Home’s Energy Efficiency

Gourmet Kitchen with high efficiency appliances in Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Rockville, Washington DC

4 Ways You Can Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency Now (Part 3)

Over the last decade, the rising cost of energy has been the inspiration for some rather interesting concepts: shag carpet refrigerator insulation, foil-umbrella solar stoves, and growing your own furniture using backyard trees (we’re not kidding!).

But what about ways in which you can improve your home’s energy efficiency today, without altering the products you’re currently using?

In part 3 of 4 Ways You Can Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency, we’re looking at how household appliances affect your energy consumption, and what you can do to use those appliances more efficiently.

We’ll also discuss what you need to know if you’re ready to upgrade your appliances with more energy-efficient models, and why it’s a good idea to do so sooner rather than later.

Improving Energy Efficiency of Household Appliances

Considering that appliances account for about 17% of household energy consumption (carrying a cost of roughly $1,000 per year for homes in the U.S.), now is an ideal time to learn how to better manage the ways in which they use energy.

With dishwashers, refrigerators, and washing machines/dryers as the top energy consumers, utilizing their existing features and controls not only reduces consumption but also saves you money on household bills.


  • Unless dishes are extremely dirty, refrain from soaking, pre-washing, and rinse-hold cycles, which can use up to an additional 7 gallons of water for every load
  • Avoid using the heated dry setting; air dry dishes instead
  • If internal heating elements allow, lower your home’s water heater to 120°F


  • Use the automatic moisture control setting, if available
  • Regulate internal temperatures: 5°F for the freezer, 37-40°F for fresh food
  • Perform regular, manual defrosts once ice is more than ¼-inch thick
  • Cover leftover foods; uncovered items release moisture and make the compressor work harder

Washing Machines and Dryers

  • Opt for warm water instead of hot to reduce energy consumption by 50%
  • Use less water for smaller loads
  • Use cooler water for all loads, if possible
  • Dry towels and heavier cottons separate from lighter-weight materials
  • Clean lint filter after every load
  • Periodically inspect dryer vent and clear blockages

Buying New, Energy Efficient Appliances

According to a 2009 study by McKinsey & Company, replacing appliances is one of the most efficient global measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Before making a purchase, consider the following:

  • Always look for products labeled ENERGY STAR. This ensures that your appliances will exceed the minimum federal standards by a significant amount.
  • The ENERGY STAR label includes two price tags: the purchase price and the operating price. Consider both before making a final decision.
  • An ENERGY STAR model will use 40-50% less energy than conventional models.
  • Some tax incentives for purchases of energy-efficient appliances expire this year, so make your decisions accordingly.