With 20 percent of our household's energy costs going to refrigerators, clothes dryers and other appliances, here are tips for smart buying and use.
1. Shop with two prices tags in mind. You'll pay once to cover the purchase price of a new appliance and then again for years afterward to cover its operating costs. Look for the federal government's Energy Star labels and study the yellow and black EnergyGuides on new appliances. Compare annual energy consumption figures to find the most energy-efficient model.
2. Test the temperature. Check owners manuals for recommended temperatures on appliances. Some dishwashers, for instance, have internal heating elements that may allow you to reset your water heater at a lower temperature. Use an appliance thermometer to make sure your refrigerator is set between 37 and 40 degrees F for the food compartment and 5 degrees F for the freezer section.
3. Moisture costs money. Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder. If you're buying a new refrigerator, look for one with automatic moisture control.
4. Keep the refrigerator closed. Warm air displaces cool air when your refrigerator door is open or leaking. To test for airtightness, close the refrigerator door over a dollar bill so it is half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the bill out easily, the latch may need adjustment or the seal may need replacing.5. Scrape, don't rinse. Use as little hot water as possible to save money when preparing dishes for the dishwasher. Avoid running partly full dishwashers, limit "rinse hold" (which uses 3 to 7 gallons of water each time) and let dishes air dry.
6. Wash clothes in cold. With 80 percent to 85 percent of the energy used for washing clothes going to heating the water, switching from hot to warm can cut a laundry load's energy use in half. Wash full loads and use cold water with cold water detergents whenever possible.
7. Front loaders are savers. If you're buying a new washing machine, a front loader may cost more initially but uses about a third of the energy of a top loader. You'll save in drying clothes, too, because front loaders remove more water from clothes during the spin cycle.
8. Unwrinkle dryer costs. Cleaning the lint filter after each load improves air circulation. Using the cool-down cycle allows clothes to finish drying with the residual heat in the dryer. If you're buying a new dryer, select one with a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the machine when clothes are dry.
9. It's still hot. If you cook with electricity, turn off the stovetop burners and the oven before the allotted time. Heating elements and the oven will stay hot long enough to finish the cooking without using more electricity.
10. Watched pots save money. Cook in pots that fit the size of your stove top burners to cut energy waste. Using lids on your pots and pans means you can lower temperatures and reduce energy used.
Sources: "EnergyGuide to Major Home Appliances," Federal Trade Commission; and "Energy Savers: Tips on Saving Energy & Money at Home," U.S. Department of Energy
Compiled by Anne Giles Rimbey