Saving Energy: How to Pick Energy Efficient Appliances

From The GOOD Guide to Saving Energy

Every three months, GOOD releases our quarterly magazine, which examines a given theme through our unique lens. Recent editions have covered topics like the impending global water crisis, the future of transportation, and the amazing rebuilding of New Orleans. This quarter's issue is about energy, and we'll be rolling out a variety of stories all month. You can subscribe to GOOD here.


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The true cost of a refrigerator, washing machine, car, or even a laptop isn’t reflected in the purchase price. That cost only becomes apparent when the energy used to power the appliance or device shows up on your electricity bill. So don’t be swayed by price alone: Do your research to find the most energy-efficient product and pay less over time to use it.

Do you really need that powerful computer, if all you’re going to use it for is web browsing and word processing? And think about it, do you really need a refrigerator with a built-in TV? And will it even fit in your kitchen?

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First, figure out what you can accommodate and what you need. In some cases, this is obvious: If you have six people in your family, you’ll likely need to drive a large car or SUV. For other things, it’s a little trickier: Do you really need that powerful computer, if all you’re going to use it for is web browsing and word processing? And think about it, do you really need a refrigerator with a built-in TV? And will it even fit in your kitchen?

Go beyond Energy Star. A product with the Energy Star seal will help you take a step toward energy efficiency, but this quality-assurance program backed by the EPA and Department of Energy merely sets a baseline of efficiency and puts its seal on any products that meet or exceed its standard. Though they’re massive energy hogs, roughly 75 percent of televisions are Energy Star–certified, for example. So it’s worth checking out a new resource: TopTen USA, which aims to help consumers find the most efficient products and ranks products based purely on energy efficiency—except in the case of washing machines and dishwashers, where it also factors in water consumption. Replacing your current devices and appliances with Energy Star–certified products will save you roughly 37 percent on electricity costs; TopTen USA–certified products can save you 67 percent.

Comparison shop or wait for a deal. Especially in today’s climate of shaky consumer confidence, prices fluctuate constantly and there are deals to be had. So, if your appliance needs aren’t immediate, wait for a more energy-efficient model to come on sale. And don’t be swayed by name brands: One manufacturer may produce an $8,000 refrigerator as well as a $2,000 one under two different brand names.

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