Reducing Carbon Dioxide with Appliances

Terry Webster
Office of Energy Security, Minnesota Department of Commerce

The typical Minnesota household uses about 10,700 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity every year to run appliances, electronics, and lighting. Given the mix of fuels used to generate electricity, this usage equates to an average of over 19,000 lbs. of CO2 emissions per household per year. Reducing electricity usage (through conservation and efficiency) is the single most effective way that a household can decrease its carbon footprint—even more than reducing vehicle use.

In the chart are typical household appliances/electronics and their average annual electric usage (as most Minnesotans use them), along with tips to lower energy consumption. If you are in the market for a new appliance, remember: always buy EnergyStar products as they meet minimum standards for both efficiency and reliability. Keep in mind that each type of appliance has different standards. For example, side by side model refrigerators are rated differently than top freezer models for consideration as an EnergyStar appliance. Consider your household needs and then compare the annual kWh on various models.

How much energy might you save by implementing these saving strategies?

Most households can reduce electric consumption by 10% by simply changing behaviors like those listed above. Investing in items like CFL bulbs and outlet strips can save another 5-10%. Replacing old appliances with new EnergyStar models can add significantly more savings (new refrigerators use only 300-500 kWh, for example). An electricity savings goal of 25-35% is not unrealistic and reducing your annual kWh by 3,000 will keep 5,400 lbs of CO2 out of the environment!

Appliance Avg. Annual Usage (kWh/year) Savings Strategies



Limit door-open time. Set to 40 °F; freezer to 0°. Replace if 12 years old or older. (Recycle old unit.)

Window Air Conditioner


Clean coils and drain lines. Seal tightly when installed. Close doors to cooled rooms. Use ceiling/floor fans to cool bodies, allowing higher settings for AC.



Switch to CFLs. Use timers/motion switches. Listen to Dad: “Why is the light on and nobody is in here?”



Wash only full loads. Do not rinse dishes before loading; scrape food into a compost bucket using a spatula. Avoid heated dry cycle. (Dishwashers actually use less energy than washing by hand!)

Furnace Fan


Do not use continuously to “re-circulate”; ceiling/floor fans are more effective.



Use outlet strip to turn off everything when not in use (new ones have wall-mounted remote switches!). Use “sleep” settings when stepping away for short periods.



Set between 50-60% (check with an inexpensive hygrometer). Close all windows (especially in basement) when outside humidity is high. Use drain line instead of internal pan. Replace if older than 10 years.

TV/DVD/Entertainment Systems


Use outlet strip to turn off everything when not in use. Turn off when nobody is watching!

Microwave oven


Only heat up what you plan to consume. Thaw frozen food in refrigerator overnight.

Vehicle block/engine heater


Not necessary for most well-maintained vehicles. Otherwise, put on timer 45 minutes before starting.

Reducing CO2

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