Simple Appliance Tips to Improve Efficiency and Reduce Cost

The appliance tips below are a compilation of common sense measures as well as some strategies that effectively reduce your energy use and consequently utility bill.

Appliances and electronics account for roughly 13% and 4% of a household's energy use respectively, in the U.S. Other types of electrical devices such as power adapters, audio, home entertainment, and telephony can add another 11% to your energy use.

So, this component of your electricity bill can amount to almost 30% of your total bill, and there are a of lot steps you can take to keep things in check.

Below are some appliance tips classified according to:

General Appliance Tips

Energy Efficient Appliances - Consider buying energy efficient appliances when buying new appliances and electronics (in the U.S. for example, look for appliances marked with the Energy Star Label).

Check to see if there are rebates and/or incentives available for buying these higher efficiency appliances either through the manufacturer, the utility cmpany, or the government. While energy-efficient products may be more expensive to buy, over their life, they can save you about 30 percent on your energy bill.

As a point of comparison, ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances, use 10 to 50 percent less electricity than standard models. A list of ENERGY STAR products is available at

Green Power - Switch to green power. For example, If 10 percent of households in a state such as New York State chose green power, it would reduce the state's annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by about 3 billion pounds.

CO2 makes up 80 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. For more information on Green Power Suppliers check the page on energy deregulation or go directly to BidUREnergy, a FREE online marketplace of energy suppliers that provide consumers free quotes for the lowest electricity and fuel rates from various green suppliers.

EnergyGuide Label - Read the yellow EnergyGuide label to help you compare the efficiency of different major appliances. If you would like help deciphering an appliances EnergyGuide label, please contact me with questions. As an appliance tip, understanding the EnergyGuide label can really provide a solid apples-to-apples comparison to help you make more informed decisions.

Energy-Saving Setting - Use the energy-saving setting for all appliances, particularly your refrigerator, air conditioner, washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher. While this is mentioned [again] here, in the "Appliance Tips" page, it rings true for all household items, electronics, and toys.

Unplug - Unplug appliances and equipment when not in use, including TVs, cable boxes, computers, and monitors. Turning computers on and off daily will not damage them.

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Computers, Electronics, Media, etc.

Use Power Strips - Plug home entertainment and computer equipment into power strips. This way, it's one easy switch to turn them on and off.

Computer Sleep Mode - Set your computer to "hibernate" when not in use for 30 minutes.

Turn Your Computer Monitor Off - Turn off your monitor when you leave your computer for more than 20 minutes. Screen savers use electricity.

Unplug When Charged - Unplug cell phone, MP3 player, and PDA chargers when not in use. They use electricity, even when they aren't charging.

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Refrigerator Settings - Set your refrigerator to 40 degrees - but no higher - and freezer to 0 degrees.

Buy The Right Refrigerator - Make sure your refrigerator is the right size for your needs. Bigger isn't better.

Refrigerator Food Storage- Loosely store food in the refrigerator so air can circulate around it.

Freezer Food Storage - In the freezer, pack items tightly. If there's extra space, add bags of ice.

Keep Refrigerator Door Closed - Open the refrigerator and freezer doors only when necessary.

Clean The Coils - Vacuum or dust refrigerator coils regularly.

Install Refrigerator Away From Heat Sources - Install your refrigerator away from the stove, radiator, heating duct, or direct sunlight, if possible.

Check Refrigerator Seal - Make sure the refrigerator and freezer doors shut tightly and have a good seal.

Cool Your Food First - Allow hot food to cool before storing in the refrigerator or freezer. But be sure to refrigerate or freeze hot foods within two hours of purchase or preparation, or within one hour if the air temperature is above 90 degrees.

Cover Liquids in the Refrigerator - Cover liquids in the refrigerator. Uncovered liquids make the refrigerator work harder.

Replace Your Old Refrigerator - Think about replacing your old refrigerator. Some older models may cost up to 50 percent of your monthly bill.

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Cooking Devices

Microwave - Use a microwave rather than an electric or gas oven as much as possible. Microwaves use less than half the power of traditional ovens. Heating a mug of water in the microwave uses much less energy than boiling a pot of water, unless, you take the extra water and store it in a thermos for later use.

Crock-Pot - For certain recipes that require long cooking times, use a Crock-Pot.

Use Copper-Bottom Pots - Use copper-bottom pots and pans. They heat up faster than regular pans.

When To Use Preheating - When baking, preheat your oven no more than five to eight minutes.

Don't Preheat for Broiling or Roasting - When broiling or roasting, don't preheat your oven.

Don't Open The Door - Don't open the oven door more than necessary. Every time you open the door, the oven loses 25 to 50 degrees.

Cook a Few Meals at One Time - Cook as much of your meal as possible at one time in the oven.

Turn Down The Heat - You can turn the oven temperature down 25 degrees when using glass or ceramic pans. The cooking time will remain the same.

Self Cleaning - Use the self-cleaning oven feature right after you've used the oven to cook a meal - while it's still hot. Try not to use this feature too often.

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Dishwasher Savings Tips

Run Dishwasher When Full - Run your dishwasher only when it is full.

Scrape The Particles First - Scrape dishes before placing them in the dishwasher.

Prewash or Soak - Use the "soak" or "prewash" dishwasher setting only for burned-on or dried-on food.

"Air Dry" - Use the "air dry" feature on your dishwasher or on older machines, prop open the door after the final rinse cycle.

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Washer/Dryer SavingsTips

Run Washer When Full - Use your clothes washer only when it is full.

Cold Water - Wash your clothes in cold water.

Removing The Lint - Clean the lint filter in the clothes dryer before each load. This is not only a energy saving appliance tip, but also one that enhances the operational safety of the dryer. How many lint-related dryer fires have we all heard about in the news?

Don't Overdry - Don't overdry your clothes, and use the moisture sensor if your machine has one. If not, consider replacing your old clothes dryer with a new energy efficient model with a moisture sensor. This feature can reduce your drying time by up to 15 percent and extend the life of your clothes...not only a good appliance tip, but also a handy feature to look for in a dryer.

Separate Fabrics - Dry heavy and light fabrics separately. This makes sense to most people, but it always takes a conscious effort on my part to separate the loads...ughh.

Use The Heat - Dry two or more loads in a row to take advantage of the heat from the first load.

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While the appliance tips presented here suggest easy ways to save energy, they are also great steps towards budgeting and saving money in all aspect of your life. For a side-trip to more money savings ideas, check out 101 Ways to Save Money, a website filled with tips to save money on everything from gas to groceries, entertaining to eating out and much, much more.

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