As homeowners with many bills to pay, our tendency is to buy an appliance and keep it running as long as humanly possible. Repairing an old, faulty appliance may seem like the cheaper option, but this may not be the greatest strategy when we think about energy efficiency.
A key reason electric bills are so high is because old, inefficient appliances are eating up more energy than they are worth. For example, refrigerator models predating 1993 could be costing you up to $140 per year in electricity alone. If some of your major appliances fall into this category, you may be losing over hundreds of dollars a year.
"Knowing how much energy your appliances use annually can be a great money saver," says Molly Hall, Executive Director of the Energy Education Council. “You can then make smart decisions on whether it would cost less to keep an old appliance running or buy a newer, more efficient one.”
To figure out how much energy your appliances use, check for an energy efficiency label. The amount of energy typically used per year is listed in kilowatt hours. If a label is not available, a home inspector can estimate energy use by determining the age of the appliances in the house and assessing their operation by checking for signs of wear and damage.
To translate this energy use into electric bills, check your utility bill to find out the kilowatt hour rate. You can then multiply this rate by the number of kilowatt hours your appliance uses per year to figure out the annual cost it takes to operate the appliance. By adding this figure to the initial price it cost to purchase the appliance and the cost of any repairs, you then have a comparison level to decide whether your appliance would cost you more or less to run than a new one.
“People often forget that over the life span of most appliances, the cost to operate them is far more than the initial purchase price,” says Hall. “Therefore, using more energy-efficient appliances is almost always the wisest choice, even if the initial prices seem daunting.”
If your appliance is nearing the end of its life span, it is time to calculate whether repairing it or replacing it will cost more. Here is the typical life span of major appliances:
- Range - 18 years
- Furnace - 17 years
- Washer/Dryer - 16 years
- Refrigerator - 15 years
- Microwave - 15 years
- Air conditioner - 15 years
- Dishwasher - 13 years
As a result of the constant technological improvements made by appliance manufacturers, newer machines not only use less electricity, but they have more operational features and are made to last longer than counterparts produced within even the last decade. The efficiency will influence both your lifestyle and your checkbook.
Consider improvements made on some of the biggest energy-using appliances in the household. For example, a new refrigerator uses about 50 percent less energy than older models. Newer refrigerators feature CFC-free sealed systems, more storage, and easier cleaning.
A new washer and dryer unit uses 30 percent less energy than older models. Newer units feature larger capacity, better cleaning performance, quieter operation, preprogrammed cycle selections, reduced water usage, and automatic dryness sensors to avoid over drying and save energy.
A new air conditioner is 20 percent more efficient than units 10 years older and can save you roughly $930 in operation costs over its life span. Newer air conditioners feature automatic temperature adjustments, different air speed options, and increased circulation efficiency for consistent, even cooling. “You’ll want to take these factors into consideration when you decide whether your old appliance is worth the trouble and expense of repairs,” says Hall.