The average home causes more air pollution than the average car. This is because much of the energy we use in our homes comes from power plants, which burn fossil fuel to power our electric products. Burning fossil fuels causes air pollution and contributes to smog, acid rain, and global warming.
Saving energy also saves money. By using energy-efficient appliances, households can save up to $400 per year on utility bills. By using our existing appliances more efficiently we can also extend the working life of the appliances.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that if each of us increases the energy-efficiency in our major appliances by 10 – 30%, we’ll release the demand for electricity by the equivalent of 25 large power plants!
How to Buy Energy-Efficient Appliances
Home appliances look pretty much the same on the outside, but they vary greatly in terms of energy-efficiency and operating costs. The more energy-efficient an appliance is, the less it costs to run. You can lower your utility bill and help protect the environment.
Here are a few simple steps to follow when shopping for energy-efficient appliances:
- Select the size and style: Measure the space the appliance will occupy to be sure your new purchase will fit. Check that there’s enough room to open the door or lid fully, and enough clearance for ventilation.
- Consider both purchase price and estimated energy use when deciding which brand and model to buy. In many cases, you may actually save money by buying the more expensive, more energy-efficient model.
- Ask about special energy-efficient offers: Cash rebates, low-interest loans, or other incentive programs are often offered to encourage buyers to purchase energy-efficient appliances. To find rebates in your area, use Energy Star’s Rebate Locator (linked from the home page under “Products”), which allows you to search by Zip code.
- Read the Energy Guide label: [insert image as per original page of sample label] This yellow and black label is required by the FTC to be attached to all new appliances (except kitchen ranges, microwave ovens, and clothes dryers). It states the estimated annual energy consumption of the appliance. Reading the Energy Guide label helps you compare the efficiency or annual energy use of competing brands and similar models.
- Look for the Energy Star logo: Appliances with this logo are significantly more energy-efficient than the average comparable model. The Energy Star program is operated jointly by the U.S.Department of Energy and the EPA. More information on this program is provided below.
Energy Star Appliances
Energy Star is the symbol for energy efficiency. It’s a label created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to help consumers save money and minimize air pollution.
The Energy Star logo may be found on clothes washers and dryers, refrigerators, dishwashers and room air conditioners. An appliance receives the Energy Star rating if it is significantly more energy efficient than the minimum government standards, as determined by standard testing procedures. The amount by which an appliance must exceed the minimum standards is different for each product rated, and depends on available technology.
Energy Star rated products are usually among the most efficient available today.More information about the Energy Star program is available at www.energystar.gov.
Appliance Tips: Saving Energy and Money
The refrigerator is the single biggest power consumer in most households. Here are some simple ways to improve it’s efficiency:
- Adjust temperature settings for different seasons. Check refrigerator setting by placing a thermometer in a jar of water and leaving in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, the temperature should read 34 to 40 degrees F. Adjust settings if necessary. Temperature settings usually need to be reduced in winter. The freezer should be between 0 and 5 degrees F.
- During winter, freezer space often goes unused. Your refrigerator continues to use energy, however, to freeze this space. Take empty milk jugs, or other plastic containers, and fill them with water. Place them outside until they freeze, then put them in your freezer. This will fill the empty space and reduce the area to be kept cold.
- Manual defrost refrigerators are generally more efficient than automatic defrost models, but only if they are properly maintained. The freezer should be defrosted if ice buildup is thicker than 1/4 inch.
- Defrost food by putting it in the refrigerator the night before you want to use it. This will cool the refrigerator down and reduce its power consumption.
- Wait until food has cooled down before putting it into the refrigerator.
- Vacuum the coils in the back of your refrigerator twice a year to maximize efficiency.
- Check the door gasket occasionally to be sure the seal isn’t broken by debris or caked on food.
- Refrigerator should not be located near the stove, dishwasher, or heat vents or exposed to direct sunlight. Check to be sure that airflow around your refrigerator is not obstructed.
- If your refrigerator has an energy-saver (anti-sweat) switch, it should be on during the summer and off during the winter.
- Never run frost-free refrigerators with freezer compartments in unheated areas with air temperature below 60 degrees F.
One large refrigerator is cheaper and more efficient to run than two smaller ones. Getting rid of an old refrigerator is one of the largest single contributions you can make to lowering your electric bills and to conserving energy and resources.
Buying a New Refrigerator?
Refrigerators with fewer accessories are usually more efficient. In particular:
- Icemakers and water dispensers use excessive energy.
- Auto-defrost causes lower overall efficiency because heat is used to speed defrosting.
- The most efficient refrigerators are 16-20cu ft, with freezer on bottom or top rather than the side.
- Use the burner which is the closest match to pot size. Heat is lost and energy is wasted if burner size is larger than pot size.
- Use lids on pots and pans so you can cook at lower settings.
- Keep drip pans under conventional coil burners clean. Don’t line drip pans with aluminum foil – they can reflect too much heat and damage the elements.
- Only preheat when baking.
- Check your oven temperature. Use a separate oven thermometer to ensure your oven control is accurate.
- Make sure the oven door seal is tight. Avoid opening oven door while baking: each time the door is opened, about 20% of the inside heat is lost.
- Turn oven off a few minutes before food is ready, and let oven heat finish the job.
- Gas stoves: electronic ignition (piezo) will use about 40% less gas than a pilot light.
- Pilot light and burner flame on gas stoves should be blue. If flame is yellow, ports need to be unclogged or adjusted. Ports can be cleared with pipe cleaners.
- Use the microwave. They use only 1/3 to 1/2 as much energy as conventional stoves.
- ‘Self-cleaning’ ovens are more efficient because they are better insulated.
- Induction cooktops use 90% of the energy produced compared to only 55% for a gas burner and 65% for traditional electric ranges. More information here.
- Sun (Solar) ovens are the most energy-efficient cooking appliance, as they require no fuel of any kind to cook, yet reach temperatures of 360° – 400°. These ovens also let you cook outside of the home, which is a real benefit during the summer months since indoor cooking raises indoor temperatures. Sun ovens also will last indefinitely since there are no moving parts or complex technology to break down or wear out. Recently, the All-American Sun Oven has been developed with more user-friendly features. For a complete food readiness appliance which includes food dehydration features, see the All-American Sun Oven with Dehydration and Preparedness Package.
- Be sure your clothes are dirty enough to really need washing. Standard washing machines use 40 gallons of water per load. The easiest way to save water and energy with washers is to use them less, so look to ways you can reuse clothing, towels and linens between washings.
- Match water level and temperature settings on your washer to the size of your load. Don’t fill the whole tub for a few items. Newer machines have automatic water level settings which adjust to load size.
- Call your water utility and ask them how “hard” or “soft” your water is. You may be using up to six times as much clothing detergent as you need. Your appliance manuals will tell you how much you need for your water type.
- As much as 90% of the energy used by your washing machine is used to heat the water. For most washing applications, warm wash and cold rinse are just as effective as hot wash and warm rinse. The rinse temperature doesn’t affect the quality of the cleaning.
- Avoid using too much detergent. Follow instructions on the box. Oversudsing makes your machine work harder and use more energy.
- Clean dryer lint screen after each use. Lint build up greatly reduces efficiency.
- Overloading the dryer lengthens drying time. Clothes should dry in 40 minutes to one hour.
- Choose a ‘perma press’ (cool-down) cycle. No heat is supplied in the last few minutes, but drying continues as cool air is blown through the tumbling clothes.
- Keep the dryer exhaust vent on the outside of the house clean. It should be clear of cobwebs and lint. The moveable shutters should move easily – they’re designed to prevent cold air, heat and insects from entering the vent when the dryer is not operating.
- Dry multiple loads back to back. Because the dryer takes time and energy to warm up to drying temperature, stop-and-start drying uses more energy.
- Using a clothesline, retractable clothesline, or indoor drying rack will save energy and reduce fabric wear on your garments (the lint on the lint screen is your clothing being broken down).
- Buying a new dryer? Look for a model that comes with a sensor that automatically stops the dryer when the clothes are dry. Dryers with a ‘cool-down’ period also save energy.
- The newer front load washers require much less water, hold larger loads and save energy in reduced water heating.
Dryer Sheets and the Lint Filter: How to Reduce Fire Hazard, Improve Efficiency
If you use dryer sheets when using your clothes dryer, be sure to take the lint filter out and wash it with hot soapy water and an old toothbrush at least every six months. This is because the dryer sheets can coat the lint filter with an invisible film which can lead to lower dryer efficiency, a burned out heating unit and even a potential fire.
To check whether there is a film on your lint screen, simply pull out the filter and run it under hot water in the sink. If the water pools up on the filter, then you need to clean it.
- Avoid unnecessary pre-rinsing before putting dishes in the washer. Modern dishwashers are very efficient and will remove all but the most stubborn food residue. Pre-rinse or soak only those dishes and cookware which won’t come clean in the dishwasher.
- Run the washer only when full to capacity.
- Clean dishwasher drains and filters to ensure efficient operation.
- If you are buying a new dishwasher, buy the size that fits your needs. Larger dishwashers use more water and electricity, and are more expensive.
- Choose a dishwasher with an “energy-save” or “light wash” cycle which uses less water and operates for a shorter amount of time.
- Choose a dishwasher with an “air-dry” option which uses circulation fans. This uses less power than “heat-dry” modes.
- Look for a dishwasher with a hot water booster or internal water heater that raises water temperature inside the dishwasher.
- Install a ceiling fan in the largest room of your house. This will allow you to lower the setting on your air conditioner 3 to 6 degrees, which will save up to 25% of energy costs of home cooling. (Be sure to reverse the fan rotation in winter to “clockwise”‘).
- Clean filter screen once a month. This will reduce fan usage and save electricity.
- When turning on your air conditioner, avoid using the coldest setting. Let the air conditioner warm up for a while before lowering the temperature setting. The room will cool just as fast.
- It isn’t recommended that you leave your air conditioner on when you leave your house, but if you’re going to do so, turn the temperature setting up a few more degrees while you’re gone to about 28° C (82° F). Also, remember to turn off your air conditioner if you’re going to be away from your home for more than a day.
- Keep leaves and other debris off the condensing unit, and gently brush webs and dust from condensing coils. Ensure that airflow is not obstructed; allow 18″ open space clearance from the condenser.
- If buying a new air conditioner, choose a model with an Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) of 10.0 or higher.
- Insulate your water heater. If your water heater feels warm to the touch, you will save money and have more hot water by adding more insulation. Here’s how.
- Lower settings on your water heater. Experiment within the 120-140 degree range to find the lowest setting which supplies you with enough hot water. Operating a water heater at unnecessarily high temperatures increases energy consumption and shortens tank life. It also increases the likelihood of scalds; a particular concern for young children and seniors. As a general rule, it shouldn’t be higher than 120F (49C), but always check with the tank manufacturer or refer to the manual first.
- Wrap water pipes leading from the water heater. Here’s how.
- If you’re ready for a new water heater, consider a tankless water heater. These models can save as much as fifty percent of the cost of heating water.
Computers and Home Office Equipment
- Turn off the monitor when your computer is not in use. Over half of the energy used by the computer goes to the monitor, so turning it off will save significantly. A single monitor left switched on overnight can use the same energy as a laser printer producing 800 printed copies. And don’t be fooled by a screensaver – the computer is still working at full power to run this.
- Turn equipment off when it is not in use (except your fax machine). Even machines on standby use up to 30 watts of electricity.
- Printing can be the most energy-intensive step, so print only pages you need. Edit documents on-screen to save unnecessary printing. If you have a choice of printers, avoid using a laser printer for draft-quality printouts.
- Reuse paper. Inkjet printers can easily accept used paper, so you can print on the unused side. Or keep discarded pages for jotting notes.
- Buying a new computer? Consider whether a laptop could meet your needs. Laptops use about half of the electricity consumed by typical desktop computers. When buying a laptop, look for systems comprised completely of 3.3-volt components (processor, memory and LCD). These systems use 40 to 50% less energy than 5.0-volt systems, and are generally equipped with a lighter battery. Alternatively, look for a model with an Energy Star rating.
- Buying a new printer? Inkjet printers have low energy consumption, are inexpensive and permit the re-use of paper, saving costs and reducing environmental impacts. If you are buying a laser printer, look for one with an energy-saver feature, which reduces energy use when idle by over 65 per cent. Even when idle, laser printers consume between 30 and 35 per cent of their peak power requirements.
Eliminate Loss of Phantom Power
Plug your TV, DVD player, VCR and stereo into a power bar. When you turn them off, turn off the bar, so they won’t be drawing “phantom power” while you’re not using them. You can check any of your home appliances for hidden energy loss by using an electricity monitor.
Recycling Your Old Computer
Electronic waste is becoming a serious and increasing problem with the high turnover of computers. Computers contain significant amounts of lead and heavy metals that are dangerous to the environment. Here are several alternatives to sending your computer to the landfill:
- Pass it on: The simplest solution to recycling your old computer. Ask at a local school or put a notice on a community bulletin board offering your computer free for the taking. Many people without a computer will still find use with the word processor and basic programs.
- Recycle: Several computer manufacturers have developed recycling programs. For a small fee, you can have old computer equipment picked up for recycling. ‘Coupon’ points are available from HP towards future purchases. For more info, visit: hp.com.recycle.
- In the US, the National Cristina Foundation (NCF) provides computer technology to people with disabilities, students at risk and economically disadvantaged persons.
For additional information, see: Recycling Electronic Goods
The Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network offers a wealth of energy-efficiency information as www.eren.doe.gov. This information is also available toll-free at 1-800-363-3732.
The Federal Trade Commission offers consumer information as www.ftc.gov, or toll-free at 1-877-382-4357. They also offer many free brochures on consumer issues. Ask for “Best Sellers” at the same toll-free number.