What Makes Appliances More Energy Efficient?

Energy savings is the big craze these days, especially with rising costs, thus, we could all use an extra dollar or two in our pockets. And with home appliances in most every home today, we’re going to find the best energy cost saving plan — by purchasing appliances that are energy efficient. Every dollar saved counts, thus, every dollar added over the months, will create a large savings that can make a substantial difference in your daily life.

Before we start our appliance analysis, however, we must learn about Energy Star Certification. You may have seen an Energy Star logo on an appliance and wondered what it represents. This logo is what you should search for when shopping for appliances; as the Energy Star logo indicates a product is highly efficient — saving you money on your energy bill. And compared to standard product models, a similar Energy Star certified product could save you up to 15 to 30 percent more; without sacrificing performance and offered features. Plus, these appliances will help protect our climate! A win-win!

The below graph shows the average household energy use of all home electric loads. We can see that the bulk of the energy demand is from appliances and air conditioning and heating.

Household average energy use graphical breadown

Next, below are the results from the CEE 2012, 2014, and 2016 Energy Star Household Surveys, which shows how consumers have responded to Energy Star Certification. The focus of consumers has shifted over the years towards greater energy savings, as more and more people are realizing how money can be saved and the environmental impact they can singularly have.

Recognition of Energy Star label by consumers

Now, we’re going to get started on analyzing home appliances that are found in the kitchen; finding how they are made more energy efficient.


The refrigerator is the heart of every kitchen. It’s where most all of those delicious foods are kept, and to keep those foods fresh, the refrigerator needs to remain running 24 hours a day for 7 days a week. As a result, refrigerators use up a lot of energy. In fact, they are one of the most energy intensive products inside your home. Between the energy consumption of all of your appliances, refrigerators consume half of that energy. Therefore, it’s very important to be certain that your refrigerator is energy efficient. And this move towards energy efficiency is showcased best with refrigerators, as over the years, the cost to run a refrigerator has drastically been reduced.

Cost to run a refrigerator over the years

What makes a refrigerator more energy efficient?

  • Insulation: advancements made in insulation inside of refrigerators help keep warm air out and cool air in. As a result, the refrigerator needs to expend less energy in order to maintain a constant cool temperature inside.
  • Airflow: with improved air duct and venting designs, air circulates better inside of the refrigerator in order to maintain a cool temperature. This increased efficiency in the flow of air allows the refrigerator to remain cool – while not expending great amounts of energy; the warm air is more quickly cooled, as all areas of the refrigerator are uniformly cooled.
  • Compressor: improved designs with high efficiency compressors generate less heat, thus, they require less energy to operate – compared to a standard compressor.
  • Operational mechanisms: using a precise temperature and defrost system, the refrigerator can efficiently maintain an even temperature all throughout. As a result, the refrigerator does not further cool itself when not necessary; and expending extra energy.


For some folks, the freezer is part of the refrigerator – one unit. While for others, it’s a separate appliance. The built mechanisms for a more energy efficient freezer unit are more or less near identical to a refrigerator, as discussed. And like our refrigerators, we want to keep our favorite frozen foods fresh without running up our energy bill.

What makes a freezer more energy efficient?

  • Insulation: similar to refrigerators, improved insulation keeps warm air out and cool air in. With a freezer though, the insulation is even more important, as the temperature inside is even more cool. It’s thus very important to keep that freezing air inside.
  • Compressor: improved designs with high efficiency compressors generate less heat and use less energy to operate, versus a standard compressor.
  • The same energy savings components that we discussed for refrigerators apply for freezers as well.


Not always used daily, or used at all by some – as it’s easy enough to simply use the sink to wash the dishes – but the mighty dishwasher can come in handy at times. When you’re simply too busy or too tired to wash the dishes, a dishwasher can be your best friend. Although they don’t use too much energy, they too can become more energy efficient; again, every dollar saved is another dollar in your pocket.

What makes a dishwasher more energy efficient?

  • Water filtration: improved water filtration system designs are better at removing the washed off dirt from the dishes from the wash water. This creates a better wash environment for the water and detergent to work through the wash cycle – the cleaner the wash environment is, the better the wash.
  • Dish rack: improved dish rack design creates a better layout for dishes to be washed because of the placement of the water jets inside of the dishwasher.
  • Water jets: improved water jets require less energy to shoot water and detergent when cleaning the dishes.
  • Soil sensors: newly designed sensors scan the dishes inside of the dishwasher through the wash cycle, monitoring how clean the dishes are, thus, optimizing the wash. This allows for minimum usage of water and energy. For instance, at the end of a wash cycle, when the dishes are near clean, less water and detergent will be used.

Moving along from the kitchen, we will now analyze washers and dryers.

Washing Machine

Used at least once a week, washing machines can use up a lot of energy. Most of the expended energy is from the washing machine heating the water it uses to wash the clothes. So if you’re using your washing machine almost daily, then prepare to see your energy bill skyrocket!

What makes a washing machine more energy efficient?

  • Water usage: designed to use less water, yet, still cleans clothes just as good as a regular non-energy efficient washer. As a result, less water needs to be heated, and less energy used.
  • Central agitator: a central agitator is not designed in the washing machine; which leads to less water and energy being used in every wash cycle.
  • Spin cycles: improved high-speed spin cycles will pull more water from each load. This then leads to less drying time once the clothes are moved into the dryer. The energy savings comes when the dryer is then used.

We can see the energy usage difference between a standard washing machine model, and a model certified with Energy Star.

Washing machine annual energy use


Can’t have a washing machine without a dryer in the home. Sure, you can hang your clothes out to dry, but that’s not an option if you don’t live in a hot climate area – or if it’s just not summer time. Plus, seriously, hanging clothes on a line can be very inconvenient when you’re juggling ten other things in your schedule. Thus, not exactly something that we would look forward doing.

What makes a dryer more energy efficient?

  • Insulation: improved insulation keeps heat from escaping the dryer. Similar to refrigerators, where we want to keep the cool air in, we also want to keep the warm air inside a dryer.
  • Reverse tumble: this feature allows the clothes inside of the dryer to better separate, leading to quicker and more even drying. When clothes stick together, only the outside of the clumped clothes will dry, leaving the inside middle portion wet. As a result, more drying time and energy is required.
  • Air circulation: improved air circulation design helps clothes dry more quickly and evenly.
  • Sensors: improved temperature and moisture sensors help sense when the clothes are dry, thus, drying time is shortened.

The importance of energy savings is critical with all of the appliances we reviewed. These are the major appliances in all of our homes that demand the most energy.  We can see this energy demand distribution on the below pie graph.

Household average appliance energy use

Bottom line

There’s no reason to purchase inferior products that drive up your utility bills. You can now purchase affordable energy saving appliances by looking for the Energy Star Certification, while helping the climate at the same time. Another win-win! Plus, many of these appliances offer rebates, which means even more money back into your pocket.

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