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What makes appliances efficient?

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Kim Wheeler recommends using energy-saving features on your major appliances, and turning off unnecessary options such as heat dry cycles.

Use energy-saving features on your existing appliances, and choose ENERGY STAR® if you're on the hunt for new ones

Posted by Kim Wheeler

Looking to turn over a new leaf this spring? Dust off your old appliances and consider replacing them with an ENERGY STAR rated model. Appliances can account for up to 20 per cent of your household's annual electricity costs, and ENERGY STAR models offer significant savings, particularly if you're replacing older standard models.

If you're not ready to replace your appliances, take advantage of the built-in energy saving features, and get into the habit of making smart choices, such as washing in cold water, that can help you save energy and money.

What's the advantage of ENERGY STAR appliances?

The ENERGY STAR logo is an indicator of high-efficiency products in Canada. These certified products have gone through rigorous testing to ensure they meet the strictest technical specifications for energy performance. Any product with ENERGY STAR certification, whether it's a fridge or a computer, will ensure that you save energy and money by performing 15 to 30 per cent more energy efficiently than standard models.

So when it comes to appliances, what exactly makes one appliance more energy efficient than another?

Refrigerators: compressors and reduced heat affect possible savings

Refrigerators are one of the biggest energy users in your home. If all your appliances can account for up to 20 per cent of your annual usage, nearly half of that usage generally comes from your refrigerator. It makes sense to consider ENERGY STAR if you're shopping for a new fridge.

On average, ENERGY STAR refrigerators are 10 per cent more efficient than a standard model, thanks to improved design and technology:

  • High-efficiency compressors create less heat and use less energy than standard compressors.
  • New efficient designs have improved airflow within the refrigerator.
  • Improved insulation keeps cold air in and warm air out.
  • Precise temperature and defrost mechanisms operate the refrigerator more efficiently keeping all areas of the fridge at an even temperature.
  • When shopping for a new fridge, consider the design. Models with the freezer on the top or bottom use 10 -15 per cent less than a side-by-side model.

Ready for a new fridge? From May 1 – June 30, Power Smart is offering $50 to $100 rebates on select qualifying ENERGY STAR refrigerators. See all available rebates.

To make your existing fridge more efficient, try these tips:

  • If your refrigerator temperature is too cold, it may be using as much as 25 per cent more electricity than it needs to. Ensure the temperature inside your refrigerator is set between 2°C and 3°C (35°F to 38°F).
  • Make sure there is enough space behind your fridge to allow for air flow and proper heat dispersal. Remember to clean your fridge coils with a vacuum twice a year.
  • Check the door seals of your fridge. If the fridge isn't sealing properly, you'll be wasting energy as cool air escapes.

Clothes washers: most energy usage comes from heating the water

Most of the energy used by clothes washers goes to heating the water. ENERGY STAR models have been designed to use (and heat) less water, leading to savings. Most ENERGY STAR clothes washers are about 25 per cent more efficient than a standard model.

Some newer model machines have no central agitator, designed to reduce the amount of water and energy used per wash cycle. This also helps protect your fabrics and increase the life of your wardrobe.

New models can also offer improved high-speed spin cycles to extract more water from each load, requiring less drying time.

If you're hoping to replace your washing machine, Power Smart, retailers and some municipalities are offering rebates on select qualifying ENERGY STAR clothes washers.

Not looking to replace your washing machine? Try these tips below to increase the efficiency of your existing machine:

  • 90 per cent of a washing machine's energy consumption goes toward heating the water, try changing to a cold water cycle.
  • Avoid doing partial loads of laundry. A partial load uses the same amount of electricity as a full load.
  • Check your washer for other features or select modes that use less energy, such as lower water levels or light wash cycles.

ENERGY STAR clothes dryers are now available

What about drying clothes? The best option to save energy is to hang clothes to dry whenever possible, using an indoor or outdoor drying rack. But for other loads, select ENERGY STAR clothes dryers are now available in Canada. These dryers are 20 per cent more efficient than standard clothes dryers.

ENERGY STAR dryers still use heat, but achieve energy savings through:

  • Improved moisture sensing and temperature sensors, to shorten drying times
  • Reverse tumble settings help to separate clothing to dry more evenly and quickly
  • Increased insulation reduces heat loss
  • Improved air circulation, thanks to better drum design, helps clothes dry more quickly.

Until June 30, you can get a $100 Power Smart rebate on all ENERGY STAR clothes dryers.

Not ready to replace your dryer? Save some energy each time you dry your clothes:

  • Try throwing a dry bath towel in with your wet load. The towel will help move the clothes around, absorb moisture and decrease drying time.
  • Always keep the dryer lint trap and ventilation ducts clean to ensure proper airflow.
  • Turn on the dryer's moisture sensor to prevent over-drying — this will save energy by ensuring the machine stops when clothes are dry.
  • Whenever possible, hang clothes to dry using an indoor or outdoor drying rack, or a clothesline.

Dishwashers can be big energy users in your kitchen

If you're lucky enough to have a dishwasher in your kitchen, you may be wondering if it uses lots of energy too, with all that heat and water. The good news is that ENERGY STAR dishwashers are 10 per cent more efficient than standard models, so they're a great option if you're in the market for a replacement.

  • Soil sensors test how dirty dishes are throughout the wash and adjust the cycle to achieve optimum cleaning with minimum water and energy use.
  • Improved water filtration removes food from the wash water allowing efficient use of detergent and water throughout the cycle.
  • More efficient jets use less energy to spray detergent and water over the dishes when cleaning.
  • Innovative dish rack designs maximize cleaning by strategically situating the dishes.

For your existing dishwasher, be strategic about how you use it, and you can maximize the energy savings.

  • Run full loads whenever possible. Your dishwasher will use the same amount of energy and water, regardless of the number of dishes inside.
  • Try letting your dishes air dry, and turn off the heat dry setting.

Set your freezer correctly, and maintain door seals for savings

Finally, let's talk about freezers. ENERGY STAR Freezers are at least 10% more energy efficient than the minimum federal standard.

Improved insulation in ENERGY STAR models helps keep the cold air in and warm air out. Just like ENERGY STAR fridges, high-efficiency compressors create less heat and use less energy than a standard compressor.

Try these tips below to increase the efficiency of your existing machine:

  • Ensure you have set the temperature appropriately, try setting it between -16° and -18°C (3.2°F to 0°F) for optimum efficiency.
  • Check the door seals, make sure the seals around the door are airtight. If not, consider replacing them.

Rebates available on qualifying ENERGY STAR models until June 30, 2015

Now you have all the information you need in order to make an energy efficient appliances purchase. If you are looking to purchase a new appliance, remember that from May 1 through to June 30 you can receive between $50 to $100 off on select ENERGY STAR appliances. Watch for double-up rebates and see if you qualify for a municipal rebate. Visit powersmart.ca for more information on all the rebates available and to find an appliance that best suits your needs.

Kim Wheeler is a Community Outreach Retail Representative who works with retail partners to educate staff on Power Smart programs and energy-efficient products in stores.