Appliances account for about 13% of your household's energy costs, with refrigeration, cooking and laundry at the top of the list.

When you're shopping for appliances, think of two price tags. The first one covers the purchase price - think of it as a down payment. The second price tag is the cost of operating the appliance during its lifetime. You'll be paying on that second price tag every month with your utility bill for the next 10 to 20 years. Refrigerators last an average of 12 years; clothes washers last about 11 years; and room air conditioners last about 9 years.

To help you figure out whether an appliance is energy efficient, the federal government requires most appliances to display the bright yellow and black EnergyGuide label. Although these labels will not show you which appliance is the most efficient on the market, they will show you the annual energy consumption and operating cost for each appliance so you can compare them yourself.

How to Read the EnergyGuide Label

The EnergyGuide label is required to be placed on all appliances by the manufacturers. The label provides information about energy consumption and shows you how much energy an appliance uses compared with similar models. Keep in mind that the numbers are averages; actual costs will differ somewhat depending on how you use them.

  1. Key features of the appliance and the similar models that make up the cost comparison range.
  2. Make, model number and size of the appliance.
  3. Estimated yearly operating cost (based on the national average cost of electricity), and the range of operating costs for similar models.
  4. Estimated amount of energy use in a year (based on typical use)
  5. The Energy Star® logo indicates that this model meets strict criteria for energy efficiency.


The EnergyGuide label on new refrigerators tells you how much electricity in kilowatt-hours(kWh) a particular model uses in one year. The smaller the number, the less energy the refrigerator uses and the less it will cost you to operate. A new refrigerator with an Energy Star label uses at least 15% less energy than non-qualified models, 20% less energy than required by current federal standards, and 40% less energy than the conventional models sold in 2001.

Refrigerator / Freezer Energy Tips
  • Don't keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold. Recommended temperatures are 35º - 38ºF for refrigerators and 0ºF for separate freezers for long-term storage.
  • Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Test them by closing the door over a piece of paper or a dollar bill so it is half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the paper or bill out easily, the latch may need adjustment, the seal may need replacing or you may consider buying a new unit.
  • Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.


There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy used for washing clothes--use less water and use cooler water. Unless you're dealing with oily stains, the warm or cold water setting on your machine will generally do a good job of cleaning your clothes. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load's energy use in half.

Laundry Energy Tips
  • Wash your clothes in cold water using cold water detergents whenever possible.
  • Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.
  • Use the cool down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying with the heat remaining in the dryer.

Source: Energy Star