High Efficiency Appliances: Page 3 of 3

The Best of The Best

Inside this Article

Old Wash Machine Ad
The introduction of home appliances accounted for part of the surge in residential electricity use over the past century.
Modern dishwasher
Multidrawer dishwashers aren’t necessarily the most efficient overall, but they can save energy by allowing efficient-sized loads.
Window Air Condition in Room
Window air conditioners are good for cooling individual, small spaces.
Modern Clothes Washer
Washing machines can save energy in several ways: electricity used, hot water used, and water extracted (saving energy costs during drying).
Modern Fridge
Today’s energy-efficient refrigerators are far better than models from even 10 years ago. Leave off the bells and whistles, like in-door ice service, for even better performance.
Old Wash Machine Ad
Modern dishwasher
Window Air Condition in Room
Modern Clothes Washer
Modern Fridge

Washing Machines

Washing machines, like dishwashers, need to be considered based on the energy to run the appliance itself, the heated water used, and the work left after the washing is complete—by the dryer. Of course, you can decrease your energy use by washing in cold water and drying with a clothesline. Then use a wisely chosen machine, and your laundry energy consumption will be the envy of your neighbors.

Features to consider include size (think carefully about what you really need),  horizontal or vertical axis, whether or not the model has a water-level sensor and an option for a fast final spin. Front-loading (horizontal-axis) machines are the most energy efficient because they use less water and less electricity, and they wring out more water after the wash—and they’re easier on clothes.

Clothes washers are ranked according to their modified energy factor (MEF), the number of cubic feet of laundry that can be washed and dried using 1 kWh of electricity, and water factor (WF), the number of gallons required to wash 1 cubic foot of laundry. Conveniently, the models with the highest MEF also have a low WF. Energy Star standards require a MEF of at least 1.8 and a WF of 7.5 or less, but there are many machines that go well beyond this.


Your refrigerator cycles on and off, all day and all night. So does your neighbor’s refrigerator. And his uncle’s refrigerator. All told, refrigerators account for about 15% of U.S. residential electricity use. In the past couple of decades, refrigerators have had tremendous efficiency gains. Since 1990, energy use by models with a top-mounted freezer has been cut in half, and new standards set for 2014 will take an additional bite out of refrigerators’  electricity consumption.

The energy use of different styles of refrigerator-freezers varies. The side-by-side configuration uses more than a refrigerator with the freezer on top, with bottom-mounted freezers weighing in somewhere in between. Door-mounted ice and water dispensers increase energy use dramatically.

The models listed have capacities of about 18 cubic feet and some of the lowest electricity usage. All have top-mounted freezers and none has an in-door ice machine. Numerous models in this size range are rated at 335 kWh/year (versus the federal standard of 480 kWh/year). Most manufacturers make several models similar in efficiency to those listed here, as well as similarly efficient models of different sizes.

Before you buy a new refrigerator, take a close look at your needs; buy the smallest unit that you think is manageable. If you don’t need a freezer at all, you can lower your energy use even more. And no matter what size or model you own, don’t turn the thermostats any colder than necessary. Make sure the door seal is in good condition, and keep the fridge and freezer full (with water jugs, if not perishable food).


Karin Matchett (wordcraft at karinmatchett.com) is a writer and editor working in the Midwest and on the road. She covers topics in renewable energy, energy efficiency, woodworking, gardening, science, and medicine, and is dedicated to finding ways to rehabbing old, urban houses.


American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy • www.aceee.org

Energy Star • www.energystar.gov

Consortium for Energy Efficiency • www.cee1.org


Comments (1)

Fred Golden's picture

I love my very energy efficient Fisher Paykel single dishdrawer! dishwasher.

I also like my Staber washing machine, it is both water and soap efficient, as well as using the least amount of electricity, and a fast spin cycle drys the clothes about 15% better than the washer it replaced.

You will find ductless split air conditioners and heat pumps in the 16 SEER range, much higher than a window A/C. It can make heat for 1/3 the cost of running a electric baseboard heater.

Heat pump water heaters should be required in all businesses that use a lot of hot water, and in all homes without natural gas or propane to heat the water. They consume 1/3 the power of a electric water heater, and in low electric cost areas such as Oregon are less expensive to run than a propane or natural gas water heater. A by-product can be a air conditioned garage, or cool air supplied in the summer time to a area that needs it.

Fred Golden
San Diego, CA

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