Reduce the Energy Costs of Home Appliances

Mary Morse
Neighborhood Energy Connection

Rein in the cost and environmental impact of common household appliances with the following tips:

Identify your biggest energy wasters

Households spend more money on heating and cooling than any other energy expenditure. Before investing in a new furnace or air conditioner, tame these costs by installing insulation in your attic and walls and sealing air leaks. Caulk baseboards and window and door trim. Install weather-stripping around exterior doors. Wrap your water heater with an insulating blanket and save up to about $25 per year. Adjust thermostat settings in your home by 10 degrees to conserve energy during the hours you are asleep or at work (a programmable thermostat can help you regulate temperatures automatically). When it is time to replace your furnace or air conditioner, install the most efficient units you can afford, and be sure to investigate utility rebates, tax incentives or other conservation programs that might be available.

Tame the cords and cut the power

Cell phone chargers, music players, computers, TVs, gaming systems, microwaves and other electronics pull a surprising amount of power from the plug even when they are turned off. This is pure waste, and you are paying for it. In fact, unused appliances in standby mode account for about 10% of a typical household’s energy bill. Pull the plug on chargers when you disconnect your phone. Connect computers, TVs, and their peripherals to a power strip and turn them off when you are done using them with one easy switch, and be sure to enable the power down or sleep modes. Tell family or roommates that they have a choice between following these rules or paying for a larger part of the utility bill.

Read the label and shop around

Do your homework when replacing appliances to learn just how much they cost to run. Find appliance wattage stamped on the bottom or back of the unit, or on its nameplate. Calculate the unit’s cost with this handy formula from the U.S. Department of Energy:

Wattage x Hours used
per day ÷ 1000 =
Daily kilowatt-hour (kWh) consumption

Multiply daily kWh consumption by the number of days you use the appliance during the year to determine annual kWh consumption. Then multiply annual kWh consumption by your utility’s cost rate per kWh consumed. That’s the cost per year of operating the appliance.

With the knowledge of how much it will actually cost to use various models, you can choose the most efficient appliances and save both money and energy. Doing a similar assessment of appliances throughout your home may help you decide how to prioritize replacements before you start shopping. Or, take the easy route when comparing new appliances and simply choose an ENERGY STAR labeled model. The additional price you’ll pay for a more energy-efficient model will be recovered in about two years. After that, you’ll have net savings every year of operation. For the biggest savings, start by replacing the biggest energy hogs: old refrigerators, clothes washers and driers.

Check it off your list by calling the Home Energy Squad

Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy offer a terrific service that installs key efficiency measures in your home for a significantly reduced price — cheaper than do-it-yourself! Home Energy Squad appointments are available in the metro area and result in average savings of nearly $200 per year.

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