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Home appliance basics

Home Appliance Basics: Your Guide to Energy Ratings

By Tobias Roberts Rise Writer
Jul 27, 2020

As technology advances and our population grows, our homes tend to be filled more and more with gadgets, appliances, and other devices that demand their share of electricity. According to a report by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), in the US, the share of residential energy used to power appliances and electronics has almost doubled over the past three decades. Jumping from 17 percent to 31 percent, this amounted to an increase to 3.25 quadrillion BTUs (quads) from 1.77 quads. During this time, federal energy efficiency standards were enacted on all major appliances, and overall household energy consumption actually decreased from 10.58 quads to 10.55 quads while energy use per household fell 31 percent.

The decrease in household energy usage has mostly come from the improved energy efficiency of heating equipment, along with better window design, insulation, and construction techniques to ensure a solid house envelope. However, much of those gains were tempered by a dramatic increase in household appliances and electronics.

Between 1978 and 2009, the number of households using dishwashers increased from 35 to 59 percent, while the percentage of homes with air conditioning units increased from 23 to 61 percent. In essence, we are using less energy to run our homes, and much more our power use is being devoted to appliances and electronics.

You could most likely do without an electric lemon squeezer, bread knife, or can opener. But, going without a refrigerator or washing machine would be much more difficult. Finding ways to cut back on appliance and electronics electricity consumption is an essential aspect of any energy-efficient home—and helps reduce your electric bill. 

The Most Important Ratings and Certifications for Home Appliances

Improvements in technology mean that most of the primary household appliances and electronics are becoming smart and increasingly efficient. There are several ratings and certification agencies that independently test and assess the energy efficiency of everything from TVs to air conditioners to refrigerators. 

Energy Star Appliances

Energy Star

Energy Star is a voluntary program that was launched by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1992. It is designed to help businesses and homeowners save money while simultaneously protecting the environment through superior energy efficiency in everyday household electronics and appliances. Energy Star rated appliances provide up to 50 percent energy savings over standard appliances. They are competitively priced and are on the shelves of most stores. 

Energuide Fridge Label
Energuide Fridge Label. Photo Credit: Natural Resources Canada


EnerGuide is not common in the United States. However, the Government of Canada considers it the official mark associated with labeling and rating energy consumption and energy efficiency of specific household products. The EnerGuide label lets homeowners know how much energy a product uses and how that compares to similar models. One unique feature of the EnerGuide label is that it includes an energy consumption indicator. This indicator positions the model and compares it with the most efficient and least efficient models in the same class. 


Though less well-known than Energy Star and EnerGuide, Enervee is a relatively new company specializing in scoring the efficiency of appliances and electronics. The Enervee Score helps homeowners find the most energy-efficient products on the market through analyzing product performance and total energy usage on a 0 (worst) to 100 (best) score. The Enervee Score is updated daily for a wide range of products, helping it to maintain relevance. The data science behind each product allows people to identify things like efficiency, cost savings, and pricing scale. They aim to help guide your decisions on which energy-efficient appliances make the most sense for your home. 

The Big 5: What to Look For in Essential Household Appliances

While you can save a token amount of energy by switching to a more energy-efficient coffee maker, the vast majority of electricity usage from household appliances is limited to these five larger appliances—all of which have gone from luxuries to necessities in most homes over the past century: refrigerator, dishwasher, stove/oven, and the washer and dryer. 

Energy Star Whirlpool Refrigerator Home Depot
Energy Star Whirlpool Refrigerator. Photo Credit: Home Depot

Energy Star Refrigerator

The average cost of an Energy Star refrigerator hovers around $800. With this, purchasers can expect savings on their electricity bill of approximately $45 per year. With an average lifespan of about 13 years, these refrigerators have a relatively quick payback time. This is especially true if your current refrigerator was manufactured before the year 2000 when they routinely used upwards of four times as much energy as today's models. Frigidaire, Whirlpool, LG, and Kenmore are a few of the most common and high-quality Energy Star refrigerators. These efficient appliances are only beaten in terms of energy efficiency by the old icebox refrigerators, where food was kept cool using ice chunks cut from frozen lakes. Learn more about the details of how replacing an old refrigerator can save you money here.

Energy Star LG Dishwasher Best Buy
Energy Star LG Dishwasher. Photo Credit: Best Buy

Energy Star Dishwasher

The hand-cranked dishwasher, first patented in 1887 by Josephine Cochrane, used less electricity than the models today - none! But, sitting around cranking a machine didn't necessarily save you time compared to simply washing the dishes by hand. Today's most efficient dishwashers reduce both energy and water usage. They include advanced technology like soil sensors, water filtration, innovative dish rack designs, and energy-efficient jets that result in less energy and water usage. Whirlpool, Samsung, LG, and KitchenAid are some of the most common dishwashers available for an average price of $700. According to the United States' Energy Star program, an Energy Star dishwasher will save you about $35 per year on utility bills and an average of 3,870 gallons of water over its lifetime.

Samsung Induction Range
Induction Range. Photo Credit: Samsung

Cooktop or Range

While millions of homes across the country use gas for cooking, switching to induction cooktops is a great way to save energy. The other benefit of these types of cooktops is indoor air quality: by not burning gas inside your home, you avoid releasing harmful pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and particles in your home. Induction cooktops or ranges use electromagnetic induction to heat the cooking pot or pan. The element itself is relatively cool to the touch, providing a safe surface for cooking if you have children in the home. Induction cooking is similar in efficiency to electric coil cooking elements. However, the pot to element size ratio does not have the same effect it does when cooking with electric coils. Induction cooking is not affected by the size of your pot and pan. For induction cooktops, you have to use cookware made of a material attracted to magnets, like cast iron or stainless steel. Non-magnetic cookware, like glass and aluminum, will not work on these stoves. While there are simple induction cooktops (average cost of $600), a range will typically include a stovetop and an oven (average cost of $2,000). High-quality induction range and cooktops are widely available through brands like Samsung, Frigidaire, Bosch, and KitchenAid. 

Energy Star GE Washer and Dryer Set Home Depot
Energy Star GE Washer and Dryer Set. Photo Credit: Home Depot

Energy Star Clothes Washer

An Energy Star clothes washer will use less energy and cut back on the amount of water used to get your clothes clean. As an added benefit, most of these washers spin faster during the drying process, meaning that your clothes will require less energy to dry out, perhaps allowing you to dry on a clothesline for much of the year. Models with a high IMEF factor (Integrated Modified Energy Factor), and a low IWF (Integrated Water Factor) save more energy and use less water. At the same time, front-loaders tend to be more efficient than their top-loading counterparts. LG, Maytag, Samsung, and Whirlpool make some of the most efficient clothes washers on the market today for an average price of around $900. 

Energy Star Clothes Dryer

While the sun provides a free way to dry your clothes without electricity, almost 80 percent of households in the United States have a clothes dryer. These dryers use at least 20 percent less energy than other models through utilizing technologies like sensor drying, low heat settings, and steam cycles. However, since dryers consume more energy than any other home appliance, opting for air drying might be a good idea. Alternatively, a heat pump clothes dryer will use 20 to 60 percent less energy than conventional dryers while also being gentler on your clothes. On the downside, it can take a little longer to dry your clothes. With an average cost of $2,000, these devices are significantly more expensive. 

Bottom line

Home appliances can consume a lot of energy in the home, driving up utility bills. Looking for Energy Star rated appliances is a smart way to enjoy the comfort and convenience of appliances while saving energy and money.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2020-12-10T17:54:04+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.