What is Energy Star?
Created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Department of Energy (DOE), the Energy Star program is a strict set of specifications that residential appliances and construction elements (washers, dryers, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, televisions, tablets, computers, monitors, water heaters, HVAC units, dehumidifiers, air cleaners and purifiers, lighting, insulation and more) must meet through evaluations and testing to achieve certification.
The Energy Star rating assures consumers that the product has been EPA and DOE certified to function as well or better than its peers, while saving money, energy and the environment due to its greater energy efficiency. Many brands sell various models of appliances that meet these criteria, and while Energy Star appliances typically cost more at your time of purchase, you’re investing in the idea of using less energy. This benefits the planet while reducing your energy bills, ultimately benefiting your bank account in the long run. We’re talking long-term gains over years, as your machine maintains high performance while using less energy.
In fact, the benefits of saving money and energy with Energy Star appliances far outweigh the only negative: the higher purchase price. Energy Star-rated appliances bear the yellow EnergyGuide label, which allows consumers to compare its energy usage and resulting cost of operation with that of similar models.
Buying a new appliance is an important decision that warrants considerable research. Why not begin by looking into the many benefits of Energy Star appliances? If you‘re making an effort to lessen your family’s impact on the environment, your appliances – responsible for a huge portion of your home’s energy usage – are a great place to start considering changes.
Greening your home begins with being more conscious of how your family uses energy, and when it comes to measuring energy consumption, old, inefficient appliances are often a primary source of wasted energy, even if they’re still functioning well. As they are among our most expensive investments in our homes, we expect our appliances to last for many years. We’re already thinking long-term, so the next step is to factor efficiency into that thinking.
Benefit #1: Increased efficiency
The more efficient a machine is, the less it costs to run. When we buy new appliances, we want something that’s functional, affordable and durable, but those questions reach beyond the sticker price’s ability to answer. What we’re looking for is an investment that will pay off its initial cost over a lifetime of efficient usefulness, or essentially what it costs to operate this machine. What we’re measuring to determine this is energy efficiency.
If you’ve never compared efficiency rates of leading appliances, you may be in for a surprise. For example, efficiency rates among refrigerators can differ by as much as 40 percent, which can make a huge difference in cost of ownership of your refrigerator over time.
Benefit #2: Reduced energy use
It’s safe to say that about a third of your home’s energy use is attributable to your appliances, so reducing that energy outlay is in your best interest, as well as the planet’s. It’s simple, really. If your machine is more efficient, it uses less energy to do the same job as a less-efficient machine, which saves you money every time you use it. Energy Star appliances can save you up to 50 percent of the energy required for a single use, like a load of clothes in the washing machine or a full run of a dishwasher cycle.
What’s interesting to note is that this is in comparison to other new models that are not Energy Star rated. If you’re comparing an older, non-Energy Star model to a new, Energy Star appliance, the difference in efficiency could even be much greater. Energy-efficient appliances like those that earn the Energy Star label typically use about 15 percent less energy than other new appliances, which leads to a cascade of positive results for your pocket and the planet.
Benefit #3: Reduced utility bills
According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), if you still have a refrigerator from the eighties in your basement (or anywhere in your home), replacing it with a new Energy Star model can save you more than $100 a year in energy bills. The NRDC also recently used the example of replacing a pre-1994 washing machine with a new Energy Star machine to save another $100+ a year.
Meanwhile, even if your dishwasher isn’t that old, replacing it with an Energy Star model should add another $25 to your annual utility bill savings. If you were to replace all three, you’d save at least $225 a year, just on the bills! That’s not all, though. Most appliances last between 10 and 20 years. Let’s split the difference and say that your three new Energy Star appliances (refrigerator, washing machine and dishwasher) last 15 years. That’s $3,375 in savings over the life of your investment – money literally deleted from your utility bills.
Even if you replaced these new machines after a decade, you’d still save at least $2,250. If you kept them for 20 years, you’d save $4,500 in reduced energy costs over time. Now, imagine if you replaced all of your home’s appliances with Energy Star machines, and not just the three in this example. Your savings could add up very fast and multiply exponentially over the years.
Benefit #4: Reduced power-plant emissions & carbon footprint
More efficient appliances that use less energy result in a decreased demand on local power grids. This means a lessening need for fossil fuels, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, less water consumed and a decreased carbon footprint overall, from your home to the power plant. The more people continue to purchase efficient machines, the greater the impact on towns, cities, communities, states, regions, nations, continents and the planet as a whole.
All of us should be doing our part to preserve our natural environment. Purchasing Energy Star appliances, which have saved American homeowners hundreds of billions of dollars and continue to save consumers tens of billions of dollars every year (all while reducing harmful emissions by the equivalent of tens of millions of cars in that same year), is one excellent way to help, both in terms of reducing our carbon footprint and saving money while we’re at it.
Benefit #5: Wide selection, rebates & convenience
Over the years, as the benefits of Energy Star appliances have become more well known, the appliances themselves have become more common. Not only are they found among more appliance categories, but there are more manufacturers offering a greater variety of models within each category. These days it’s easier to find an Energy Star appliance that not only meets all of your efficiency requirements but also matches the look and style you prefer for your home.
Some parts of the country even offer Energy Star rebates, which are definitely worth looking into, especially if you’re considering multiple appliance purchases and would like to take advantage of any financial incentives offered for purchasing more green machines in your area. More efficient machines can also translate into additional conveniences, like your ability – with Energy Star – to wash more clothes in a single, larger load and then dry them faster, enabling you to wash and dry more clothes in less time.
Did you know that an Energy Star refrigerator is at least 15 percent more efficient than minimum federal efficiency standards? With the Flip Your Fridge calculator at EnergyStar.gov, you can find out how much your old refrigerator costs to operate and how much you could save by replacing it with an Energy Star model.
It feels pretty great to save money while you’re helping out the environment, doesn’t it? While you’re at it, here are our 10 tips for a greener home, along with our 20 ways to go green and a third post on how to cut energy costs at home, in case you’re interested.
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The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.