By Guest Blogger: Bryn Huntpalmer
So you’ve sealed your home’s leaks, added insulation to the attic, and made changes to your everyday habits to conserve energy. The next thing you’ll want to do is start upgrading your outdated and inefficient appliances with models that will use less energy, adding to your savings. The kitchen is a good place to start since this is where the majority of everyday appliances are located.
Buying new appliances can be a hassle, or it can be exciting. You may be tempted to buy the cheapest model, or you may be the type to go for the shiniest one with fancy features you’ve never heard of. But if you truly want to conserve energy, be sure to do your research, choose wisely, and only replace appliances that are outdated or performing poorly. If your dishwasher has another good five or six years left in it, buying a new one may mean spending more money (and being more wasteful) than the monthly energy savings can justify.
Look for Energy Star-Certified Appliances
Thankfully, you won’t be left out in the cold to compare stats on every appliance on the market. The Energy Star label simplifies the process for you by marking which products meet specific government standards for energy efficiency. The certification was created to protect the environment, but the extra perk is that it serves as a guide for shoppers who also want to save money on utilities. Products that bear this symbol are 10 to 50 percent more efficient than other products, so make the Energy Star label a priority if you want the best bang for your buck.
Start with the Refrigerator
Refrigerators are the biggest user of energy in your kitchen, so if you suspect your older (before 1993) model may be using more than its due share, let a replacement be your first investment. First, use the Energy Star “Refrigerator Retirement” calculator to find out your fridge and freezer’s operating costs and get a loose estimate of what you’d save buying a new model. If it’s time to replace it, keep in mind that top freezer models are more energy efficient than side-by-side models. Pay attention to the size of the refrigerator as well; everyone likes plenty of space for storing fresh food, but the bigger it is, the more energy it will use.
If your existing fridge is still performing decently, you can enhance energy savings by setting the temperature no colder than 35 degrees and the freezer temperature no colder than zero degrees. Make sure you regularly defrost to prevent build-up that will decrease efficiency.
The second-greatest energy expense in the kitchen is the range and oven. But before you go replacing your unit, remember that of all your household appliances, this one has the longest life expectancy. If it’s older than 15 years, however, it may be time to update. If you’re shopping for a natural gas stovetop, look at the BTU output of the models you’re interested in; the lower the number, the less energy it will use. If you’re set on electric, choose one with induction elements, but make sure you get the right types of pots and pans, since certain materials are not ideal for these types of models. If you think something may be wrong with your current stovetop or oven, consider getting repairs to help it perform better before you invest in a new model. If you’re not sure whether your current gas model is in tip-top shape, look at the color of the flame. If it’s burning blue, it’s still working efficiently. If it’s yellow, it may be in need of service or a replacement.
Find a Dishwasher that Uses Less Water
When it comes to heating, the bills can really add up. This applies to the hot water your dishwasher requires to run effectively. An efficient dishwasher with the Energy Star label must use 4.25 gallons of water or less—5.75 fewer gallons than models produced before 1994. Use the label as a guide for knowing how much water the machine will use as well as how much power is needed per year for it to run.
Don’t Forget the Details
if you’re in the market for a new coffeemaker, microwave, or Crock-Pot, there’s an energy efficient model out there to replace even your smaller kitchen appliances. Look for programmable features that increase convenience and save energy.
Bryn Huntpalmer lives in Austin, Texas where she currently works as editor-in-chief of Modernize.com with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.