Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Appliances and Energy Efficiency

Front-load washing machines are more energy efficient than top loading ones, as they save water and electricity. Image:

Jessie Haas

Many of us are aware of the impact that changing out an old appliance can have on our fuel bills and carbon footprint, and the older the appliance, the more astonishing the result can be. Refrigerators have the biggest impact, as they run 24/7. In warm climates, replacing an older refrigerator will reduce cooling costs, and as the climate is getting warmer for all of us, that may be a consideration even for people in the Northeast.

Those living off-grid are highly aware of the impact of energy efficiency. In general, every dollar spent on efficiency saves $3 in energy generation costs. But can you afford an energy efficient refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, washer and dryer? And how do you know what to look for?

The answers can be found on the website of Efficiency Vermont (EV), Vermont’s energy efficiency utility and other sources listed at the end of this article. Appliances are rated according to their Ennervee Score ®, from highest to lowest within a range of efficient models. Search for Appliances, click on the “Research Qualifying Products” button in the box on the right, and then click on “See All.”

And keep scrolling. Price and score don’t necessarily correlate. As of April 15, 2019, the highest-scored refrigerator cost $7,899. One very nearly as efficient cost only $849. The least expensive unit listed was priced at $464 and had a score of 95; the most expensive, at $8,099, was scored at 96. Efficiency Vermont scores and lists many types of appliances and offers rebates to consumers, so the site should be the first stop when you go shopping. Rebate size does track the Ennervee Score, with the highest-scored receiving a $400 rebate, and the lowest $75.

Do you need a new refrigerator? Answer yes if yours if over ten years old, has French doors, or your household size has decreased. Look for a right-sized unit with top-mounted freezer and expect to save about $200 per year, depending on the efficiency of the refrigerator you are replacing.

What about your stovetop? Induction is the most efficient, 84-90%, but you need special cookware to use an induction stove. A regular electric stovetop comes in at 74% efficient, better if the cooking pot completely covers the element. Gas stovetops are only 50-55% efficient.

Front-load washing machines save water and electricity, and heat-pump dryers work more efficiently than other types. Washers, dryers, dehumidifiers, and many other types of electrical appliances are rated by EV, and some are subject to rebates.

Drying clothes on a clothes line is a great energy-efficienct practice to use. Image: Wikipedia.

If a new appliance isn’t in your plans, there are still ways to lower your electric bill and carbon footprint.

Set your water heater to 120°F. Insulate the hot water tank and pipes. This will save energy in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room.

Wash full loads in your clothes and dishwashers. In the dishwasher use no-heat drying and the rinse feature.

Wash clothes in cold or cool water and use the extended spin feature to shorten drying time.

Dry your clothes on a clothesline. If using a dryer, clean the lint trap before every load. Seal gaps around ducts and vents. Don’t overfill the dryer; that will take extra time and heat to dry.

Replace refrigerator door seals. Keep the temperature at 35-38°F. Minimize door opening. Locate away from any heat source, including direct sunlight. Keep coils clean and allow air to circulate behind the refrigerator.

If changing out a refrigerator or freezer, the old unit should be recycled. Federal law requires all refrigerators, air conditioners, and cars to have their refrigerant gases harvested when they are discarded. These are a potent greenhouse gases (ghg). The gas can be recycled into useful, non-ghg forms. Managing refrigerants was identified by Project Drawdown as the number one action we can take to reverse global warming, so yes, it really matters.

Jessie Haas has written 40 books, mainly for children, and has lived in an off-grid cabin in Westminster West, VT since 1984,



Jessie Haas has written 40 books, mainly for children, and has lived in an off-grid cabin in Westminster West, VT since 1984,

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