliances have come a long way from the free-standing, bulky boxes of the past. Today's manufacturers produce machines with a dizzying variety of shapes, sizes, and functions. This gives designers the opportunity to create spaces that more closely match their desired purposes. Many dishwashers, ovens, and refrigerators have multiple smaller compartments that allow homeowners to use only the space — and electricity — that they need for a particular job.

Choose right-sized appliances. Large kitchens often feature oversized ranges and refrigerators; some residential kitchens even feature multiple dishwashers. If they are all put to good use, multiple appliances may be appropriate; if not, that's a waste of materials, space, and energy. Kitchen designers should evaluate and meet their clients' needs without overshooting them.


Builder Tips

Long-term advantages in upgrading appliances

When builders working in a competitive market choose kitchen appliances for a new home, they usually pay more attention to initial cost than energy efficiency. But builders who want to differentiate themselves from their low-ball competitors can upgrade to Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. appliances. If they educate home buyers about the long-term advantages of energy efficiency, they can outshine the competition, even with a higher price tag.

The Code

Look to federal minimum standards

The 2006 IRCInternational Residential Code. The one- and two-family dwelling model building code copyrighted by the International Code Council. The IRC is meant to be a stand-alone code compatible with the three national building codes—the Building Officials and Code Administrators (BOCA) National code, the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI) code and the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) code. has no provisions for the efficiency of home appliances like refrigerators, laundry equipment and cooking appliances, but the federal and many state governments have their own rules regarding minimum efficiency standards. The Department of Energy has useful information about choosing energy-efficient appliances on their Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Website.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Annual kilowatt-hour number tells the true story
Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. labels are awarded to products that perform well compared to other products in the same product category. For example, an Energy Star side-by-side refrigerator/freezer is compared only with other side-by-side refrigerator/freezers, not with all available refrigerator/freezers.

That's why a small refrigerator/freezer without an Energy Star label may use less energy than a large side-by-side refrigerator/freezer with an Energy Star label.

When in doubt, compare the annual kilowatt-hour consumption of models under consideration.

BUYING A WASHING MACHINE?

Washers are one of the top energy users in most houses, outranked only by the refrigerator.

If you're in the market for a new one, the Modified Energy Factor (MEF) and the Water Factor (MF) are both useful numbers. These metrics are explained in a detailed GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com article, All About Washing Machines.

ADDING AN UPSTAIRS LAUNDRY?

Adding a laundry area to the second floor can be a time-saver for a busy family because clothes and bedding don't have to be carried as far for processing. But when washing machines are installed over a finished living space, a drain pan plumbed to a drain line is a sensible precaution. Without one, even a simple leak can cause extensive water damage. Waterproof pans are sold by a number of companies; some incorporate a back panel that protects the wall from splashing water.

INSTALL A SINGLE-THROW SHUTOFF

Unless hot and cold water supply lines are turned off after the washing machine has been used there's always a chance a hose could leak or burst when no one is there to see the problem. A single-throw shut-off valve installed right behind the washer is a good way to ensure this doesn't happen. Both hot and cold water are turned off with a single push of a lever.

GREEN POINTS

LEEDLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. -H Up to 3 points are available under EA9 (Energy & Atmosphere) for efficient appliances and ceiling fans.

NGBSNational Green Building Standard Based on the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines and passed through ANSI. This standard can be applied to both new homes, remodeling projects, and additions. Under Ch. 7 — Energy Efficiency: up to 11 pts. for efficient appliances (704.2.5); 1 pt. for each Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. ceiling fan (703.4.7). Under Ch. 6 — Resource Efficiency: additional pts. for using life cycle analysis for appliance selection (609.1).

ABOUT APPLIANCES

Check the labels before you buy

The price tag is only part of the true cost of an appliance. The balance will be paid out month by month in the form of utility bills for the life of the device. Buying the most energy-efficient model available is a good long-term strategy even if the initial cost is somewhat higher.

Manufacturers have made a good deal of progress in reducing the amount of electricity that appliances use. For example, an Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. refrigerator uses about 20% less power than federal standards permit, and about 40% less than conventional models sold as recently as 2001. (For more information on refrigerators, see Choosing an Energy-Efficient Refrigerator.)

Refrigerators use more power than most other appliances, followed by washing machines, clothes dryers, freezers and electric ranges. (For more information on clothes dryers, see Alternatives to Clothes Dryers.)

EnergyGuide labels. The Federal Trade Commission requires these familiar yellow and black labels on a number of common household appliances, including dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, window air conditioners, and pool heaters. (For more information on dishwashers, see All About Dishwashers. For more information on window air conditioners, see Window-Mounted Air Conditioners Save Energy.)

Ranges, ovens and clothes dryers are among the appliances that are excluded from this requirement.

Labels estimate the cost of using the appliance for the year, based on national utility averages, plus the kilowatt-hours of electricity it will use annually. Even if local rates are higher or lower, the cost estimates are still useful for comparing the consumption of different models and brands.

Energy Star rating. Energy Star is a voluntary labeling program launched in 1992 by the federal government to identify products that are more energy-efficient than standard models. To qualify, an appliance must be at least 10% more efficient than minimum federal standards (some are much more efficient than that).

Appliances that are included in the program include clothes washers, dehumidifiers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, and room air conditioners.

Savings add up. The government’s energy office says that switching to Energy Star appliances can save the average household about $75 per year on a $2,000 power bill.

Although potential energy savings look relatively modest, collectively they are significant. For example, the energy office says 47 million U.S. refrigerators are more than 10 years old, costing consumers a total of $4.7 billion a year.

Pick the right spot. Where some appliances are located can be as important as what's on the energy label. Placing a refrigerator or freezer right next to a kitchen range or in direct daylight increases the amount of electricity it will use. When planning a kitchen layout, keeping those factors in mind will reduce energy costs.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Choosing an Energy-Efficient Refrigerator

All About Dishwashers

All About Microwave Ovens

All About Washing Machines

Alternatives to Clothes Dryers

Window-Mounted Air Conditioners Save Energy


Image Credits:

  1. Matt Coillins / Fine Homebuilding
  2. Kevin Ireton / Fine Homebuilding
  3. Brian Pontolilo/Fine Homebuilding
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