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Going Green: Upgrading Your Household Appliances

By Zach Richard, Content Writer at Total Mortgage Services

Lets face it; we’re suckers for new technology. The rate at which machines are evolving is fascinating, and we want to experience this process every step of the way. Amidst the criticism that some of the more environmentally harmful models receive, there have also been developments in producing energy-efficient machines that are both beneficial to your wallet and the environment. When the time comes to replace the appliances in your home, consider an energy efficiency upgrade; you’ll be glad you did. Below are some more details on this matter.

The Energy Rating System

Energy-saving and environmentally sound homes and appliances are approved in Washington using one of three methods. If a home or appliance isn’t certified, then it won’t necessarily save you any money in utilities or taxes, and it could waste you a lot of energy.

  • Built Green: This is a Residential Green Building Program with a rating criterion for single-family homes, condominiums, remodeled homes, and housing developments. The rating system ranges from two to five stars, but four- and five-star levels need to be verified by a third party.
  • Energy Star: This is an initiative that improves the energy efficiency of new homes, with the primary focus on energy efficiency and occupant health. In order to be approved by Energy Star, the test must pass through a third party.
  • LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design): LEED is a national green building certification system that addresses single-family homes, townhouses, and larger condo buildings. LEED certifies buildings for new construction. Third-party certifiers award LEED rating levels that include certified, silver, gold, and platinum (the highest).

Energy Star is the primary system that is used to rate appliances for energy efficiency. The system currently covers seven different types of appliances ranging, from refrigerators to air cleaners and purifiers. The physical differences between Energy Star products and their less-efficient counterparts are generally few and far between, but the energy and money that you will save over time is monumental.

Energy Star–Approved

In order to become Energy Star–approved, appliances must pass a variety of tests that have been set forth in the Energy Star product specifications. To qualify, a product must meet these requirements:

  • Contribute significant energy savings nationwide.
  • Deliver features and performance demanded by consumers, in addition to increased energy efficiency.
  • If the product costs more than a conventional version, purchasers will recover the difference in their investment in increased energy efficiency through utility bill savings within a reasonable period of time.
  • Energy efficiency can be achieved through broadly available, non-proprietary technologies that are offered by more than one manufacturer.
  • Energy consumption and performance can be measured and verified with testing.

The Energy Star label would effectively differentiate the product from its counterparts, and would make the product visible to buyers. As an intelligent consumer, you’re probably wondering exactly how these energy-efficient appliances will save you money. Below, I will spell out exactly what separates these appliances from the rest of the field, so that you can make an educated decision when you go to purchase appliances for your home.

Energy Star Appliances

The differences between approved Energy Star appliances and standard household appliances are obvious. You will save energy, money, and the environment if you use any of these appliances in your home.

  • Refrigerators: An Energy Star refrigerator must be at least 20% more energy efficient than it’s typical counterpart. If you aren’t big on protecting the environment, then maybe you will be attracted to the $158 per year utility savings. This figure is only an average, of course, but combined with an Energy Star freezer, your savings will become more noticeable.
  • Freezers: Depending on your needs, you’ll opt to purchase either a full-size freezer or a smaller unit. Energy Star approved freezers use an average of 10% less energy than their counterparts, but you need to consider leaving out some of the bells and whistles if you want to reap the full benefits. To save energy, you should keep the frost buildup below a quarter of an inch, and use a manual defrost freezer, as opposed to an automatic defroster. The type of defroster alone will make a significant difference in your energy and monetary savings.

When you are deciding which type of unit to buy, consider that topside freezers are 10-25% more efficient than bottom- or side-door freezers. In addition, you should also determine if you need the icemaker on your freezer door. Icemakers and dispensers will increase the use of energy by 14-20%, and cost anywhere between $75-$250 each year. (Saving energy generally means that you’re saving money.)

  • Dishwashers: An Energy Star–approved dishwasher will use 10% less energy than it’s counterpart, and could save even more if you choose to purchase one with several wash-cycle options. By using only the necessary amount of water to clean the dishes, you will save both energy and money with every wash.
  • Clothes Washers: There are options to consider before you purchase a clothes washer. If you want to help save energy, then you should look into buying a washer with a larger tub capacity. Energy Star clothes washers often have larger tubs that allow you to wash more clothes in the same amount of water. Rather than soaking the clothes in water, these washers cycle the clothes through streams of water. The streams are monitored by sensors that help to determine the necessary amount of pressure during each of the phases of washing.

While Energy Star does not rate clothes dryers, it’s recommended that you purchase a dryer with a moisture sensor installed. For energy purposes, the sensor will detect when the clothes are dry, and the machine will shut down. This is more efficient than setting the dryer for a specific run time.

  • Dehumidifiers: With more efficient refrigeration coils, compressors, and fans, Energy Star dehumidifiers use 15% less energy than their counterparts. If you are looking into dehumidifiers for your home, then you should consider where you will use it, and how big of a room it has to operate in. Knowing these answers will prevent you from purchasing a dehumidifier that is too big or small for the area.
  • Air Purifiers: Similar to dehumidifiers, you should consider where you would use your air purifier. For those who don’t know, an air purifier is a portable, electric appliance that removes small particles from indoor air, to make for healthier breathing. An Energy Star air purifier uses 40% less energy than its less efficient counterparts.
  • Water Coolers: Inefficient hot and cold water coolers will use up more energy than you would think. If you use a cooler in your home, then consider upgrading to an energy-efficient appliance that improves on the separation of hot and cold water, and uses advanced cooling and heating mechanisms to make cold water colder and hot water hotter.

A Win-Win Situation

By upgrading the appliances in your home, you will be helping not only yourself, but the environment as well. Some of these energy-efficient models might cost you a little extra money upfront, but the back-end savings will be enough for you to earn your money back, and then some. Obviously, not all of the appliances mentioned are necessary for every home, and the less you need to use the better. The green movement is relatively young, and not nearly enough people have jumped on the bandwagon yet, but every little bit does make a difference.

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