Appliances are getting more and more efficient with new technology and an understanding of how much energy can be saved. A refrigerator as new as 10 years old is already a dinosaur. It, along with your washing machine, are the biggest energy hogs in your house and should be replaced if they are too old.
I am not a proponent of replacing anything just to be eco-friendly. If you have a perfectly good couch that has off-gassed its toxicity, do not buy one made in the USA of organic materials. You defeat the purpose of tending to the planet, because you have created the need for something new to be manufactured.
Appliances are a different story.
Washing machine efficiency in the 21st century
Washing machines were drastically improved in 1994, and efficiency standards have been stricter since 2007. As you can see, if you have an older washer, you would do well to replace it. You will save money, fuel and drying time with a new washer. I can attest to this.
In 1996, I bought a 20-year-old top-loading Kenmore washer with a huge tub. My younger daughter was in cloth diapers, and, with a family of four, we needed a large machine. This served me well for many years, but as my little girls morphed into teenagers, laundry piled up, and my gas bill was getting high.
When that old washer pump failed for a third time, I broke down and bought a new front-loading Kenmore. My gas bill was slashed to almost nothing, clothes felt practically dry after a high-speed spin, and dry time was quicker on the clothesline. I could hang two loads a day if I had to!
Even top-loading washers are more efficient these days. Look for an Energy Star washer for the highest efficiency. Compare brands, talk to friends, and ask a lot of questions to make an informed purchase.
Energy efficient refrigerators
Your refrigerator is the biggest energy guzzler in the house. Think about it. The compressors are at the bottom, and they release a sizable amount of heat. Heat rises to heat your refrigerator, which in turn makes it work harder to cool your food. Today’s refrigerators are better insulated and have more efficient compressors to cut energy costs.
Energy Star refrigerators are 50% more efficient than models made before 1993. If your fridge is that old, replace it. And don’t sell the old one! Recycle your old refrigerator so it is not being inefficient at someone else’s house.
True story. My solar installer went to someone’s home to talk about installing PV. There was an ancient fridge in the kitchen. Larry told the homeowner to replace old appliances (like that fridge) to cut back on electricity use before he gave them a quote. The homeowner called Larry to say he’d replaced the fridge. When Larry went back, there was an efficient fridge in the kitchen. However, the old one was in the garage full of beer! The homeowner had made NO progress cutting back on his energy. So, let someone recycle the steel and rebuild the compressors of the old one.
Heating and cooling energy efficiency improvements
Air conditioning is about half of a home’s energy bill. AC systems have improved drastically over the years, and it’s a good idea to replace yours if it’s more than 10 years old. Central units work with the blower of the furnace, so it’s wise to replace both at the same time so the AC can run most efficiently. If your furnace is more than 15 years old, it needs to be replaced anyway.
Energy Star room units use 10% less energy than a standard unit. All AC units should have a SEER rating (Seasonal Energy Efficient Ratio) between 13-18, but 14.5 is recommended by the ACEEE (American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy). The higher the number, the more efficient the system is.
Efficient furnaces and boilers have ratings, too. The AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) number shows how much fuel will be converted to heat and not wasted. A furnace should be at least 90, and a boiler 85. Energy Star furnaces are 15% more efficient than the federal standard. Your heating system should be replaced every 15 years, or when repair bills are coming too frequently.
Energy efficiency, and water efficiency
New dishwashers use little water, and actually have soil sensors to adjust the amount of water according to how dirty the dishes are! There is no need to pre-rinse in your sink, which saves water and energy. A dishwasher should be replaced every 10-15 years. Energy Star washers are 25% more efficient than the minimum federal standard.
Your hot water heater uses about 14% of your energy bill. It should be replaced about every 10 years. Learn to read and compare the Energy Guide labels to get the right size and most efficient model for your water usage. Consider installing solar hot water. Your fuel powered water tank will become your back-up, and you will cut your energy use considerably. Solar also has a very short payback time.
Choosing energy efficient appliances
When you are buying new appliances, consider utility rebates and incentives as well as tax rebates. Be sure your appliances and heating and cooling systems are sized properly for your home and energy use. Use natural gas instead of electricity. Regular maintenance keeps your appliances running efficiently and saving the most energy.
This is one area where replacing something is more eco-friendly than keeping the old item.