Appliance upgrades - Carolina Country

Appliance upgrades

Compare labels, calculate operating costs when considering buying new items

By James Dulley

Appliance upgrades
Energy use habits have a big impact on the cost to use a dishwasher. Compare EnergyGuide labels to determine which models are most efficient. Keep in mind these are estimated averages.

Many people wonder how they can best determine when they should upgrade to new appliances. For major appliances, comparing the EnergyGuide is the best method to determine the cost to use each new one. Based upon the purchase price, you can then calculate which appliance provides the best return.

The most efficient appliance is not always the best buy from a payback standpoint. However, there are other factors to consider. If you are concerned about environmental impact, for example, you should be willing in most cases to spend extra for the most efficient models.

To do a proper payback analysis of the decision to replace your existing appliances, you have to determine the cost to operate your existing appliance. If you don’t have its EnergyGuide label, try an Internet search.

However, keep in mind that the annual operating costs on EnergyGuide labels are only averages. If you already are energy conscious, your current operating costs are likely lower and your savings from a new appliance will be lower than the average cost figures indicate.

Easy app

There are a couple of ways to calculate the cost to use an electric appliance. The simplest and quickest way is to download the “Save Energy, Save Money” app from This easy-to-use app provides several home appliance calculators.

Another way to calculate the cost of appliance use is to use this formula. First, find the wattage rating on the nameplate. Divide this by 1,000 and multiply the result by your $/kilowatt-hour electric rate to get the operating cost per hour. If the nameplate lists amperage, multiply it by 120 to get watts. For appliances with a thermostat, reduce the operating cost by about 50 percent.

Efficiency improvements and meaningful new features in major appliances are no longer coming along every time you check, so there is no need to wait if you really need a new one. One exception is televisions, because their prices and features keep improving.

In general though, it makes economic sense to keep your older, major appliances about 10 years or until they need expensive repairs. If you use your older appliances as efficiently as possible, they won’t cost a lot more to use than newer ones. Usage habits can really influence electricity consumption.

Water heaters, clothes washers

If you have a large family and do much laundry, the cost to use the clothes washer also includes the water’s cost and the cost to heat it. Upgrading your water heater, perhaps to a heat pump water heater, will also cut your dishwashing and bathing costs.

New front-loading clothes washers are typically more energy efficient than top-loading ones because front-loaders require less heated water. The electricity use by the motor is about the same for both types.

Another significant savings with front-loaders is their faster spin cycle, which extracts more water from the rinsed clothes. This greatly reduces drying time, so the dryer uses less electricity.

In the kitchen

Make sure any newly purchased dishwasher has a built-in water preheater. This allows you to set your water heater temperature lower without sacrificing cleaning effectiveness. Spend a little extra and select a model with many cycles to more accurately target a cycle’s length to each load’s requirements.

Modern refrigerators, such as Energy Star models, use about half of the energy required by a 10-year old model.

There is not a major difference in the energy efficiency of the various types of new ranges. Convection ovens bake faster, so they use less electricity for some foods.


About the Author

James Dulley is an engineer and syndicated columnist for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

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