Shopping for a New Appliance— Think Energy Star


Shopping for a New Appliance—Think Energy Star

Whether replacing a broken washing machine or remodeling an outdated kitchen, the search for new appliances can be daunting.

The choices between gas and electric, finish options, functionality preferences, and more can leave your head spinning. To make matters more intimidating, larger price tags for the myriad of options loom around every corner.

The Energy Star label has become a standard sight in the appliance arena, found on refrigerators, washer and dryers, microwaves, and televisions. But what does this label actually signify, and what does it mean for the consumer, besides a higher price tag?

To be an Energy Star qualified appliance, a product must exceed the energy efficiency minimums set in place by federal standards. The appliance options must be broadly available, by a variety of manufacturers, and must deliver increased energy efficiency benefits to consumers. In fact, to receive the classification, the Environmental Protection Agency requires that the energy efficiency be reflected through utility bill savings and that the appliance’s increased cost be made up to the consumer in a reasonable amount of time.

As with most “green” products, the up-front cost will initially be more, but the long-term savings far outweigh the higher price tag.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Star appliances can reduce your home’s energy costs by as much as 10 to 50 percent.

When considering that 20 percent of the average household’s energy use is by major home appliances, the savings can equal hundreds of dollars every year. It has been estimated that over $200 billion dollars have been saved to date.

Purchasing an Energy Star qualified appliance has more benefits than just the energy savings. Qualified washers, for example, can use up to 50 percent less energy and 55 percent less water than a standard washer. Less detergent is needed, thus saving on grocery bills. In addition, these washers extract more water during the spin cycle, meaning reduced drying time. Even greater, the front load models hold larger wash loads offering the greatest benefit—fewer loads of laundry! Selecting a front load model also helps prevent wear and tear on clothing, as without an agitator the washer is gentler on clothing and linens.   According to the EPA, the energy savings of a rated dishwasher are at least 41 percent greater than the minimum standards required by the federal government. Often these washers have built-in sensors to determine necessary cycle length and temperature. They are “smart” washers that run more efficiently, saving time, water, and energy.

Many are available with an “energy” or “light wash” option for lighter loads, operating for a shorter period of time and reducing water waste.

Refrigerators use more energy than almost any other appliance in the home. The latest Energy Star rated refrigerator models use at least 15 percent less energy than standard models and up to 40 percent less than models older than 2001. This makes a huge impact on energy bills. They also have better insulation and temperature control, helping food stay fresh longer.

If you purchase an energy-efficient product or renewable energy system for your home, you may be eligible for a federal tax credit.

Visit the Energy Star website below for details.

When it comes to Energy Star qualified appliances, the longterm benefits for your wallet and the environment far outweigh the negative aspect of a higher initial cost. Most major appliances have a lifespan of 10 to 20 years. Investing in high quality Energy Star appliances provide convenience, cost savings, and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption.

For more information on the Energy Star program, visit —By Maggie McClure of Beth Haley Design

Editor’s Note: Beth Haley Design, an urban interior design firm,  focuses on remodeling and revitalizing established homes, as well as creating stimulating, functional, sustainable spaces in new homes.  Maggie McClure is an allied member of ASID (American Society of Interior Designers). E-mail your questions to her at or visit

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