The primary appliances that will be discussed are refrigerators, dishwashers, and clotheswashers. Water heaters are discussed in the Gas Water Heater/Combination Heater Section. Dishwashers are often provided by builders in new homes; refrigerators and washers are usually supplied by the owners.
There can be a significant difference in the energy consumption of appliances. Energy Guide labels are present on all major appliances to help select the most efficient models. These labels compare the model bearing the label with other similar models. However, this information does not indicate whether one has selected the most efficient appliance. The most efficient appliance will have certain features that should guide the purchaser to selecting the most efficient model with those features.
An example is clothes washers that are top loading vertical axis machines are not as efficient as clothes washers that are front loaders with a horizontal axis – both in energy and water use. The improvement by using a front loader can exceed 50% in both energy and water use. Start by identifying the features (in this case, horizontal axis design) that create the most efficient energy consumption of an appliance as a starting point.
Top loading machines, when used, should be selected according to the number of energy saving features that are offered in temperature settings, rinse cycles, and load sizes.
Refrigerators similarly have different efficiencies according to features such as defrosting characteristics (manual, partial automatic, automatic), door style, and size. The top freezer models outperform the side by side models and partial automatic or manual defrost models are the most efficient.
Many dishwashers offer special features that improve energy efficiency. Booster heaters and no-heat drying are two helpful features. It is also important to know how much water is required by the different models and select those that can accomplish the cleaning with the least amount of water.
In general, European appliances are more energy (and water) efficient, durable, and expensive. Names of European brand national distributors are found in the Resources section.
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Refrigerators could be considered a mature technology due to the fact that they have existed for a relatively long time. However, an alternative to the use of CFC’s, improved insulation qualities, and higher efficiencies through design are being actively sought and are considered necessary.
Dishwashers are a mature technology that is experiencing ongoing minor water and energy efficiency improvements.
Clotheswashers in the U.S. are predominantly vertical axis top loaders. A transition to predominantly horizontal axis machines should be expected for reasons of vastly improved water and energy efficiency and superior cleaning. Horizontal axis machines are the primary type used in Europe and Japan.
The most efficient refrigerators must be special ordered from small companies. Major manufacturers do offer efficient models, however.
Efficient dishwashers are made by major U.S. and European manufacturers.
Major U.S. manufacturers of clotheswashers started reintroducing horizontal axis machines in 1992. European models are also available.
The initial cost of all the energy efficient appliances is higher than conventional models. The most energy efficient refrigerators made by small companies can run 70-100% higher.
The front loading aspect of many horizontal axis machines can be less desirable for many people due to the bending required to put clothes in and out of the machine. Some horizontal axis machines can be loaded from the top but may be more difficult to find.
The most energy efficient refrigerators are partial automatic defrost and smaller sizes. This will affect common acceptance and attract mainly the most environmentally committed. The costs are very high also. However, refrigerators that exceed Federal Appliance Efficiency Standards are available from major manufacturers and are readily acceptable.
Dishwashers that highlight energy and water savings will be viewed positively.
Top freezer models are generally more efficient than side-by-side models.Manual defrost models use 1/2 half the energy of automatic defrost but must be defrosted periodically to remain energy efficient.
Automatic ice makers and through-the-door dispensers will increase energy use somewhat.
The most energy-efficient models are in the 16-20 cubic foot sizes.
It is usually less costly to run one larger refrigerator rather than two smaller ones.
2.1 Features and options that affect the amount of hot water used play a primary role in the overall efficiency of a clotheswasher.
2.1.1 Wash and rinse cycles
Select a model with many choices.
Warm wash cycles clean very well. Only oily stains may require hot washes.
Cold water washing is adequate with proper detergents and pre-soaking.
Cold rinses are effective.
“Suds-saver” (reusing slightly soiled wash water) and pre-soaking are energy conserving options.
2.1.2 Water level controls
Generally, washing a full load is most efficient, however, a small load should have the option of using a smaller amount of water.
2.1.3 Water extraction
Higher spin speeds will reduce drying times.
2.2 Horizontal Axis Machines
White Westinghouse is currently the only U.S. manufacturer producing machines. They also supply machines for Frigidaire, Gibson, and Sears. Imported models are available.
Have a faster spin speed than vertical axis machines. Clothes will require less drying energy as a result.
Use approximately 1/3 the energy and water of the better vertical axis machines.
Water use will primarily determine the energy efficiency. Use models that require the least amount of water.Booster heaters conserve energy by allowing the primary water heater to operate at a lower temperature setting.
Washing a full load is best but wash cycles options that can do smaller loads will conserve energy.
A no-heat drying cycle is readily available and is worthwhile.