Think Twice When Replacing Appliances
“Every appliance or electronic device you purchase has two prices associated with it: the original purchase price and the price of operating the device,” says Carl Pedersen, North Dakota State University Extension Service energy educator. “Many people shop for the lowest-priced item but do not take into account how much that particular appliance or electronic device could cost them each year in utility costs.”
Heating systems are a good example. Federal regulations require new heating systems to display their annual fuel utilization efficiency rating (AFUE). This rating is a measure of how much energy that heating system delivers into the home from the fuel source. A furnace or boiler with an AFUE of 90 percent means that 90 percent of the heat is delivered into the home and only 10 percent is wasted through the chimney.
The lowest allowable AFUE for noncondensing fossil-fueled furnaces sold in the U.S. is 78 percent. Suppose a homeowner installs a 78 percent efficient furnace and his or her heating bill is $3,200 a year. Had the homeowner installed a 92 percent efficient furnace, his or her fuel bills would have been nearer $2,700. That means he or she could be wasting $500 every year during the life of the furnace.
More efficient heating systems generally cost more, but homeowners need to consider the paybacks in energy savings. Plus, state and federal utility incentives often are available for installing more efficient systems. These incentives will cover the greater initial costs of heating systems with higher AFUE ratings.
Numerous websites provide energy consumption results for appliances to help people select the most energy-efficient items. Plus, most home appliances will have an EnergyGuide label that lists the average amount of energy the appliance will consume in a year and the average cost for that energy. To see an example of a label and learn how to read it, visit www.energysavers.gov/.
Regulations have improved in recent years, requiring more energy efficiency in appliances. Federal requirements set specific energy usage minimums for each size and configuration of appliance.
However, EnergyGuide labels are not required on home electronics. To find the most energy-efficient home electronics, look for the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR is a continually updated rating system that labels a particular appliance or piece of electronics as being energy efficient.
For example, an ENERGY STAR-rated refrigerator will be at least 15 percent more efficient than the current federal requirements. It also will be 40 percent more efficient than the typical model sold just 10 years ago.
Consult the ENERGY STAR website at www.energystar.gov for more information on a particular appliance you want to purchase.