For a more economical and eco-friendly home, keeping your appliances up to date can make a huge difference. Swapping out your appliances needs to happen every once in a while, and opting for energy-efficient appliances is the best way to do it. Here, we will look at how to upgrade your appliances, including when to replace them, what to look for in new ones, and how you can save money while upgrading.
Look For ENERGY STAR Labels
If you’re already on the hunt for new appliances, you’ve likely seen the ENERGY STAR label on many of them. When you’re focused on saving energy, these energy-efficient appliances are the way to go. ENERGY STAR is a program directed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is designed to highlight appliances that can save you money and have a lower environmental impact.
The EPA has a specific set of requirements for an appliance to earn an ENERGY STAR certification. These requirements are mostly based on how much energy the appliance uses compared to its performance, or how well it does its job. The idea is that ENERGY STAR appliances do the same job using less energy. The requirements for the certification can change along with federal standards, product availability, or quality/performance problems. As energy-efficiency continues to advance, these requirements are being revised to ensure that the ENERGY STAR certification is only given to the most energy-efficient appliances.
While you’re searching for the ENERGY STAR certification, take a look at the EnergyGuide label of the appliances you’re considering. The EnergyGuide label is bright yellow and often attached to the appliance that they describe. The label provides important information on how much energy an appliance uses, including the yearly cost of the product, the estimated amount of energy it will consume, and the cost of that specific model compared to other ones.
Understand the EER Rating of Your AC
Air conditioning is a significant energy consumer, so your air conditioning system is something you want to be upgrading where possible. During the summer months we want to be saving as much energy as possible when electricity consumption is typically higher, which means keeping watch on the energy usage of our air conditioning (AC). One of the ways you can keep an eye on your AC is to understand its Energy Efficiency Rating (EER). The EER is a ratio between the amount of energy put into a system and the amount of cooling that it provides. The higher your EER is, the more energy-efficient your AC is. EER values are often displayed on EnergyGuide labels, so be sure to take a look at them when you’re looking to upgrade your AC.
You may also want to examine the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) of your AC. The SEER value is similar to the EER value, but the ratio of the SEER is calculated assuming that the inside temperature of your home remains the same while the outdoor temperature fluctuates (between 60-100°F). The EER is calculated assuming that both the indoor and outdoor temperature remains the same. Your EER will give you a quick overview of your system while your SEER will give you a larger picture over time.
Opt For Sustainable HVAC Options
While an energy efficient air conditioner is a great option, there are other green heating and cooling technologies that lower your bill and your environmental impact. Ductless mini splits, geothermal heating, and more can all help make your home more energy efficient.
How to Assess Your Current Appliances
Upgrading your appliances can be costly, so it’s important to get the most use out of them as possible before upgrading. A good rule of thumb is to upgrade if the cost of repairs is more than the cost of replacing it or if the appliance is nearing the end of its natural lifespan. The average lifespan of your appliance can fluctuate between which appliance it is and how often it’s used in your house, but generally:
- The average life expectancy of washing machines is 10-13 years.
- The average life expectancy of clothes dryers is 10-15 years.
- The average life expectancy of gas stoves is 15-25 years.
- The average life expectancy of electric stoves is 13-20 years.
- The average life expectancy of refrigerators is 10-15 years.
- The average life expectancy of dishwashers is 10-12 years.
- The average life expectancy of water heaters is 8-12 years.
- The average life expectancy of HVAC systems is 12-15 years.
If you notice that an older appliance is reaching the end of its lifespan, or you notice that one of your appliances is using a lot more energy than normal, it might be time to start looking for a replacement. Focus on buying ENERGY STAR certified appliances. You’ll be surprised by how much money you could save on your electricity bills through these upgrades, and how much good you can do the planet by consuming less energy.
If you’re unsure if a specific appliance is using too much energy, consider installing smart technology in your home. Devices like Span and Lumin are great ways to keep an eye on appliances that may be draining a lot of electricity. They’ll also help you monitor if an appliance is starting to require more energy to function due to age, which can help you swap them out before they lose a lot of energy-efficiency. You can also look into getting a “plug load” monitor. These devices plug into an outlet and then you plug your appliance into the monitor itself. The device will then tell you how many kWh your appliance is using.
Once you can figure out how much energy your appliances are drawing, compare that to their average expected energy usage.
- The expected energy usage of an electric oven is 2.3 KWh per hour
- The expected energy usage of a microwave is 0.12 kWh per 5 minutes
- The expected energy usage of a dishwasher is 1-2.15 kWh per load
- The expected energy usage of an older refrigerator is 150 kWh per month
- The expected energy usage of an ENERGY STAR refrigerator is 35-60 kWh per month
- The expected energy usage of a clothes dryer is 2.5-4 kWh per load
- The expected energy usage of an ENERGY STAR clothes dryer is 1.9 kWh per load
If you notice that your appliances are drawing more energy than is expected of them, consider swapping them out for a newer, more energy-efficient one. You can even save a lot of electricity by swapping out a standard appliance for an ENERGY STAR certified one.
Financial Incentives and Rebates on New Appliances
Making home improvements can be costly, but there are plenty of ways to finance your new projects, including getting new appliances. Mass Save offers rebates and incentives for homeowners and renters to help residents purchase energy-efficient appliances and to make eco-friendly living more accessible to everyone. These incentives include things like direct rebates, price discounts, free delivery and installation, financing, and more.
Mass Save also offers other programs, including no-cost home energy assessments to help Massachusetts residents understand where they can cut down on energy usage in their home. If you’re struggling to figure out why your electricity bills are so high, consider getting one of these assessments to help you discover which appliances might be overdue for an energy-efficient upgrade.
How to Dispose of Your Old Appliances
Once you swap out your appliances for their energy-efficient counterpart, figuring out how to dispose of the old ones can be tricky. If they’re improperly disposed of, they can end up polluting our environment more than they did when you still used them.
If your appliance is still in good condition, consider donating it or selling it to somebody else. Allowing somebody else to make use of your old appliances can prevent them from ending up in landfills. Just be careful if you decide to do this. If the appliance you’re donating or selling is not in good condition, it could lead to somebody else using a lot of unnecessary energy, which ends up being worse for our environment despite the effort to recycle.
If your appliance is not in good enough condition to be reused, consider looking for “bounty programs” in your area. These programs usually run through a utility company who will pay appliance owners a “bounty” to collect their old appliance. Whatever they collect is broken down for parts or other raw material that can be sold or reused. These programs also often encourage and help you find ENERGY STAR appliance replacements that you can use the money they pay you for the old appliance to purchase.
Alternatively, the EPA has created the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program. This program partners with companies that follow specific requirements to properly dispose of appliances and ensure that all salvageable parts are recycled. They are also committed to recovering foam insulation and refrigerants and properly disposing of hazardous waste.
Keep Your Appliances Up to Date
Ultimately, keeping your appliances up to date and giving them routine maintenance is the best way to be energy-efficient and save money. Especially if you already have ENERGY STAR certified appliances, ensuring that they are functioning as intended is the best way to keep your money in your wallet and your environmental impact low.