house hold appliances

How to Shop for Energy-Efficient Appliances

There's a lot to consider when you shop for a new appliance. There are a number of different brands, colors, shapes and sizes. But perhaps most important is price. Most appliances, especially those of good quality, cost a pretty penny. And appliances don't stop costing you once you leave the store. The cost to power an appliance adds up each month on your electricity bill. Fortunately, you can help streamline those costs by seeking out energy-efficient models. An energy-efficient appliance uses less energy, which can save you money on your monthly energy bill.

Energy Star

Learn About ENERGY STAR

Not every appliance on the sales floor is efficient. If you want to be certain an appliance offers energy savings, consider purchasing an appliance with an ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR is a government-backed program that measures energy efficiency in appliances and electronic devices. With its label, ENERGY STAR certifies that a device offers energy savings while still delivering the features and performance customers desire.

In order to earn this label, appliances are tested and certified by a third party, recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agency also pulls products off the shelves to test them each year. This way it can ensure that manufacturing procedures don't undermine the ENERGY STAR certification.

First implemented in 1992, the ENERGY STAR program has continued to evolve with stricter benchmarks. You can rest assured that purchasing an ENERGY STAR appliance means you are getting one of the most efficient options on the market. For example, today an ENERGY STAR washer uses 75 percent less water and 70 percent less energy than a standard washer 20 years ago. And an ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator is required to be 15 percent more efficient than non-certified models.

Measure, Measure, Measure

Because appliances are expensive and big, making returns is not exactly a walk in the park. To avoid the hassle, it’s important that you measure the space where your appliance will go and determine what size you need before you start shopping. Measure counter depth, take into consideration where pipes protrude or handles stick out and make sure you measure the appliance with its door(s) open. There's nothing worse than making a huge purchase, only to realize it won't fit in your home.

And don't just measure the space where your appliance should go. You also need to measure the doorways and hallways that the appliance will have to get through to reach its final resting place. You might have room for an oversized refrigerator in your kitchen, but it won't do you much good if you can't get it through the door.

tape measure

Once you have all the right specs, search for an appliance that meets them. And don't forget to take your trusty measuring tape to the store with you. It's best to measure appliances there too.

Finally, don't buy more than you need. Instead of searching for the biggest, best appliance on the market, try to find a balance between purchasing an appliance that's big enough for your space but not more than you actually need. If you're not a big cook, you probably don't need an ultra-expensive commercial stovetop. And if you have a small household, the biggest refrigerator at the store is probably not the right fit for you. The appliance size that works for your home will vary based on use. But an average family of four can get by with a 20 cubic foot fridge (5 cubic feet per person), a standard 24"x24" dishwasher and 3 to 4 cubic feet of oven space. Appliances are expensive to purchase, run and maintain but you can save money and energy by purchasing a smaller, efficient model.

Do Your Research

Walking into an appliance store can be an overwhelming experience. There are all kinds of options, from size, efficiency and color. It can be easy to get distracted by a shiny new color or a snazzy set of knobs, but it's important not to make impulse purchasing decisions. Appliances are a major purchase, so doing your research to find the best one is imperative to getting a good deal.

compare performance

Compare Performance

Before you shop for appliances, it's important to decide which features are important to you. Do you need fingerprint-proof stainless steel finishing? Is a quiet appliance a must-have? Are you particular about safety features? Start by taking a look online to see what options are available to you, read product reviews and examine expert opinions. It's also a good idea to look into product repair history and cost, because it can play a big role in how much the unit will cost you over its lifetime.

check for incentives

Check For Incentives

Check for money-saving offers before you purchase a major appliance. Some states or local utilities offer incentive programs to entice consumers to purchase energy-saving appliances. Depending on your area, you may find that there are rebates, tax breaks or low-interest loans available for the purchase of your ENERGY STAR-certified appliances.

find the best price

Find The Best Price

Unless you're in a huge hurry to find appliances, it's best to take your time and find a good price. Look online, check the stores and wait for sales to get the best deals. Stores usually mark down prices when they need to clear space for new models. According to Consumer Reports, this happens for refrigerators in spring, cooking appliances in the fall and washers and dryers in the winter. And don't be afraid to haggle. You may be able to negotiate a deal with the seller or get a discount for purchasing more than one appliance at a time. You can also ask for free delivery or free extended warranties to lower the overall cost of the appliance.

Compare Appliances With The Energy Guide Label

As you shop for new appliances, make sure you look for the bright yellow Energy Guide label that's attached to most models. This label shows an estimate of how much energy the appliance uses so you can easily compare the electricity cost of similar models. The cost of operating the appliance each year, as shown on the Energy Guide, is based on average electricity cost in the United States. But your energy expenses may vary from the estimate depending on how often you use the appliance and the electric rates available in your area.

Comparing your options and choosing a model with low estimated electricity consumption can help you save money on your electricity bill. However, be careful not to mistake the Energy Guide label for a symbol of energy efficiency. It simply tells you how much energy the appliance uses so you can make an informed decision. If you're looking for an energy-efficient model, it's best to search for an ENERGY STAR label. You will find this label on the appliance itself or on the bottom right corner of the Energy Guide.

What appliances have an Energy Guide label?

  • Washer
  • Refrigerator
  • Freezer
  • Dishwasher
  • Water heater
  • Television
  • Central air conditioner
  • Window air conditioner
  • Furnace
  • Boilers
  • Heat pumps
  • Pool heaters

What appliances don't?