Appliances that Save You $$

Did you know that your fridge accounts for about 11% of your household’s total energy consumption? I was agog when I saw that stat. While we’re all becoming more energy conscious – and saving money to boot – there are still a whole lot to learn about how to use our resources smartly.

According to Natural Resources Canada, buying an Energy Star® appliance will save you the equivalent of a year’s worth of energy over that appliance’s life.  And Energy Star® compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs. That’s because standard incandescent bulbs use less than 10% of their energy to produce light; the rest goes up in heat.

It used to be those bulbs were butt-ugly but I recently found bulbs that look like regular incandescent bulbs but that have the fluorescent structure inside, making them more attractive for certain fixtures.

Perhaps the appliance that held the biggest surprise for me was the dishwasher; lotsnlotsa people think they’re energy pigs. But a dishwasher can actually save energy because you’re using far less hot water. Hot water heating accounts for about 13% of the energy use in an average home.

While we’re on the topic of water usage, a low-flow shower-head can reduce water flow by 60%. If you’re taking 15-minute showers, trim back to 10 and watch your costs come down.

I’m often surprised when I go into homes that still don’t have a programmable thermostat. Turning your heat down just one degree will save you two percent on your heating bill. Ratchet that sucker down when you’re not at home and when you’re sleeping, and rake in the savings.

Microwaves save 50% of cooking energy over conventional ovens (and doesn’t heat up your kitchen in the summer.) Electric kettles are more efficient than either microwaves or stove-top kettles.

If you want to gauge what the various appliances in your home are costing you, head on over to HydroOne’s calculator and play around for a while. You’ll find that your aquarium costs you about $2.45 a month to operate, that having your TV on for 4 hours a day will run you $1.17 a month, and ironing for two hours a day, 8 days a month will burn though $1.95, which is why I gave up ironing years ago!

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Gail Vaz-Oxlade

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37 Responses to “Appliances that Save You $$”

  1. Putting my microwave on a powerbar has save me tons of money. Having the clock running costs more than operating it.

  2. Our fridge is old. 20 years old. But it seems to work fine. And it’s probably an energy sucker. I know the hydro company will happily come and take it off my hands, but my problem is this. Many people I know that have bought a fridge in the last 5 or so years, have had to replace them already. The quality in appliances seems to have decreased. Therefore, I’m not convinced I’ll be “saving” any money by getting a new one.
    Last summer we went to look at central air conditioners for our home. I said, “They’ve come down a bit in price from 2 years ago.” The sales guy/installer said that so has the quality. And efficiency. Due to new environmental regulations, (freon?), they will not perform or last as long.
    Got to love these “advances” in technology.

  3. I agree with Cas. We recently had our early 80’s model furnace serviced and when we asked how much life might be left in it were told by the technician that those old furnaces could “go forever” with proper maintenance whereas the new systems are built to last 10-15 years. “Planned obsolescence” makes upgrading sometimes not the best choice for cost savings.

  4. I got rid of the old refrigerator and freezer in the basement a few years ago; my bill went down $15/month almost immediately.

    I replaced my upstairs refrigerator and my bill went down about $5. I have had no problem with my new one.

    My gas furnace is old (1990), but with regular maintenance, it has worked perfectly. The only electricity it uses is the spark to kick the heat on. My water heater is gas fired, so I don’t know what it costs to run. My gas bills have gone down after a spike when the price went up a few years ago. Unfortunately, I can have a programmable thermostat because I have radiators and hot water heating; so I have to remember to flick the thermostat up and down every day.

    I do turn off power bars for the TV and computer when not in use. But I don’t go around turning off all the clock/radios in the bedrooms, or the microwave or coffee maker, except when we are going away for a few days.

  5. Sorry- I meant to say ‘I cannot have a programmable thermostat’

  6. You needed an excuse to give up ironing lol?
    I had no idea about the refridgerator…we do have energy star appliances but still…11%??? Wow.
    I find the largest portion of my hydro bill is the water usage and cleaning. We don’t water anything outside unless times are truly desperate and plants are dying, we have cut back on shower time, use a dishwasher and still…the water bill is astronomical. Any ideas on how to cut back on water usage?

  7. avatar psychsarah Says:
    October 23, 2012 at 9:20 am

    LOL re: ironing-thanks for the perfect excuse Gail :)

  8. re: Ratcheting down thermostat

    I read a study (don’t remember when) — that recommends not going too far below temperature as the cost to heat the house rapidly up and down (ie and I forget the exact amount…. but for example purposes going more than 3 degrees Celsius down from your normal temperature may actually NEGATE any savings, as the furnace then blows non-stop to get back up to temperature).

    Check online… I’m sure the actual recommendation is posted somewhere as to how many degrees to lower.

    My MIL is a mad saver on hydro, another energy sucker is the oven, and alot of times a toaster oven (which takes less energy) will do the job.

  9. I have heard the same thing about new E.S. appliance. What you save on your monthly Hydro you more than pay for a new appliance every 5-7 years. My washer and dryer are from 1997 – big workhorses, that are not E.S. but probably will last forever.

    Things used to be built with forever in mind, sadly that is no longer the case.

    The biggest Hydro pull on our account is the dryer, which I run only at ‘off peak’ times and only when I cannot hang the laundry to dry (winter).

    Also, did my own experiment (and blogged about it) and absolutely concur that even an older dishwasher, if you run it once a day (again, at ‘off peak’ times) and don’t use the ‘dry’ cycle, does not cost a lick more than handwashing dishes for 3+ meals a day, through the day at high and mid peak times. :)

    I wish I could get more of my family to buy into the power bar way, but for now, I’ll just keep keeping on my merry Hydro busting way.

    Have a great day, all!

  10. I have to agree on the old fridge. My 24 year old one works great, and if I only save $5 per month on electricity, that takes alot of months to pay for a new fridge. I also know people with newer fridges than mine that have been replaced within 5 years.

    I did however replace my 20 year old furnace. It was working fine, except it made a sound like a door slamming every time it turned on. And I really needed an air exchanger added, and the old fan on the furnace would cost me a fortune to run that much. I am very happy with the new furnace, nice and quiet, and the air exchanger helps keep the moisture down in my very efficient house.

  11. I used to read on some PF blogs that people would turn their heat down 10 degrees when they are not home then have it programmed to jump back up to 20 when they got home from work to save money on their energy. This Trick only works when you leave on vacation for a week or two.

    Not only does that end up costing you more on your heating bill, it puts more wear on your furnace when it goes full blast to heat up the whole house those 10 degrees.

    The trick is to keep it low as much as possible. Set it to 18-19 and throw on a sweater or cuddle on the couch with a blanket. Turn it up when you have guests over then turn it down when they leave.

    When the house is empty, turn it down 1-2 degrees only, that way it’s easier for the furnace to play catch up when you get home.

  12. Wow! Only $1.95 for 16 hours of ironing?? I’ve been suspecting for a while that I have to give up my bad drycleaning habit and this proves it. I wear a uniform for work. The shirts are a cotton / poly blend that need to be pressed and starched to look good and my skirt does fine coming out of the dryer.

    I pay a drycleaner $4 for each shirt and I’m in uniform normally 4 days each week plus extra parades, ceremonies etc.

    Considering I can iron and starch 8-10 shirts in hour, that means I can now save $62 each month by spending 90 minutes watching a movie / tv while ironing.

    Which is what I did for the first 10 years of my career and before I got lazy / decided I could thoil my drycleaning. I thought my time could be better spent. And I’m going to watch tv / movies anyway …

    Thanks for the push I needed! When I pick up my shirts tomorrow morning at the drycleaner, I guess I’ll be bidding him farewell.

  13. My $$ savings was to unplug my washer and dryer when not in use. I found the savings to be over $50.00 a month. Now I am like a craz’ed woman unplugging everything that doesn’t need to stay plugged in while we are all at work/school. The dog and cat do not care if the stero and TV are plugged in during the day. Kids are on board with this program big time;)

  14. Huh. Guess I can iron during the week now (during the day when I can see my ironing) instead of putting it off until the weekend. Looks like I might get caught up on all of that ironing. Somehow I thought an iron was a real energy hog (since it converts energy straight to heat).

  15. I have my TV, DVD player, Playstation, cable box, and stereo all on a powerbar which is plugged into one of those power timers people use to turn on and off their lights when they’re not home. So, my electronics all shut off completely between 3:00 AM and 4:00 PM. I’m sure whatever power the timer uses doesn’t equate what all those things leech during peak hydro period. (I’ve never really thought about unplugging the microwave, but I think I’ll start doing that as well.)

  16. @ Aimee – can you tell me if you live in Toronto or GTA who serviced your old 80s furnace please?

  17. The furnace in our house is from 1962 and works great! We would save maybe $10 a month apparently going to a new one. Dh has fixed the couple of minor problems that it has had. May be bigger then a newer one but with the quality of appliances going down further each year rather not replace it until we have too. Our average gas bill about $125 a month and that is hot water and heating for normally 5 people and 1700 sq foot house. I keep the house about 70 degrees and wash in warm and hot water. plus about $25 or more is just taxes on the bill not the actual gas. Water is a set fee here in the lower mainland plus no off hours for electric. We replaced the fridge when we moved in 10yrs ago. An LG. don’t recommend. You can only get the parts online. Apparently the only company that does this. The door handle has broke twice and dh couldn’t fix it so we just do without after spending $100 on a new one to have it break after a year. We got a new stove at the sears outlet and have replaced the hot water heater. Two savings..knowing tradesman that owe you favours and having a handy hubby that can trade work.

    Our washer and dryer are about 15 years old and work great. Since my kids are 8 and 9, they have had a workout of up to 12-15 loads a week when the kids were younger.

    The thing that has lowered our electric bill the most…our teenage homestay student moving out!

  18. @ Tracy unplugging has saved me over $30 a month. I tell everyone that unplugging is the only way to save real money just turning it off means it’s still using electricity. I went thru my Moms house and unplugged things she doesn’t use, she saved $70 the next month, now she unplugs everything before she goes to bed.

  19. Good tips! I need to do better on some of these . . .

    @Sierra – my parents live in an old house with radiators/hot water heat, and they have a programmable thermostat. Might be worth investigating a bit more.

  20. The fridge in my father’s house is the one that came “Brand New” when he bought the house from the builder in 1968. It still works just fine. There is no way he would ever spend $500+ to buy a new fridge to save energy. It would take years to pay the savings off.

  21. avatar christine Says:
    October 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    We have all energy efficent appliances and new furance. We have only compact flourscent bulbs and some LED which saves more and then is no change to our bills. We do all our laundry off peak hours and only use lights when we are in the room. Our consumption hasn’t changed all the other charges have gone up.
    I wish we could see all those savings. But it wont discourage us we still feel it is important to adapt to the frugal way of using energy.

  22. Wow, $30-$50 a month just by unplugging things? I am sold!

  23. avatar Elizabeth A Says:
    October 23, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    My furnace was over 35 when I had a problem with the air conditioner part. Only a similar aged used part was available, and a new air conditioner couldn’t be fitted to the old style furnace, something about intake, etc. So I got a new one, saw immediate savings on my gas and electric BUT the new furnace doesn’t do an even job of heating the house like the old workhorse did. I would thoil it to have a warm bedroom. Hope I used that correctly!

  24. No one has mentioned the new water-saving toilets so here’s a word to the wise. DON’T BUY ONE!! We needed to replace the gasket on one of our toilets but my husband wanted to get one of the new ones to save water. We have only a shallow well to provide water and the rest must be trucked in so it seemed to make sense. However, we often end up flushing the $%&# thing 2 or 3 times to clear the bowl and you have to do this with the lid shut unless you want water all over the floor. I find myself constantly closing the lid, flushing, checking, closing the lid, reflushing, checking. Its a pain in the behind and cost us $400 so its not like we bought a cheap one.

  25. Carolyn – I soooooooooooooooo hear you! We moved into a new house 15 years ago, and all the toilets are low flush. Save water? I don’t think so! We don’t have to cover our toilet to flush, but I swear if you sneeze at it, it clogs! A worker told us to cut down the plastic insert (pretty much full size tank, but has a plastic “bucket” in it to keep water usage down). We did that right away, and still have massive problems. I wonder if one can even buy regular flush toilets anymore – THAT would save me water!

    Does anyone know if lamps that are left unused but plugged in cost for electricity? I plan to go around the house this weekend unplugging things, and putting others on power boards. Thanks to all for all your tips :)

  26. Wow, more good idea to save $$ here. Thanks all to share your experiences.

  27. @Sheri – the things that draw power when they are turned off are generally electronics – things with standby states or digital readings (clock radios, microwaves). Lamps don’t draw anything when they aren’t turned on.

  28. Make your normal toliet low flush by adding a couple of sour cream containers to the top part. Takes 30 seconds and YOU set the water level if you don’t like the flush you can just use a smaller container and you never have the problems listed with the real low flush toliets listed above. I’ve done this for years and save 1 liter a flush.

  29. @Carolyn & Sheri
    Maybe you guys should try installing new ones and see if you have better luck? My low flush toilet has a fast and pretty powerful flush; haven’t had any problems at all, never had to flush twice. It’s actually a lot better than the regular flush ones that were there before, which were so slow and not powerful at all. Best part was that I bought them on sale for $100 each.

  30. @ Tracy: what kind of washer and dryer are you using that requires $50 of electricity per month when not in use??? Our washer uses pennies per load. We hooked up a meter to it. (My husband is an electrician.). It draws NO power when not in use. And it’s an electronic front load washer without a clock; it SHOULDN’T draw any power. Same as our dryer. I can’t see how you can possibly be saving that much money by unplugging the machines, or saving ANY money by unplugging the machines. Unplugging a computer, tv, satellites, etc will save money. MAYBE even $50/month if you have a few if each. But not a washer and dryer.

  31. avatar Carolyn C Says:
    October 24, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    @Eunice: The toilet is brand new, made by Kohler. The problem, in my opinion, is that there is virtually no water in the bowl. Stuff sticks to the sides if you get my drift. I plan to write the company to express my extreme dissatisfaction and ask for suggestions to make it work better. It also needs to be cleaned more often for the same reason.

  32. I was enthusiastic a couple of years ago about unplugging televisions when not in use but later found our satelite dish messed up. Found out that it updates certain things at different times and it wasn’t getting updated because it was off. Also keep computer on all the time because of the updating of certain things, but mainly because of convenience.

  33. We save money by renting instead of owning our home. However, it means we cannot control many of our energy costs. The thermostat is not programmable, the fridge is old, the insulation leaves a lot to be desired. We do the things we can – light bulbs, keeping the microwave and chargers unplugged except when in use, that sort of thing.

  34. Julie – thanks for your reply – makes sense; I kinda thought that it was the case with lamps being fine left plugged in, but I guess I got a bit befuddled reading all the energy saving tips :)

    Eunice – thanks for your thoughts, I don’t think I’ll be replacing them anytime soon though…

    Carolyn – if they give you any tips, please share :D

  35. Whenever we need a new appliance we look for the ones that use the least energy. Also I do more baking in the winter when it helps warm the house. Using a pressure cooker or a slow-cooker saves a lot of energy. Every bit helps!

  36. 3 years ago, I replaced our 20 yr old furnace with a new 98% efficiency one. Each year since the change our annual gas cost has decreased from about $900/month to just under $600! I paid 700 for the furnace and 300 for the install. One more year and the savings have paid for the furnace! So not sure how one can argue that their 20+ yr old furnace is cheaper burning at 60 or 65% efficiency. Not to mention you need to get it inspected to make sure it isnt falling apart; of course the repairman doesnt want you to replace it, he’d have one less customer!

  37. Thanks for the information Gale. I’m from the land down under and we have just been introduced to a carbon tax this year that has raised the energy bills by 25%. I can now cut that back by trying to conserve more energy to protect the environment and my hip pocket more.

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