Appliances and Home Electronics

The appliances in your home, including your refrigerator, freezer, oven, microwave, washing machine and clothes dryer, account for about 13% of all of the energy that is used each month. Every appliance in your home has been rated with two price tags: the cost of purchasing the appliance and the cost of operating it. Take both of these prices into account when considering which appliance to buy for your household.

Energy efficient appliances can help you save both money and energy, but they need to be properly used. When buying new, energy efficient appliances, it is important to know how to read EnergyGuide labels. These labels deliver essential information about the efficiency and operating cost of the appliance.

Reading Energy Efficiency Labels

Every appliance contains an energy efficiency label on its packaging or directly on its surface. When you are shopping for a washing machine, washer and dryer combination unit, clothes dryer, dishwasher, electric or gas oven, refrigerator, freezer or air conditioner, the item will have the label. Even smaller items such as microwaves, light bulbs and fans also contain energy efficiency labels. The energy ratings for products are determined based on their size and capacity. In the EU, energy efficiency labels are categorized using a letter system in which A+++ is the most efficient and a D is the least efficient.

On the surface of energy labels, you will find information about the appliance's Annual Energy Consumption Value. This is measured in units of kWh per year or kilowatt hours per year. The rating is calculated based on specific tests performed in testing laboratories. Other information contained on the label may include capacity, water consumption, and the unit's noise level.

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The efficiency label on a refrigerator will include information about its cooling cost per square meter and the manufacturer's claimed interior storage space. A washing machine's energy label contains the information on annual water consumption, capacity, spin drying efficiency class and noise emission, while dishwashers' energy efficiency label includes its drying capacity in addition to water consumption.

Besides energy efficiency labels, your appliance might also be outfitted with more information such as the EnergyGuide. The EnergyGuide label is issued as a joint venture by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The same agencies issue the Energy Star label, which promises a 30% or higher energy savings compared with similar units.

Smart Appliances and Meters

A smart home appliance is a device that can be connected to online home energy management systems, or HEMS. An HEMS consists of a computerized hardware and software system that monitors and optimizes the energy usage of a home's electrical system and appliances.

Smart homes look like a regular house, but all of the electrical items are wired into a computer. Smart houses eliminate the need for switches. This type of home design is growing in popularity, as HEMS can control everything from your television to your furnace.

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Smart appliances are designed to be connected to a centralized system. Some of the devices are also connected with the manufacturer so that the owner can be alerted of a recall, need for service or repair.

For the vast majority of homeowners who do not live in smart houses, there is the option of installing a smart meter. The smart meter can help you monitor energy usage from any Wi-Fi enabled device. You can use the information to change the amount of energy that your home uses during peak hours. This can help to significantly lower your electricity bill.

Energy Saving Tips

Refrigerator/Freezer

Operating your refrigerator and freezer as efficiently as possible can help you save up to £62 each year. Even if you do not currently own the most efficient refrigerator-freezer combination unit, you can still maximize your old unit's efficiency by acquiring new, energy-saving habits. Your refrigerator should be set to a temperature between 0 and 4 °C, with cooler temperatures in the summer and up to a degree warmer during the wintertime. If you set the refrigerator's thermostat to be warmer than 4 °C, your food may spoil. On the other hand, setting your refrigerator's temperature too low can waste energy and freeze food that you do not want to have frozen. The ideal temperature for your freezer is -18 °C.

You can keep a special thermometer inside of your refrigerator and another one in your freezer to make sure that temperatures are accurate and consistently maintained. Do not leave your unit's door open longer than you need to. Open doors allow the cool air to flow out and warm air to leak in. Also, check the seals on your refrigerator and freezer doors. Close the door atop a piece of paper. If the paper can slide through when tugged, the seal is not airtight. Poor seals should be fixed or replaced.

If your refrigerator or freezer is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it with a newer and more efficient model. Handling food properly will enhance your refrigerator's efficiency. Avoid putting warm or hot food directly into the refrigerator or freezer. This will cause the unit to work harder to maintain the right temperature. When possible, defrost food in the refrigerator, as the process will keep the refrigerator cool and reduce its energy use for a while.

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Cover liquids and wrap food in your refrigerator to avoid the build-up of moisture that makes the compressor work harder, cycle more frequently and use more energy. Keep your refrigerator and freezer about three-quarters of the way full to optimize efficiency. If you have less food than that, just fill up some water bottles or jugs. Similarly, make sure not to overfill your unit. If the refrigerator or freezer is overly full, the air will not be able to efficiently circulate and the unit will use more energy.

Regular maintenance of your refrigerator and freezer saves energy and prolongs the item's lifespan. Vacuum the coils on the back or bottom of the unit once per month. When the coils are coated in dust, the hot air is not able to dissipate into the air of your home as easily. Once every three months, defrost your refrigerator and freezer. This will help them run more efficiently and use less energy.

Dishwashers

Read the owner's manual of your dishwasher to learn about the manufacturer's recommendations regarding its use and efficiency. If your dishwasher has one, run the energy-saving "eco" program. These programs use about 35% less water and 30% electricity than the regular wash settings. Your dishes will still get as clean as they would on any other cycle; the only difference is that the eco cycle lasts significantly longer.

For the most part, you can skip rinsing or soaking your dishes. Just use a fork to scrape off any leftovers after you eat in order to avoid wasting water. Adjust the dishwasher's temperature setting if there is an option to do so. You can set the temperature to 50 degrees Celsius to reduce electricity usage. In addition, your dishwasher should always be fully loaded when you run it, but make sure not to overload it. Finally, allow your dishes to air dry at the end of a wash cycle. If your dishwasher does not have an air dry setting, just shut it off at the end of the rinse and open its door slightly.

Ovens and Stove Tops

Consider using an energy efficient stove top or oven if possible. There are many available options on the market, each one with different features and its own energy efficiency value. A convection oven uses less energy because it continuously circulates the hot air. On the other hand, a self-cleaning oven is optimized with as much insulation as possible to keep the heat inside.

On hot days, prepare your food in a slow cooker. Slow cookers use less electricity to heat your food and do not cause your house to heat up. These cookers are a great option for foods that taste better when cooked over low temperatures for a long time, such as soups and stews.

Choose the right size of pot or pan for the dish you are preparing. A smaller pot requires the use of the smaller burner on the stove top, therefore saving energy and generating less heat. Using a small pot on a big burner wastes electricity and heats up your home. Putting the lid on your pots and pans keeps the heat inside and helps your food cook faster. In addition, when preparing small quantities of food, consider using toasters or microwaves instead of ovens and stovetops.

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If you can, cook enough to have leftovers which can be reheated later. It takes less electricity to reheat food than it does to cook it from scratch. Once they cool down, the leftovers can be stored in your refrigerator or freezer. When using the oven, try to minimize the time you need for preheating. Use a timer to control the baking time and try to avoid peeking in to see if the food is done. Keep the oven door clean and turn on the light instead to see the food without opening the door.

Keep the inside of your oven and the surface of your stove top and burners clean to maximize their efficiency. Once per month, check the seal on your oven's door. It should be clean and airtight to keep the hot air inside during the cooking process. Arrange pans on the oven racks in a staggered manner in order to optimize the circulation of air. If your food might bubble over the pan, use baking paper rather than aluminium foil to cover the racks. If you need to use a stove top burner, set the flame level to medium to avoid wasting cooking gas.

Washing Machines and Tumble Dryers

Washing machines and tumble dryers use considerable amounts of energy and water. Most washing machines have energy-saving cycles that should be used whenever possible. Only wash full loads and choose cold water if you can. Cold water lengthens the lifespan of fabrics and requires less electricity. Remember to use a laundry detergent that is designed for low temperatures. If you have enough space, consider air drying your clothes rather than using a tumble dryer. When you do run the tumble dryer, dry a full load. Clean its lint filter after each use and regularly vacuum the heat exchanger and the dryer vent's hose. Instead of a reticulated hose, choose a duct that is smooth and will not collect lint.

Air Conditioning System

Proper use and regular maintenance of air conditioning systems will both save energy and prolong the system's lifespan. Consider installing a programmable thermostat to help control the temperature and minimize air conditioning use. Every 3 months, replace the air conditioner's air filter and have the system professionally serviced at least once a year. You might also choose to run the ceiling fan instead of an air conditioner. The ceiling fan will help you to feel cooler while using significantly less electricity than an air conditioner does.

Home Electronics and Energy-saving Tips

Houses in the UK spend an average of £30 per year powering appliances that are in standby mode. Standby mode draws power by keeping the appliance ready to use at any time. Turn the item off or plug it into a power strip with a switch instead. Printers, computers, and TVs are high electricity users in standby mode. You can switch to LED TVs and monitors and unplug gadgets when they are finished charging.

Even if you are not ready to replace older appliances with more efficient units, you can make changes to the ways that you use your appliances. These changes can help to lower energy consumption and may even lengthen the lifespan of your appliances. When you are ready to replace your old items, read the energy efficiency labels and choose the most efficient unit that your budget allows.