The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 1, 2002


Green Corner Upgrading appliance efficiency

Household appliances and lighting use a surprisingly large amount of electricity and have a corresponding impact on the environment. Appliances that have the most impact are, in decscending order, refrigerators, lighting, TV, electric dryers, stand-alone freezers, ranges/ovens, microwaves, dishwashers, electric washing machines, and computers. The good news is that new appliances are generally much more efficient than older models being replaced. (For example, 40% of new dishwashers automatically adjust their water temperature according to how dirty the dishes are). All new refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners have a yellow EnergyGuide label with a numeric rating comparing their efficiency with that of similar models.

Refrigerators use more energy when food is kept colder balancing that off with food spoilage, best temperatures are between 38 and 42 degrees, with the freezer at 5 degrees. Vacuuming the condenser coils on the lower front or back of the fridge once a year will improve performance. Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) are electricity saving alternatives to standard incandescent lighting ­ their higher initial cost is easily recovered because of lower power use and longer lifetimes. Microwave ovens use only 1/3 to 1/2 as much energy as conventional ovens, and don't heat up the house, an especially important consideration in the summertime.

When washing clothes in hot water, 90% of the energy is used heating the water because between 32 and 59 gallons are needed for each cycle using a cold water rinse instead of hot will save energy and not affect cleaning. A front-loading washing machine uses less water because clothes are tumbled into the water. Cleaning a dryer's lint trap after every load helps the air circulate efficiently (drying clothes outside on a clothesline can be another option). NStar Electric will perform a free home energy audit to suggest ways to reduce electricity use (tel. 1-800-445-9727).

When buying appliances, electronics, office equipment, lighting, heating and cooling systems, windows, and even new homes, look for the new "Energy Star" symbol on the EnergyGuide sticker to verify efficiency. This government backed symbol was created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Dept. of Energy to help consumers identify products which save energy, because only the most efficient models earn the Energy Star designation (shown below). See (tel. 1-888-STAR-YES) for more information.

For more information on household energy use, see The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, by M. Brower and W. Leon, 1999, and Consumer Reports magazine, which highlights energy efficient appliances.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito