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Energy-Efficient Appliances

How to Read the EnergyGuide Label

What is big, square, yellow and informative? No, it's not SpongeBob SquarePants, it's the EnergyGuide label found on most appliances.

This label tells you how much energy an appliance uses, and compares it to other models. You'll find EnergyGuide labels on all new refrigerators, freezers, water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines, room air conditioners, central air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces and boilers. Note: The EnergyGuide label should not be confused with the ENERGY STAR label.

Although the label looks quite simple, there are some tricks to make sure you get the most energy-efficient appliance.

The EnergyGuide label gives you two important pieces of information you can use to compare different models when shopping for a new appliance:

[IMAGE: The EnergyGuide label tells you how energy-efficient an appliance is.]

  1. In the white box: estimated yearly energy consumption at the top, sitting on a scale showing the range of energy use for all other similar models.

  2. At the bottom: estimated yearly operating cost based on the national average cost of electricity.

Tricks for Finding the Most Energy-Efficient Product

Don't just use the scale in the white box. The range of energy usage (uses least energy to uses most energy) in the white box is only for models with similar features. In the example above, the refrigerator is compared with other 22.5 to 24 cubic feet models with automatic defrost, a side-mounted freezer, and without through-the-door ice service. You can see the features just under the large EnergyGuide title at top left of the label.

Because you might be considering other models with different features, compare the total energy used number (776 kWh) or the annual operating cost ($68) with the total from other models that you are considering.

Take it one step further. . .

Calculate an accurate yearly operating cost. Just below the annual operating cost ($68) is fine print that tells you what electricity rate (or natural gas rate for some other appliances) was used to determine the figure. This is the national average, which may be significantly different than the rates that you pay. On this label, it is 8.4 cents per kWh. Before you shop, look at your energy bill and determine what your actual rate is, and then calculate what your annual operating cost will be. For argument's sake, say it's 10 cents per kWh. Multiply 10 cents by the energy use (776) and you get $0.10 x 776 = $77.60. Now you will be able to more accurately compare different models with different efficiencies.

And one more step. . .

Calculate lifetime cost. One way to determine overall cost is to multiply the annual energy cost by how many years you expect to keep the product, and then add the purchase price. For example, if you expect to keep the refrigerator above for 15 years, multiply $77.60 x 15 = $1164 and then add the purchase price (we'll assume $800). The total is $1164 + $800 = $1964. Now compare this price with other models that you have done a similar calculation with, and you'll have a better idea as to what the best deal is.

The simplest thing is to look for the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR qualified products are more energy-efficient than conventional models. Use this major appliances shopping guide.

Content updated on 2/27/2007

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