Energy Star Appliances Rock!

our refrigeratorThis whole SIREN Energy Challenge has made us even more conscious of how much electricity we use and Will has become obsessed with switching off lights, unplugging appliances, and spending his free time trying to uncover the source of unaccounted energy use every month.  We thought we had made some major progress with our new water heater and our conservation efforts and were initially proud of our first quarter results – 11% less electrical use than last year.  Then we found out that the winning household cut their energy use by 35% for the quarter!

How did they do it?  They made a lot of little changes that we’ve also done like adding attic insulation, installing a programmable thermostat to lower their heat at night, caulking windows, and replacing light bulbs with CFLs.  However, they also made two big appliance changes.  First of all, they unplugged an underutilized chest freezer, determining that they didn’t need the space.  Secondly, they replaced their 1986 refrigerator with a new Energy Star model.

We don’t have a chest freezer but we immediately became suspicious of our refrigerator and got out the Kill-a-watt meter, which confirmed our fears.  The old fridge was using 2.6 kWhr/day, which was a big chunk of our daily usage.

Our “Carbon Free Home” book suggested insulating the fridge to try and increase its efficiency so we got some foam insulating board from the home improvement store and stuck it on with double-sided carpet tape.  (For those aesthetic types, they suggest building a wooden insulated box around the sides of the fridge and adding shag carpeting on the front for a little extra oomph.)  It seemed to help at first but then the electrical usage went back up, possibly because our house suddenly warmed up with the weather.  (We survived with the thermostat at 62 all winter long but in May 62 degrees started feeling really cold!)

I suggested that we look into getting a new fridge so Will started doing research and we figured an Energy Star fridge would be at least 50% more efficient, which seemed significant.  We shopped around a bit and although theoretically there are SUPER efficient fridges out there, we bought one that is simply VERY efficient from our local box star.

The results so far?  The new fridge uses less than 0.7 kWh/day, which is about one quarter of what the old fridge used.  Did you catch that?  It uses SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT LESS ELECTRICITY!  We’re thrilled and feel like it was totally a good purchase, even though a payback time of 8 years still seems like a lot.

Of course, replacing the refrigerator was relatively painless (at least in terms of our day-to-day lifestyle).  We decided to push on into the lifestyle change category in the quest of fame, fortune, and fabulous eco-prizes.  Tune in next week as Will regales the world with tales of turning off our air conditioning, our water heater, and our clothes dryer in the quest of using less than 3 kWh/day….

Energy Tracking Note:

kWh/day = kilowatt-hour per day which is calculated by multiplying the wattage that a device uses by the number of hours it runs in a day and dividing by a thousand.  Here’s a link to a nice post about estimating appliance energy use provided by our federal government.  For real world testing, you can use a Kill-A-Watt device on anything that plugs into a normal outlet (so it doesn’t work for most clothes dryers and water heaters). this!

5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Emily said,

    July 5, 2010 @ 6:47 pm

    Eagerly awaiting more tips! We use 10-11kwh/day, though we rarely use the dryer and the water heater is turned down. Very curious to see your methods as examples of how we could reduce further!


  2. 2

    The 3 kWh Challenge | said,

    July 11, 2010 @ 1:58 am

    […] a poor April (with no year-over-year change in our electrical consumption), we got a new refrigerator and reevaluated our strategy. Reducing our furnace use helped a lot in the winter, but we barely […]

  3. 3

    Eric said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 5:05 pm

    FWIW, is a great resource for a quick scan of the most efficient available appliances.

    Surprisingly, you can go well beyond Energy Star – CEE has tier1, 2, and 3 for appliances, with tier1 just meeting energy star. for example has a PDF where you can find Tier 3 fridges like the one listed at the top of the toptenusa lists – and many of them don’t cost too much at all!

  4. 4

    Will said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 6:22 pm is a lot nicer than looking through the Energy Star spreadsheets like I did!

    You make a good point that EnergyStar is a place to start rather than an ending point. Different appliances in the same category can have significantly different costs. The thing I love about EnergyStar is that they show you the numbers and the range on the label, which makes it easier to find the very best.

    Our fridge uses about the same electricity as 6 of the top 10 on the site because in addition to looking for the EnergyStar rating, we looked for a model on the low end of the range.

    If only more things were covered by EnergyStar (like cable boxes!)…

  5. 5

    Solar Furnace Verdict: We Like It A Lot But Our Savings Are Minimal Because We Live in the Cold | said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

    […] was 1,156.  That’s a difference of 787 kW-hrs but a big chunk of that can be attributed to our new refrigerator, which we found uses 1.9 kW-hrs less per day, or about 342 for the winter.  That leaves us with an […]

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