/ Green Design

Save Energy With the Right Appliances

In most U.S. homes, appliances add up to 15 to 20 percent of overall energy usage and costs. If it's been a decade since you bought appliances, even regular models will be more efficient than your old ones. According to Energy Star officials, current model refrigerators can be as much as 167 percent more efficient than 10- to 20-year-old models.

EnergyGuide Labels

In the United States, major home appliances must meet appliance standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Except for ranges and ovens, these products must carry yellow and black EnergyGuide labels that note the specific model's estimated annual energy usage and estimated annual dollar operating cost. The label also includes low and high estimated energy usage figures for similar appliances

Energy Star

Designed to promote efficient energy usage in homes and businesses, the Energy Star program is a joint effort of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the DOE. Appliances that earn the Energy Star label-signified by a blue-and-white logo featuring a star-exceed the efficiency of the federal appliance standards by 10 to 40 percent. The Energy Star Web site,, offers more information about home energy efficiency, including special offers or rebates and a list of Energy Star qualified appliances.


General Tips for Appliances

  • Get a model whose capacity is appropriate for your family's needs; the larger the appliance, the more energy it requires to run

  • Under-using or over-loading your appliances also wastes energy

  • Be sure to service appliances frequently to check for energy-wasting leaks

  • Unplug unused appliances


Refrigerators can be energy hogs.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. EPA's Energy Star program


Your refrigerator probably uses the most energy of any kitchen appliance. Still, today's fridges are much more efficient than those of old, thanks to more insulation, better seals, high-efficiency compressors and better temperature control.

Factors that influence how much energy a given refrigerator uses include size, configuration (top freezer, bottom freezer, side-by-side) and features. The amount of electricity refrigerators use in a year is expressed as kilowatt-hours (kWh). The smaller the number, the less electricity used.


An 18.2-cubic-foot refrigerator with top-mount freezer and automatic defrost cannot use more than 486 kWh annually. A 21.7-cubic-foot, side-by-side model with automatic defrost and through-the-door features (water or ice dispenser) can't use more than 671 kWh.

Energy Star-qualified refrigerators must be at least 15 percent more efficient than these federal standards.

Refrigerator Shopping Tips

  • Top-freezer models are more energy efficient than side-by-side models

  • Optional features such as icemakers, water dispensers and anti-sweat heaters use more energy

  • Automatic moisture control uses less energy than an anti-sweat heater

  • Automatic defrost freezers use more energy than manual defrost

  • Higher-efficiency refrigerators tend to be quieter

  • Automatic ice makers and through-the-door water and ice dispensers increase energy use

  • Chest freezers tend to be more efficient than upright freezers


 Refrigerator Usage Tips

You also can save energy by:

  • Placing the refrigerator or freezer away from potential heat sources such as dishwashers and ovens

  • Allowing enough room for proper ventilation of the motor

  • Regularly defrosting manual-defrost refrigerators and freezers; frost shouldn't build up more than ¼ inch

  • Cleaning the condenser coils once or twice a year

  • Keeping your refrigerator temperature between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and your freezer at about 5 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Making sure door seals are airtight


an Energy Star dishwasher

Photo courtesy of the U.S. EPA's Energy Star program


The energy efficiency of dishwashers is measured by the average number of cycles they go through per kilowatt hour per year. This is called the Energy Factor, or EF, and the higher it is, the more efficient the dishwasher. Currently, a standard dishwasher (one that holds at least eight place settings and six serving pieces), must have an EF of 0.46, while compact dishwashers must have a 0.62 EF.

To qualify for the Energy Star Label, EF requirements are now 0.65 for standard dishwashers and 0.88 for compact models-41 percent more efficient than federal guidelines.


Dishwasher Shopping Tips

  • Choose the right size for your home. Although a 24-inch standard model works for most homes, an 18-inch compact model might help singles avoid running half loads, and a 30-inch model could cut down on the number of loads required by large families or frequent entertainers.

  • Look for a dishwasher with cycle options such as light, short or energy saver.


Dishwasher Usage Tips

You also can save energy by:

  • Washing full loads

  • Air drying dishes instead of using the heated dry option

Ranges and Ovens

Cooking appliances use less energy than refrigerators and freezers, which run 24-7, or dishwashers, which have to heat a lot of water. Moreover, the federal government does not have efficiency standards for ranges, ovens, cooktops or microwaves-and neither does the Energy Star program.

Range and Oven Shopping Tips

  • Opt for a glass-fronted oven, allowing you to check on food's progress without opening the door and wasting heat energy.

  • Self-cleaning ovens have more insulation and therefore are more energy efficient.

  • Gas ranges and ovens are slightly more efficient than electric models.

  • If purchasing a gas oven or range, choose one with an electric or pilotless ignition system rather than a pilot light that burns constantly.

  • If purchasing an electric range or cooktop, look for burners that use halogen elements under glass rather than traditional coil elements or solid disk elements.

  • Induction cooktops use less energy than both traditional electric cooktops and gas cooktops.

  • Consider an Energy Star-qualified range hood.


Range and Oven Usage Tips

You also can save energy by:

  • Using the self-cleaning feature infrequently and only directly after using the oven

  • Keeping the igniter on gas stoves clean

  • Using pressure cookers, microwave ovens or toaster ovens instead of standard-size ovens and cooktops when possible

  • Covering pots and pans to boil water faster

  • Matching the size of pots and pans to the burner

Clothes Washers & Dryers

The Modified Energy Factor (MEF) measures washer energy-efficiency-the higher the MEF, the more efficient the washing machine is. All standard-size top-loading and front-loading washers must have an MEF of at least 1.26.

Washers must have an MEF of at least 1.72 (50 percent less than federal requirements) to meet Energy Star guidelines. Energy Star does not label clothes dryers.

Washer and Dryer Usage Tips

You also can save energy by:

  • Washing full loads

  • Adjusting the water level setting for small loads

  • Using cold water (or warm instead of hot) and cold-water detergent whenever possible

  • Using a high-speed or extended spin cycle to minimize dryer time