Appliances: What’s the Real Cost?

Every appliance has two costs: the purchase price and the operating cost. Consider both when buying a new appliance.

Appliances account for about 17% of your household’s energy consumption, with refrigerators, clothes washers and clothes dryers at the top of the list.

When you’re shopping for appliances, think of those two costs or price tags. The first one covers the purchase price. The second is the cost of operating the appliance during its lifetime. You’ll be paying on that second price tag every month with your utility bill for the next 10 to 20 years, depending on the appliance.

  • Refrigerators last an average of 14 years;
  • clothes washers about 11 years;
  • dishwashers about 10 years; and
  • room air conditioners last almost 10 years.

Click for InterNACHI's Home Life Expectancy Chart.

When you shop for a new appliance, look for the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR products usually exceed minimum federal standards by a substantial amount.

To help you figure out whether an appliance is energy-efficient, the federal government requires most appliances to display the bright yellow and black EnergyGuide label. Although these labels will not tell you which appliance is the most efficient, they will tell you the annual energy consumption and operating cost for each appliance so you can compare them yourself.

What’s a Kilowatt?

When you use electricity to cook a pot of rice for one hour, you use 1,000 watt-hours of electricity! One thousand watt-hours equal 1 kilowatt-hour, written as 1 kWh. Your utility bill usually shows what you are charged for the kilowatt-hours you use. The average residential rate is 9.4 cents per kWh. A typical U.S. household consumes about 11,000 kWh per year, costing an average of $1,034 annually.

How Much Electricity Do Appliances Use?

Click to enlarge.

The chart shows how much energy a typical appliance uses per year and its corresponding cost based on national averages. For example, a refrigerator uses almost five times the electricity that the average television uses.