What are the most energy efficient appliances and are they worth it?
Last updated 8/25/2021
Many of the appliances for sale in the U.S. are ENERGY STAR certified, which means that they use less energy than their conventional, non-energy efficient counterparts. However, energy efficient appliances often come at a price premium, leaving many homeowners to wonder: are energy efficient appliances worth it?
In most cases, the answer is yes. The amount that you’ll save depends on your electricity costs and the appliances you are looking to replace, as well as the incentives available for energy efficient products in your area.
ENERGY STAR appliances can significantly reduce your electric bills
On average, home appliances – including clothes washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, air purifiers and humidifiers – will account for 20 percent of your home’s total electric bill. ENERGY STAR appliances, which are certified by the U.S. Department of Energy, can reduce that share. The average home appliance lasts for 10 to 20 years, and an ENERGY STAR-certified appliance will use anywhere from 10 to 50 percent less energy each year than a non-energy efficient equivalent.
By replacing the appliances in your home with ENERGY STAR certified appliances, you are making an investment that will reduce your energy bill for years to come, which is especially important when you recognize that electricity rates are increasing every year. That being said, some appliances use more energy than others. The amount you save is also dependent on the age of your current appliances and the electricity rates that you pay.
Dryers are the most energy-hungry appliance that can be found in the average American home. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a typical dryer can consumes as much energy per year as a new energy efficient refrigerator, washing machine, and dishwasher combined – and if you have an older model, that number could be even higher. ENERGY STAR certified dryers use 20 percent less electricity than a conventional model, which will save you $210 in electric bills over your energy-efficient dryer’s lifetime.
If you pair your energy-efficient dryer with an energy-efficient washing machine, you’ll see additional savings on both your electric bill and your water bill. An ENERGY STAR certified clothes washer uses 40 to 50 percent less energy and about 55 percent less water than standard washers.
When you replace your conventional washing machine with an energy-efficient model, you can expect to save up to $50 per year on utility and water bills. Energy-efficient front-loading clothes washers also require less laundry detergent than top-loading washers, so you save more money week to week.
There have been significant advances in refrigerator technology over the past fifteen years, which means that old refrigerators are one of the biggest energy hogs in many U.S. homes. The ENERGY STAR certified refrigerators available on the market today are nearly 10 percent more energy efficient than models that meet the federal minimum energy standard. If you have an older refrigerator, you can save even more on your energy bills with an energy-efficient refrigerator: ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerators use up to 40 percent less energy than the conventional models sold in 2001.
Dishwashers may not use as much power as a constantly-running refrigerator or a high-heat clothes dryer, but the electricity and water that is needed to run a dishwasher cycle adds up. ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers are 12 percent more efficient than non-certified models currently for sale, and installing an energy-efficient dishwasher will save you around $25 a year.
While energy efficient appliances can come at a price premium, they’ll save you money in the long term by reducing your electricity bills. In many cases there are also state, local, or utility rebates that will decrease your out-of-pocket costs. Plus, if you’re getting rid of an older appliance, you may even be able to get a rebate for recycling it. For example, Mass Save, Massachusetts’ energy efficiency program, offers up to a $200 rebate for buying an energy-efficient refrigerator, plus another $50 for recycling an old refrigerator.
When should you invest in top energy efficient appliances?
When you replace the appliances in your home with energy-efficient upgrades, you can save hundreds of dollars a year on your energy bill. The savings you achieve from a single energy-efficient appliance may seem small on its own, but your home appliances will last for anywhere from 10 to 20 years – those small monthly savings will add up over time, and in most cases, the price premium you pay will be more than offset by your energy savings.
That being said, the amount of money you’ll save with energy efficiency measures is dependent on how much you’re willing to invest. For example, you can shave a few dollars off your bills by replacing incandescent lightbulbs with LEDs, but if you want to cut your bills more significantly you’ll have to replace the appliances and systems that use the most energy.
While energy efficiency measures can help insulate your home against rising electricity prices, you can take it a step further by installing solar panels on your property to generate your own clean electricity. When you “go solar,” you ensure that your electricity rates will remain stable over the course of 20+ years. The cost of installing solar has fallen by more than 50 percent over the past few years, which means your solar savings are higher than ever.
The federal government currently sets baseline efficiency standards for appliances for sale in the United States, which means that none of the products on the market are “inefficient.” ENERGY STAR certified appliances, however, are more efficient than the conventional models available for sale, as we saw above. Your overall returns are dependent on how inefficient your current appliances are, which is largely a function of their age. You’ll see more drastic savings when you replace your older conventional appliances with energy-efficient alternatives, rather than replacing a newer appliance.
If you want to make calculations for yourself, the U.S. Department of Energy has Excel-based energy efficiency costs and savings calculators for a variety of ENERGY STAR appliances and products.