What to Know About Energy-Efficient Kitchen Appliances

Find out how energy-efficient appliances can save you money, and whether they're really better for the environment.

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June 16, 2022

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Photo by: RichLegg/Getty

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Thinking about upgrading a big-ticket appliance in your home? Of the dizzying array of factors that go into choosing the right model for such a big purchase, energy efficiency is probably high on the list. A multitude of reasons may lead consumers to consider energy-efficient appliances. Aside from environmental concerns, energy costs money, and energy-efficient appliances use less energy, saving consumers dollars in the long run. The savings will depend on energy costs (which can vary from house to house) and is relative to the appliance it’s replacing. However, even pennies of savings in a washing machine load or dishwasher cycle can add up to thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the appliance. Here’s everything you want to know about energy-efficient appliances and deciding if one is right for you.

What Does Energy-Efficient Mean?

To combat misleading labeling practices in product marketing, the US Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency created a designation called Energy Star. Homes, products, and businesses can all earn the Energy Star title. Every single household appliance has very specific parameters that need to be met to earn this designation. The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) set minimum energy efficiency standards that must be met for any appliance to be sold in America, and Energy Star appliances must use less than that. For example, to earn the Energy Star certification, a refrigerator with manual defrost must use 20% less energy than the NAECA minimum (which is less than 8.82 AV + 248.4 kilowatts a year). Comparatively, a chest freezer must use 10% less than the minimum.

Suffice to say, the experts that work for the EPA and Energy Star utilize a rigorous testing protocol and reviewing specific to each appliance to make sure that a given item is using as little energy as possible without any compromise on performance. If you purchase a product with the Energy Star designation, you have peace of mind that top experts in the field analyzed the appliance to make sure that it is providing top-notch service without inefficiently burning energy (and money).

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Photo by: Westend61/Getty

Westend61/Getty

How Energy-Efficient Appliances Can Save You Money

Energy-efficient appliances can come with a slightly higher upfront cost, but most consumers find that they are still saving money because the appliance is using less energy while still providing the same service. But how much money can you really save? Energy Star has a wonderful calculator on their website that can help you understand just how much savings that could be for you. Of course, this will depend on the cost of utilities in your area, if you have solar, and the age and efficiency of the system you are replacing.

For example, look at the savings one could expect from replacing 12,000 BTU heating and cooling system in a house in Houston, TX: Replacing a system from 1994 with a new energy-efficient system would save $290 per year and $3,630 over the lifetime of the system. If you replace a system from 2014, it would result in $80 in savings per month and $1,180 over the lifetime of the system. Plus, replacing the system saves on greenhouse gas emissions. Replacing a 1994 system saves 29,280 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions and replacing a system from 2014 saves 8,430 pounds.

Are Energy-Efficient Appliances Sustainable?

Sustainability is an ever-changing, relative term based on sociological factors. With each passing year, an increase in electric devices and appliances have caused our homes to use more and more electricity. Since the 1950’s, the average American household uses more than seven times as much electricity. Luckily, since then, there have been many breakthroughs in renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar. While some cities and states have switched a portion of their electrical grid to renewable sources of energy, some regions still rely on coal and gas, which release tons of pollution into the environment.

As appliances in our homes become more energy efficient with new technology, we can reduce the amount of electricity we consume. In a perfect world, our communities would decrease our reliance on non-renewable forms of energy as efficient appliances decrease our overall need for electricity, leading to a carbon-neutral future.

Top Energy-Efficient Appliances to Buy

Convinced to upgrade to some energy-efficient appliances? We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites.

Microwaves can seriously lower the amount of energy consumed in a home for cooking by rapidly heating something in just a fraction of the time needed compared to a much larger appliance, such as an oven. This GE microwave quickly heats food using just 950 Watts of energy. With several energy-saving features, such as Fast Cook, and an automatic sensor that automatically adjusts time and power (so you never cook something longer than it needs to), this is a great purchase for any kitchen.

Buy It

One of the newest refrigerator models by Whirlpool, this gorgeous stainless-steel model from Whirlpool has earned the Energy Star “Most Efficient” title. It features a specialized defrost mode that senses the environment and only runs the cycle when absolutely necessary, a common spot for unnecessary energy usage in refrigerators. Clocking at just 602 kWh/year, this appliance uses 100 kilowatts less a year than the Federal Standard.

Buy It

One of Samsung's newest appliances, the Flex Duo has a unique dual door design. By splitting the main oven chamber into two, you won’t need to heat the whole oven up to bake a sheet of cookies, saving energy and money. Don’t worry about Thanksgiving, you can also configure the oven to operate as one large space. This oven comes with a handy “No-Preheat” air fry, as well, for quick, efficient cooking.

Buy It

This dishwasher by Miele uses just 199 kWh/year, which is 35% better than the US Federal Standard. It also uses less water, about 36% less than the standard dishwasher. It comes in an attractive stainless-steel construction and a handy, space-saving cutlery tray.

Buy It

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