The Energy Star label provides an assurance that you will save money; if the product is more expensive to purchase than its conventional counterpart, it must prove to save energy over its lifetime.
Ratings apply to products from windows to ovens to light bulbs. Some of the greatest savings are with large home appliances: refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers.
There’s little need to belabor the benefits of choosing efficient products. The question, though, especially when you are not buying for a new home or replacing a broken product, is when?
The first step to consider is the age of your appliances. All too often, 7 out of 10 times for example, for hot water heaters, replacement is an emergency scramble to get the cheapest system in there quick, when something breaks.
A little advance thinking can save a fortune. So take a look at the labels – though they’re not always easy to decipher – and jot down an approximate age for major systems. A professional energy auditor can help you too.
As a general rule of thumb, appliances older than ten years or so use about twice as much power as their modern counterparts. So, look critically at anything in your house from the 1990’s. (Except the music, of course!)
With dishwashers, fridges and washing machines costing around $1000 to replace, this is not a cheap proposition, but replacement should save you at least $50 a year in electric bills. Bear in mind too, that energy efficient products are a great real estate advert, whether you’re selling or renting.
Perhaps the most important appliance to consider replacing with a high efficiency version is your washing machine. Front loading Energy Star models use not only much less power but also only one-quarter of the hot water as their predecessors. And, they do a much better job!
Determining when to replace your biggest user of home energy – the air conditioning system – is a little more complex. They are graded quite simply by efficiency – SEER – which stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and is much like the fuel economy rating for automobiles. The higher the SEER rating the better (and the more expensive).
If your system is newer than 2006 it will have a SEER rating of at least 13, but many older homes may be running units of 10 or less. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that if your current system is 12 years or older, you could save 30% of your annual cooling costs by replacing it with an Energy Star model.
There are lots of considerations to make. The key points are:
- Know the approximate age of your appliances – don’t replace in haste.
- For those older than 10-12 years, start looking at options.
- Choose Energy Star – it’s an assurance that you will save money.