Your Guide to Energy Efficient Appliances


The average American home spends about $2,000 on energy costs annually. Energy Star, a federal program designed to make appliances and other equipment more energy efficient, helps homeowners find products that can save hundreds of dollars a year on utilities. Approved products also help to reduce every home’s carbon footprint. Energy Star rated appliances use 10 to 50% less energy and water than standard models, but they do cost more initially. However, most consumers can recover this initial cost in per-year operational cost savings.

Under Energy Star regulations, refrigerators and freezers must meet the following criteria:

  • Must use high efficiency compressors, improved insulation and more precise temperature and defrost mechanisms.
  • Must use at least 20% less energy than required by current federal standards and 40% less energy than conventional models sold in 2001.
  • Must include an automatic icemaker and through-the-door ice dispensers.
  • Freezer models must use at least 10% less energy than current federal standards.

Best in Class: According to J.D. Power & Associates, the Kenmore Elite line of refrigerators and freezers stack up best against the competition. Not only are they environmentally friendly, these appliances also offer a variety of styles for custom design options. Side-by-side and top-freezer models are also available.

Dishwashers must save on water and energy in order to carry the Energy Star logo. The EPA states that Energy Star qualified dishwashers must:

  • Use at least 41% less energy than the federal minimum standard for energy consumption.
  • Use much less water than conventional models (exact amount not specified).

Best in Class: According to Consumer Reports, the Kenmore 1374 is the best option for your money. This dishwasher features a SmartWash Cycle, which is designed to analyze your dish load to use only the amount of time, energy and water needed to get your dishes clean – no more, no less. The intuitive nature of this appliance, coupled with its affordability (around $575), makes it a top choice. Models from Bosch and Kenmore Elite round out the top three best dishwashers and offer multiple features like pot scrubbing and water-saver cycles.

Washing Machines
Energy Star qualified washing machines, both top and front loading, are required to save energy in their water usage and engine power. Specifically, they must:

  • Use 40% less energy than standard models.
  • Not have a central agitator (in most cases). Most Energy Star washing machines tumble clothes through a front-loading barrel instead of a top-loading basin. Advanced technology allows clothes to spin or flip around in a small stream of water instead of filling a large tub with water for every wash.
  • Use energy efficient motors that spin clothes two to three times faster to extract more water and reduce wash times.

Best in Class: According to Consumer Reports, the most energy efficient washing machine is the Fisher & Paykel Intuitive Eco IWL16. Estimated to cost around $775, it is definitely not cheap, but it does deliver powerful washing power with a variety of spin speeds. A less expensive (but still energy efficient) option is the GE WJRE5500GWW, which retails closer to $525.

Related Stories:

Secrets Behind the Federal Energy Star Program
Save Big With Energy-Efficient Improvements
Daily Deduction: Energy Tax Credits

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