Dear EarthTalk: I am considering upgrading some older appliances in my home. Where can I find information on which models are the most energy efficient?
—Jonathan Duda, Olivebridge, NY
There has never been a better time to upgrade some of those older creaky appliances that are gobbling up much more energy (or water) than they need to in your home. Fortunately, most of the sifting-through to find the best values has already been done for you.
The first thing to do when shopping for new equipment is to look for models emblazoned with the blue EnergyStar logo. This helps you zero in on those models that have been determined by the federal government—EnergyStar is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy—to be at least 10 to 25 percent more energy-efficient (and often much more) than conventional models.
For dishwashers, for example, EnergyStar qualified models use 31 percent less energy and 33 percent less water than conventional machines while performing as well as or better, according to EnergyStar. With clothes washers, EnergyStar models can cut energy use by over a third and water use by half. EnergyStar-rated refrigerators will cut electrical use in half, compared to older machines made before 1993. With air conditioners, the savings is there, too, though at a more modest 10 percent over conventional models.
EnergyStar, which began in 1992 and first evaluated only computers and monitors, is a great jumping off point for evaluating everything from major appliances to home heating and cooling, lighting, home electronics, office equipment and more. The EPA recently extended the label to cover new homes and commercial and industrial buildings.
After first zeroing in on EnergyStar models, be sure to check out the accompanying yellow EnergyGuide sticker, which gets down to the nitty-gritty and estimates how much energy the appliance uses, compares its energy use to similar products and lists approximate annual operating costs. EnergyGuide labels also appear on appliances not EnergyStar compliant. Visit the EnergyStar website (address below) and immerse yourself.
Another way to help sort through the thousands of appliances out there that are EnergyStar-compliant is by checking out the Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports magazine) free Greener Choices website, which compares a wide range of merchandise according to their relative environmental impact.
Greener Choices provides detailed information on dishwashers, washers and dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators and vacuum cleaners. Each appliance is assessed in comparison to other models via the website’s Green Buying Guides, which can help consumers decide how green they should go. It also offers up a series of calculators to determine the energy use of your current appliances, new or old. By providing the efficiency and price of various models, the site helps consumers decide how much green “bang” they want for a specific amount of bucks.
CONTACTS: Energy Star, www.energystar.gov; Greener Choices, www.greenerchoices.org.
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