Did you know that your home causes more air pollution than a car? This is a result of the energy we use at home. A lot of this energy comes from power plants, which burn fossil fuel. The process of burning fossil fuels not only causes air pollution but also contributes to smog, acid rain, and global warming.
How can we reduce this kind of pollution yet we need the energy to run our homes? The best remedy is to use energy-efficient appliances and be smart about how and when you use appliances.
This will not only reduce your carbon footprints but also save you money. Using energy-efficient products for homes can save you up to $400 per year on utility bills.
Advances in technology have seen the production of energy-efficient appliances such as induction cooktops and heat pump clothes dryers that use way less energy to power kitchens and laundries.
According to The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, if each of us increases the use of more energy-efficient products in our homes by just 10 – 30%, we’ll reduce the use of electricity by the equivalent of 25 large power plants!
So how do you become more energy-efficient? Here is an in-depth guide.
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How to choose energy-efficient appliances
Most home appliances look pretty much the same on the outside, but they all vary greatly when it comes to energy-efficiency and operating costs. The more energy-efficient an appliance is, the less energy it needs to run, and thus the less money you’ll spend running it.
Here are a few simple steps to follow when shopping for energy-efficient appliances:
- Size and style: Before you settle for a particular appliance, measure the space the appliance will occupy to be sure what you buy will fit. Ensure that there’s enough room to open the door or lid fully. You also want to make sure there is enough clearance for ventilation.
- Purchase price and estimated energy use: When deciding which brand and model to buy look at both the price and estimated energy use. In most cases, energy-efficient models will be more expensive but will end up saving you money in the long run.
- Look for the Energy Star logo: Appliances with the Energy Star logo tend to be more energy-efficient than the average comparable model. We go into more detail about this below.
- Read the Energy Guide label: This is a yellow and black label required by the FTC to be attached to all new appliances (except kitchen ranges, microwave ovens, and clothes dryers). The label describes the estimated annual energy consumption of the appliance.
- Take advantage of special energy-efficient offers: You can get cash rebates, low-interest loans, or other incentive programs for buying energy-efficient appliances.
Energy-efficient appliances: Tips for the home
Whether you’re buying new appliances or want to use your old appliances, there are a few things that you can do to make your appliances more energy-efficient.
A fridge is a major energy consumer so choosing and using your fridge carefully is important. When buying a fridge go for an energy-efficient model with high Energy Ratings. Such a model will reduce your running costs by up to 23%.
Pick a fridge that’s not too small or too big. A fridge size that you’ll usually have at least two-thirds full is the best option.
If possible, skip the ice maker and dispenser. They may be convenient but they increase your refrigerator’s energy use by 14-20 percent. They also tend to make the fridge more expensive.
Buy a manual defrost refrigerator instead of an automatic one. To keep it more efficient, maintain it properly. Defrost your freezer only if the ice buildup is thicker than 1/4 inch.
Set your fridge to 4C and freezers to -18C so that they can run efficiently. Always check your fridge and freezer periodically to ensure that they are set to the right temperature.
Always leave at least a 1-inch clearance around your fridge and freezer for adequate airflow. Also, leave enough space for the door to swing open without hitting adjacent walls, cabinets, and other appliances.
Don’t put your fridge near the stove, dishwasher, or heat vents or expose it to direct sunlight. Ensure that airflow around your fridge is not obstructed.
When defrosting your food, put it in the fridge the night before you want to use it. This will cool your fridge down and reduce power consumption.
If your fridge has an energy-saver (anti-sweat) switch, keep it on during summer and off during winter.
ENERGY STAR® dishwashers are some of the most energy-efficient kitchen appliances. Such models will save an average of 1,600 gallons of water over their lifetime.
There’s no need to pre-rinse your dishes before putting them in the washer. Modern dishwashers will remove all but the most stubborn food residue. Also, run your washer only when full to capacity.
When buying a new dishwasher, get the size that fits your needs. The bigger the dishwasher the more water and electricity it will use.
Get a dishwasher with an “air-dry” option which uses circulation fans. This uses less power than “heat-dry” models.
Induction cooktops are more energy-efficient than gas and other electric cooktops. They also offer superior safety with no naked flames or deadly gas fume.
Solar ovens are the most energy-efficient appliances you can use for cooking. These ovens require no fuel of any kind to cook.
When cooking, save energy by using the burner which is the closest match to pot size. Heat is lost and energy is wasted if the burner is larger than the pot you’re using.
Seal oven doors tight and avoid opening them while baking. You lose about 20% of the heat in the oven each time you open the door.
Make sure that the pilot light and burner flame on your gas stove is always blue. If the flame is yellow, then you need to unclog or adjust the ports.
Buy a ‘self-cleaning’ oven because they are better insulated and therefore, more efficient.
When shopping for a washing machine, get the newer front load washers as they require much less water, hold larger loads, and need less energy to heat water.
Wash clothes when they are dirty enough to really need washing. Most washing machines use 40 gallons of water per load. So the more you use your washer the more water you’ll use, therefore, use it only when necessary.
Your water level and temperature settings on your washer should match the size of your load. Don’t fill the whole tub when washing just a few items.
Using a warm wash and cold rinse is just as effective as hot wash and warm rinse but will use less energy.
Don’t use too much detergent because the more detergent you use the harder your machine will have to work requiring more energy.
To save energy when doing your laundry, use a clothesline, retractable clothesline, or indoor drying rack to dry your clothes. This will also reduce fabric wear on your garments.
If you must use a dryer, buy a model that comes with a sensor that automatically stops the dryer when the clothes are dry. Go for a dryer with a ‘cool-down’ period to save even more energy.
Do not overload your dryer as this lengthens the drying time. Your clothes should generally dry in 40 minutes to one hour. Dry multiple loads back to back.
Your dryer’s exhaust vent should always be clean and clear of cobwebs and lint. Make sure that the moveable shutters are moving easily. These are designed to prevent cold air, heat, and insects from entering the vent when the dryer is not in use.
Clean dryer lint screen after each use. Lint build-up affects efficiency.
When buying a new air conditioner, go for a model with an Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) of 10.0 or higher.
Install a ceiling fan in the largest room in your house. Then you can lower the setting on your air conditioner 3 to 6 degrees, saving you up to 25% of energy costs used for home cooling.
Clean the filter screen on your air conditioner once a month. This will reduce fan usage and save electricity.
When turning on your air conditioner, don’t use the coldest setting. Let the air conditioner warm up first before you lower the temperature setting. The room will cool just as fast.
Do not leave your air conditioner on when you leave your house. If you must, turn the temperature setting up a few more degrees to about 28° C (82° F). Turn off your air conditioner if you’re going to be away from your home for more than a day.
Insulate your water heater to keep your water hot and reduce the need to keep reheating your water. An insulated heater also loses less heat thus uses less energy.
Lower settings on your water heater to about 120-140 degrees. High temperatures increase energy consumption and shorten tank life.
Wrap all water pipes leading from the water heater to prevent losing heat.
When buying a new water heater, go for a tankless water heater. Such models can save as much as fifty percent of the cost of heating water.
Computers and Home office equipment
Buying a new computer? Consider getting a laptop if it fits your needs. Laptops tend to use about half of the electricity consumed by desktop computers.
When buying a laptop, go for models with 3.3-volt components (processor, memory, and LCD). These use 40 to 50% less energy than 5.0-volt laptops. They also tend to have a lighter battery.
When it comes to buying a new printer, consider Inkjet printers as they have low energy consumption, are inexpensive, and you can re-use paper. This saves costs and reduces environmental impacts.
If you prefer a laser printer, go for one with an energy-saver feature. This will reduce energy use when idle by over 65 percent.
Related article: Alternative Energy Facts
Always turn off the monitor when you’re not using your computer. Over half of the energy used by the computer goes to the monitor, so turning it off will save energy consumption significantly. Don’t be fooled by a screensaver – the computer is still working at full power to run it.
Turn your home office equipment when you’re not using it, except for your fax machine. The equipment uses up to 30 watts of electricity even when on standby.
Printing uses significantly more energy than any other office equipment. So print only pages you need.
Related article: LED vs CFL: Which Are the Best Energy Efficient Light Bulbs?
For pool owners, a lot of your running costs come from running the pool pump. So when buying pool pumps, go for one with great Energy Ratings to make sure you purchase an energy-efficient pump.
Energy-efficient pool pumps lower power bills significantly. For instance, if you use a seven-star pool pump you can save around $1,200 in electricity over the lifespan of the pump, compared to running a three-star pump.
Related article: How to Conserve Energy
What are the most energy-efficient appliances?
The most energy-efficient appliances have the energy star logo. The energy star logo is a symbol of energy efficiency 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 is commonly found on a list of energy-efficient appliances including refrigerators, dishwashers, air conditioners, washing machines, and dryers.
Any appliance that gets the Energy Star rating is significantly more energy-efficient than standard appliances, as determined by standard testing procedures.
Many of us contribute to the global pollution pandemic unknowingly through the use of high energy consuming appliances around our homes. Choosing to use energy-efficient appliances could significantly reduce pollution and save the planet.
You don’t need to do much to fight pollution. Simply buy energy-efficient appliances the next time you go shopping. In the meantime, apply our tips on making your old appliances more energy-efficient!