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Appliance FAQs

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I have a separate freezer. Is this costing me a lot to run? How can I cut the cost?

A separate freezer makes economic sense when you can buy a large quantity of food and freeze it. If the freezer is empty, or nearly empty, try to use the freezer compartment in your refrigerator and turn off the separate freezer.

Are there any simple, inexpensive things I can do to save energy with my refrigerator?

Yes. Make sure the door gasket fits snugly to keep the cold air inside and clean the coils (located either on the bottom or the back) regularly.

Is it a good idea to vent my clothes dryer inside to capture the extra heat in the winter?

Definitely not. The heated air blown out the vent also contains all of the moisture that has been removed from the clothes. This moisture can cause problems ranging from excessive condensation on windows to long-term structural damage.

What is the purpose of the black and yellow "Energy Guide" labels on appliances? What do they tell me?

These labels allow you to compare energy costs of comparable appliances. Most will have a horizontal scale showing the least efficient model, the most efficient one, and where that particular appliance falls on the scale. They also have a table that allows you to estimate your annual energy cost based on local electric or gas rates. As with mileage ratings on automobiles, your actual cost may vary depending on usage.

How can I save energy and money on washing and drying clothes?

Always use the lowest appropriate temperature settings (for both washers and dryers). If your washer has a water level setting, adjust the level to the load being washed. Avoid over drying clothes, and always run full loads, in both the washer and dryer. When the weather permits it try using a "solar clothes dryer" (clothesline).

Can I save energy by using a microwave or toaster oven for cooking and defrosting frozen food?

Yes. Microwaves are excellent for defrosting and reheating cooked food, and use much less electricity than an electric range or oven. Toaster ovens also use less electricity and are good for heating or cooking small quantities of food.

Are there any simple ways I can save energy and money with my dishwasher?

Run full loads whenever possible (this also saves water) and use the "air dry" setting or open the door after the cycle is completed, instead of using the "heated dry" cycle.

How important is it to insulate my water heater?

It depends mainly on the location and age of the water heater. If the water heater is in an unheated area, more heat will be lost from the tank, making additional insulation more important. Newer water heaters have more built-in insulation than older ones, so you will save less by adding additional insulation. In most cases, you can easily save enough to offset the cost of the insulation. So, unless your water heater has a label or sticker telling you not to add insulation, it is usually a good idea. Don't forget to insulate any exposed hot water pipes as well. Note: Insulation blankets are not recommended on oil-fired water heaters.

What size water heater should I have?

It depends on family size and lifestyle. For the average family of four, a 40-gallon gas water heater tank should be sufficient.

Aside from adjusting the temperature, are there other easy ways I can save on water heating?

The simplest way to save is to use less hot water. Use low flow showerheads, wash clothes in cold or warm water instead of hot, and only run full loads in your clothes washer and dishwasher.

Should I drain my water heater? If so, how often?

It is a good idea to drain water heaters once a year. Be sure to shut off the power or gas supply, as well as the incoming water to the tank, and let the water cool down before draining it. Always attach a hose and run it outside. Do not attempt to drain the tank a small amount at a time, as sediment at the bottom of the tank may clog the drain valve, making it impossible to close until the tank has been fully drained and flushed. Once the tank is empty, turn the water supply back on and flush the tank until the water runs clear. Then refill the tank completely before turning the power or gas back on.

Will a timer on my electric water heater help reduce my bills?

If you are on a "day/night" or "time of use" electric rate and you set the timer so the water heater only operates at night or during "off peak" hours, you should save money. You can do the same thing with an "on/off" switch, but the timer will do it automatically and never forget. If you are on a flat rate, the timer should still help some by minimizing heat loss through the tank, but may not save enough to pay for itself.

Should I shut off my water heater if I plan to be away from home?

If you go away for more than a day or two, it is a good idea to turn off the water heater. If the water heater is electric, you can shut off the circuit breaker. With a gas water heater, you can simply turn the thermostat all the way down or to the "Vacation" setting if the water heater has one. This shuts off everything but the pilot light.

I've heard that waterbeds use a lot of electricity. Is this true? If so, how can I reduce the cost?

A typical waterbed heater will cost an average of $7 to $10 per month. The best way to save energy and money is to keep the bed covered, keeping the heat in.

Does an electric blanket use much electricity?

Very little, and is much less expensive than keeping the whole house warm while you sleep.

Does a hot tub use much energy?

When advertised as costing “pennies a day” the actual number of pennies it will cost you is seldom mentioned. If the circulating pump and heater run continuously, your costs may be very high. The best way to save is by using an insulated cover that will help keep the heat in and reduce the amount of time the heater has to run.

Can I save money by unplugging appliances that are not in use?

For most appliances, turning them “off” has the same effect as unplugging it from the wall. Some appliances, like VCRs, have minimal standby electricity usage even when the appliance is turned off. Extra refrigerators or freezers should be unplugged when not in use.

I've seen compact fluorescent bulbs in stores and they seem expensive. Will they really save me money?

Although the initial cost is more than standard incandescent lamps, they last up to ten times as long and use only about one-quarter of the amount of electricity to provide the same amount of light. Over the life of the bulb, the reduced energy costs, combined with reduced replacement costs, make compact fluorescents an excellent investment.

Will compact fluorescents provide the same amount and quality of light as regular (incandescent) light bulbs?

As long as you use the correct size or wattage, you will get the same amount of light. Today's compact fluorescents have a much better quality of light and color rendition than old fluorescents – you really should not notice a difference.

Can compact fluorescents be used in all types of fixtures?

There are several different types and shapes of compact fluorescents available that should fit most fixtures. Check the compact fluorescent light’s packaging for information on fixture compatibility. In some cases an adapter may be necessary. However, care should be taken with a dimmer switch. Some units do not work with dimmer switches.

Do energy efficient incandescent bulbs save as much as compact fluorescents?

No, but they do use less than a standard incandescent, so they are a good option in fixtures that will not accept compact fluorescents. They also last longer than standard incandescent, but nowhere near as long as a compact fluorescent.

Does outdoor security lighting use a lot of electricity? How can I save while still protecting my home and property?

Electric use will depend on the wattage of the lights and hours of operation. Since outdoor security lights are typically higher in wattage than indoor lights, the cost can be significant, particularly if a large number of high-wattage lights are used. You can save by limiting the hours of operation with timers, photocells, or motion detectors.