How to Run Your Appliances More Efficiently to Save Energy and Money

This is the second in a series of Articles that have become The Energy Saver Challenge.  The first article concentrated on helping people save energy and money on their lighting bill.  The focus for now is on how your appliances can cost you unnecessary money, be using energy for which no benefit is derived and how you can do better for the environment and your wallet no matter what your circumstances. 

If you are in the market for a new fridge or freezer, dishwasher or oven or any other appliance for your home, now is the time to make some quality decisions.  It's not all about looks you know, these days it is just as important to select a model that will perform not only in the cooling/washing/looks department but also in the energy use department. 

Look for a model that has the top energy rating.   A model with a high energy rating can save you a lot of money over the lifetime of the appliance.  Plus, you can know that you have made a choice that is a better deal for the environment too.  Now let's get into some useful detail.

Fridges and Freezers:

Did you know that your fridge and freezer account for a large proportion of the energy you use in your house?  The reason for this is they usually run all day and all night, every day of the year.  Learning how to use your fridge and freezer efficiently can make a big difference to how much energy you use.  This is all good news for the environment and for your electricity bill.  Most people are not in the market for a new fridge and there are some important things you can do to improve the performance of your current fridge and freezer.

The first is to give it a bit of a tune-up in terms of it's seals.

Are they airtight?

  • You can check that by putting a piece of paper between the body of the fridge and the door. Shut the door and then tug gently on the paper.  If it comes out easily then your seal is not tight enough and that is costing you money 24/7!  It may be that the door hinges can be adjusted to improve the seal or perhaps it's time to get the seals replaced.
  •  I read recently on an energy company website that an old inefficient refrigerator can use three times as much energy as a new one!  That means it costs you three times as much to run.  If you can check the seal and make that better or replace it, you will certainly benefit.

Many homes have an extra fridge in the garage, basement or even in the shed.  

The party fridge, the beer fridge, the Christmas overflow fridge - whatever it's name at your place, it is costing you money.  Up to $200 a year!  So ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • Is it necessary for this fridge to be turned on all the time or could you just turn it on when it is actually needed?  This will cut your energy consumption and save you a stack of money.
  •  Do your really need the second fridge at all?  I mean, how bad is the refrigeration situation?  Was it a good idea once upon a time and now circumstances have changed? 
  • Perhaps the solution is to sell it to someone who really needs it.

Now we can look at some behavioural changes that can really cut into your energy consumption where the fridge is concerned.

First there is size.

  • Is your fridge the right size for your needs?  We usually have our fridges for a long time, and often we are using a fridge that is no longer optimum for our needs.  I used to own a really big fridge because there were five of us in the house and we needed the room.  Now there are only three of us and we have a medium size fridge however, most of the time we could probably get away with one that was even a little bit smaller. 

Apparently fridges operate most efficiently when they are quite full.  

  • That's the way they like it best.  So if you are looking in the door of your fridge and there isn't much in there and that is the way it usually looks - I can suggest that you are over capacity in the fridge department and it might be worth considering downsizing!

A couple of other tips to help your fridge keep more money in your wallet and create fewer greenhouse gases for the environment.

  • It's best not to locate your fridge or freezer near your oven, or even if it gets sun on it.  Just makes it work harder and you know what that means! 

  • Fridges need space - make sure there is a gap at the back near the ventilation coils so that it can work efficiently.  Around 80mm is recommended.
  •  And last but not least, give the back of the fridge a bit of a dust now and then, this helps the ventilation system too - and you'll be amazed at what makes it way around the back of the fridge when you are not looking.

Dishwashers:

Mine is my husband and my son and I think they both have a 50 star energy rating!   Seriously though, washing dishes in the sink is a good thing and personally I think it's underrated as a family activity. 

Still if you must use a dishwasher think about it's energy rating when you buy it and see how many of these tips you can adopt in it's use.

  • Only run the dishwasher with a full load - it uses the same amount of energy (and water!) whether it's full or half full so it just makes sense to wait until it's full right? 

  • Then don't let the machine dry the dishes for you - program it to stop before the drying cycle and just open the door - the dishes will dry themselves without any extra energy needed at all.

Your stove or oven:

Once again if you are buying new, go for the highest energy rated appliance you can afford - it will keep saving you money for the whole of its life.

One big tip is to only use your oven when you actually need to.

  • Frying pans, pressure cookers and crock pots and even microwave ovens are more energy efficient if what you are cooking can be created in them. 
  • If you are going to use your oven, check that the door closes fully and that there is a good seal when it is closed.  No point in paying for all that energy to warm it up if it is just going to escape out around the door. 
  • This applies equally to electric or gas ovens. 

Now to the cook top.

  • Did you know that just putting the lid on the pot will substantially lessen the amount of energy required to cook what is in it? 
  • Plus, if you ensure that the right pot goes on the right hotplate or burner (not too big, or small) then you will also save substantially in both energy and time.  Not to mention the money!

So how can you save energy in the laundry? 

That washing machine now gets the energy efficiency treatment.  You know the deal by now with the energy rating if you are in the market for new appliances right?  I know you have a good idea of what to look for now. 

The first tip is to wash in cold water.

  • I've not washed in hot or warm water for decades and I'd love to know how much energy and money that has saved me.  I also recently had to buy a new machine and went for one of those front loading varieties.  I have to say, I like it very much and it uses less water and less energy than an equivalent top loading machine so it appears I have made a good decision with that one. 
  • As with the dishwasher, you will discover that your washing machine will use the same amount of energy whether or not there are a few items or a whole load so it makes sense really to wait until you have a full load of washing if you are trying to save energy and thus have more money in your pocket at the end of the month. 

Now, the bane of my life, clothes dryers.

I was given one as a wedding gift and I had it for about 15 years before it finally coughed it's last load of soft fluffy clothes at me.  However, I had used it less and less as I realised just how much money it cost me each time I used it.  Eventually for the last three or four years it only got used in emergencies of weather or bad management on my part.

  • If it is a sunny day, hang your washing outside.  I have a clothes line but I know others who use clothes airers and they work well too.  The sun dries them perfectly, the breeze softens the fabrics and they smell fantastic when you bring them back inside. 

  • If you do use your dryer, never put dripping clothes in, always spin them first and make sure the lint filter is cleaned really regularly so that the machine can weave its magic for you as efficiently as possible. 

  • Maybe you could trial drying your clothes and just finishing them off in the dryer as an interim measure on a wonderfully sunny day.

There are many other energy using appliances in our home that you may not have thought of.

Things like your iron, your microwave, your television, computer, dvd/video machine, stereo,gaming consoles.....  How on earth did we come to rely on energy so much for our daily lives. 

Most of these appliances now contain digital clocks and also standby lights.  Now this is all very well but how many clocks does one room need?  In my home, in the kitchen I have a clock on the wall, one on the stove and another on the microwave.  In the living room I think at last count there were four clocks in the TV cabinet!  What is this obsession with clocks on appliances? 

Now to get to the point.  I'll give you an everyday example as a means to make it - the microwave oven.  Most if not all homes now possess such an appliance.  They almost all come with a digital display that tells you all sorts of useful information like temperature and duration of cooking time while you are using them and that is great but once their job is done, they just sit there with their little display telling you the time. And using energy. 

  • I use my microwave for less than 30 minutes a day and yet I allow it to use energy (and cost me money) for 24 hours per day.  That just does not make sense. 
  • Turn it off at the switch when you are not using it. 
  • It will not mind, it will not stop working. 
  • Nothing terrible will happen.

The same goes for your stereo. 

  • If you are not listening to it, turn it of. 
  • Not just on the front, that will just let it sit there on standby mode, using power. 
  • Turn it off at the switch.

And when you go to bed at night, all those things in the entertainment cabinet with their little red and green lights just begging you to turn them back on, are costing you money.  Don't listen, reach behind the cabinet and flick that switch!

Now here is the big sell for me about this one.

All those clocks, all those little red and green standby lights (including the ones on your computer!) add around 10% to your energy bill.  That means by creating the habit of turning them off when they are not being used, you could save up to 10% on each and every energy account you receive from this day forward.  Over your lifetime, that can add up to a lot of energy and a nice amount of money left in your bank account for something much more fun than paying the energy bill.

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