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Eco-Friendly Appliances: Should You Go Green?
Story Updated: Feb 7, 2013
Today's home appliances are light years better than those of just a decade ago. Their superb energy-efficiency helps you create an eco-friendly home -- and they also save you money.
Many appliance manufacturers have partnered with the federal government in the Energy Star program, which makes it easy to identify energy-efficient home appliances. When shopping for a new appliance, you'll see the purchase price and a yellow EnergyGuide label, which lists the energy rating for that particular item and compares its operating cost with similar models. This number could mean the appliance is anywhere from 10 to 50 percent more energy efficient than traditional versions.
Nearly 20 percent of a household's energy use comes from appliances, which means buying eco-friendly machines could save you upwards of $80 a year, based on the samples below. But you'll pay more upfront for most eco-friendly appliances -- so is it worth it to go green? Here's a comparison.
FRIDGES AND FREEZERS
Green versions are about 15 percent more energy efficient than their conventional counterparts because they have more precise temperature and defrost controls, better insulation and high-efficiency compressors, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
To make sure you're saving money, buy the right size fridge or freezer for your family. Using a model that's too large won't save you as much if you can't keep it filled. And to save even more, use freezer trays instead of the icemaker. A model with an automatic ice dispenser can use 20 percent more electricity to cycle on and off.
Lastly, don't look for the Energy Star label alone; efficiency standards vary by refrigerator type, say the experts at Consumer Reports. A top-freezer that isn't Energy Star-qualified might actually be more efficient than a side-by-side unit with the label. For an apples-to-apples comparison, use the annual operating costs and the kilowatt-hours per year the refrigerator uses, which are listed on the EnergyGuide.
Traditional: Frigidaire 20.5 cubic feet with top freezer
Estimated Yearly Electricity Use: 509 kWh
Energy Star: Frigidaire 20.6 cubic feet with top freezer
Estimated Yearly Electricity Use: 356 kWh
Estimated savings per year: $38
Dishwashers with an Energy Star label are, on average, about 10 percent more energy efficient and 20 percent more water efficient than standard models, according to the EPA.
These dishwashers have "smart" sensors that tailor the machine's cycle length and water temperature. They also have energy-efficient motors and efficient washing action to get dishes clean. This is good news, since the average household runs its dishwasher four times a week, for a total of more than 200 times per year. An Energy Star -qualified dishwasher will save an average 1,900 gallons of water over its lifetime.
Traditional: Westinghouse 24-inch
Estimated Yearly Electricity Use: 330 kWh
Estimated Yearly Operating Cost: $35 with electric water heater / $24 with natural gas water heater
Energy Star: Whirlpool 24 inch
Estimated Yearly Electricity Use: 282 kWh
Estimated Yearly Operating Cost: $30 with electric water heater / $24 with natural gas water heater