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 Star 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…