Chapter

Major Appliance Shopping Guide

Shopping for Energy-Efficient Appliances

When it comes to shopping for and comparing energy-efficient appliances and home electronics, look for the ENERGY STAR® and EnergyGuide labels.

ENERGY STAR Label

ENERGY STAR labels appear on appliances and home electronics that meet strict criteria for energy efficiency as established by the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The ENERGY STAR labeling program includes most home electronics and appliances, except for stove ranges and ovens.

EnergyGuide Label

The Federal Trade Commission requires EnergyGuide labels on most home appliances (except stove ranges and ovens), but not on home electronics, such as computers, televisions and home audio equipment. EnergyGuide labels provide an estimate of the product’s energy consumption or energy efficiency. They also show the highest and lowest energy consumption or efficiency estimates of similar appliance models.

The following easy-to-read guide may help you understand how appliances are rated for efficiency, what the ratings mean, and what to look for when shopping for new appliances.

Appliance:
Natural Gas and Oil Heating Systems

Rating:
Look for the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) EnergyGuide label with an AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating for natural gas- and oil-fired furnaces and boilers. The AFUE measures the seasonal or annual efficiency. ENERGY STAR furnaces have a 90 AFUE or higher.

Special Considerations:
Bigger is not always better! Too large a system costs more and operates inefficiently. Have a professional assess your needs and recommend the type and size of system you should purchase.

Appliance:
Air-Source Heat Pumps

Rating:
Look for the EnergyGuide label that lists the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) and HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) for heat pumps. The SEER measures the energy efficiency during the cooling season and HSPF measures the efficiency during the heating season. The ENERGY STAR minimum efficiency level is 13 SEER or higher.

Special Considerations:
If you live in a cool climate, look for a heat pump with a high HSPF. ENERGY STAR heat pumps are about 20% more efficient than standard models. Contact a professional for advice on purchasing a heat pump.

Appliance:
Central Air Conditioners

Rating:
Look for the EnergyGuide label with a SEER for central air conditioners. The ENERGY STAR minimum efficiency level is 13 SEER.

Special Considerations:
Air conditioners that bear the ENERGY STAR label may be 25% more efficient than standard models. Contact a professional for advice on sizing a central air system for your home.

Appliance:
Room Air Conditioners

Rating:
Look for the EnergyGuide label with an EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) for room air conditioners. The higher the EER, the more efficient the unit is. ENERGY STAR units are among the most energy-efficient products.

What size to buy?
Area in square feet BTU/hour

100 to 150 = 5,000
150 to 250 = 6,000
250 to 350 = 7,000
350 to 450 = 9,000
400 to 450 = 10,000
450 to 550 = 12,000
550 to 700 = 14,000
700 to 1,000 = 18,000

Special Considerations:
Two major factors should guide your purchase: correct size and energy efficiency. If the room is very sunny, increase capacity by 10%. If the unit is for a kitchen, increase the capacity by 4,000 BTUs per hour.

Appliance:
Programmable Thermostats

Rating:
For minimum ENERGY STAR efficiency, thermostats should have at least two programs, four temperature settings each, a hold feature that allows users to temporarily override settings, and the ability to maintain room temperature within 2° of desired temperature.

Special Considerations:
Look for a the ENERGY STAR label and a thermostat that allows you to easily use two separate programs: one that can be programmed to reach the desired temperature at a specific time, and a hold feature that temporarily overrides the setting without deleting the pre-set programs.

Appliance:
Water Heaters

Rating:
Look for the EnergyGuide label that tells how much energy the water heater uses in one year. Also, look for the FHR (first-hour rating) of the water heater, which measures the maximum hot water the heater will deliver in the first hour of use.

Special Considerations:
If you typically need a lot of hot water at once, the FHR will be important to you. Sizing is important—call your local utility for advice.

Appliance:
Windows

Rating:
Look for the NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council) label that provides U-values and SHGC (solar heat-gain coefficient) values. The lower the U-value, the better the insulation.

Special Considerations:
Look at the Climate Region Map on the ENERGY STAR label to be sure that the window, door or skylight you’ve selected is appropriate for where you live.

Appliance:
Refrigerators and Freezers

Rating:
Look for the EnergyGuide label that tells how much electricity, in kWh, the refrigerator will use in one year. The smaller the number, the less energy it uses. ENERGY STAR refrigerators use at least 15% less energy than required by federal standards.

Special Considerations:
Look for energy-efficient refrigerators and freezers. Refrigerators with freezers on top are more efficient than those with freezers on the side. Also look for heavy door hinges that create a good door seal.

Appliance:
Dishwashers

Rating:
Look for the EnergyGuide label that tells how much electricity, in kWh, the dishwasher will use in one year. The smaller the number, the less energy it uses. ENERGY STAR dishwashers use at least 25% less energy than required by federal standards.

Special Considerations:
Look for features that will reduce water use, such as booster heaters and “smart” controls. Ask how many gallons of water the dishwasher uses during different cycles. Dishwashers that use the least amount of water will cost the least to operate.

Appliance:
Clothes Washers

Rating:
Look for the EnergyGuide label that tells how much electricity, in kWh, the clothes washer will use in one year. The smaller the number, the less energy is uses. ENERGY STAR clothes washers use less than 50% of the energy used by standard washers.

Special Considerations:
Look for the following design features that help clothes washers cut water usage: water level controls, “suds-saver” features, spin-cycle adjustments, and large capacity. For double the efficiency, buy an ENERGY STAR unit.