Which Appliances' Replacement will Bring the Highest Energy Savings?

Ken Black

When it comes to energy savings, few things will make as immediate of an impact as switching a home appliance or two. This can easily be done without much expertise, but homeowners may be reluctant to do so simply because there is often a high acquisition cost for the equipment. However, for those who are able to afford that initial cost, the benefits could be well worth it.

Replacing an old refrigerator can often bring significant energy savings.
Replacing an old refrigerator can often bring significant energy savings.

Determining which home appliance will best convert to energy savings does not have a stock answer. Rather, the answer will likely depend on which home appliance is the oldest or the least efficient, given the conditions under which it is being used. Typically, while going from any old appliance to a new one will save energy, some will do a better job than others as producing those energy savings. An energy audit, often offered by a local power or gas utility, may produce some suggestions as to which home appliance may need replaced.

A programmable thermostat may help reduce energy consumption.
A programmable thermostat may help reduce energy consumption.

All else being equal, in most homes the appliance with the greatest and most immediate impact will likely be the furnace or air conditioning unit. The power they consume may easily surpass all the other appliances in the home combined. The one that most needs replacement is determined by geographic location in many situations. The one that gets the most use should be replaced. In warmer climates, this will often mean the air conditioning unit. In cooler climates, the opposite will be true.

Energy can be conserved by replacing older air conditioning units with newer energy efficient models.
Energy can be conserved by replacing older air conditioning units with newer energy efficient models.

For furnaces, the efficiency rating should be at least 83 percent, if it is to truly be energy efficient, according to the United States government's Energy Star® rating program. The program, although an American invention, is sometimes used by other countries as well, though each country could have their own ratings system. A furnace with an energy efficiency rating of at least 83 percent is thought to conserve as much energy as possible, though there may always be the chance that more energy-efficient appliances exist. However, the more efficient an appliance is, the greater the cost will be.

Energy efficient refrigerators keep cool air in as long as possible and cool the air more efficiently.
Energy efficient refrigerators keep cool air in as long as possible and cool the air more efficiently.

For air conditioning units in the United States, and in some other countries, energy savings are indicated by the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) program. This is a numbered system that indicates the relative efficiency of units versus other units. All new air conditioning units are mandated to be at least rated as SEER 13 in order to be sold. The higher the number, the greater the energy savings.

For those who have replaced the furnace or air conditioning unit, or have relatively new units, the next best place to start is often the refrigerator. Over time, as cooling mechanisms wear out and gaskets begin to seal less effectively, the refrigerator must work harder to maintain the same temperature. In those cases, a substantial energy savings can be realized. It is possible that, within a few years, the cost of the refrigerator will be recuperated due to lower utility bills and better energy conservation.

Gas utility companies often perform home audits to help homeowners find ways to save on energy costs.
Gas utility companies often perform home audits to help homeowners find ways to save on energy costs.

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