Join Login Search
For Electric Cooperative Members
For Electric Cooperative Members

Understanding How Your Appliances Use Energy

If some of your appliances are getting old and will need to be replaced soon, it’s time to do some homework. Your appliance choices can have a significant impact on your electric bill.

Your energy use varies month to month, so it can be difficult to see the difference any one appliance makes. Instead, it’s best to think about how an appliance uses energy over its lifetime. Think about upfront and lifetime energy costs.

In a Consumer Reports test, the most efficient refrigerator used $68 less in electricity per year than the least efficient model. Compound that difference over a decade or two, and the lifetime energy savings could be greater than the upfront cost. All it takes to get the best appliance for your needs is some research.

Appliances use less energy, on average, than home heating and cooling equipment but still can use several hundred dollars’ worth each year. That dollar amount depends on factors like the model, how often it’s used, the settings you use and even the time of day it’s most used.

Over the past few decades, new appliances have become more energy efficient, driven partly by government standards. These requirements, created by the U.S. Department of Energy, save consumers more than $60 billion each year by requiring appliances to include an EnergyGuide label that shows estimated energy use and operating costs per year. These estimates help you compare models and calculate initial costs against long-term savings.

Some appliances also will have an Energy Star label. This sticker indicates an appliance is substantially more efficient than the minimum standard. Your greatest energy savings opportunities can come from replacing an old appliance with an Energy Star-rated appliance. Removing a refrigerator that’s 20 years old and replacing it with a new Energy Star model can lower its electricity costs by 75 percent.

In some cases, the way an appliance is configured also can make a significant difference. For example, the most efficient refrigerator models have the fridge compartment stacked on top of the freezer. All 36 of the most efficient clothes washers of 2018 were front-load models.

Consider how much you use the appliance, too. The more you use the appliance, the greater your savings from choosing a more efficient model. If you use the appliance less or have a small household, you may get by with a smaller refrigerator or freezer, which will save money.

How you operate appliances also can make a difference. Here are some easy ways to save:


  • Set your refrigerator at 35–38 degrees and your freezer at zero.
  • Make sure there is adequate airflow between your home’s wall and the back of the unit.
  • Keep the refrigerator relatively full when possible.
  • Replace the seals around the doors if they appear to be leaking air.


  • Use the burner size that best matches the pan.
  • Use smaller appliances like a microwave or slow cooker instead of the oven when possible.


  • Use the most energy-efficient and shortest setting that gets your dishes clean.
  • Air dry rather than using the heated dry function.
  • Wait until the dishwasher is full before running it.

Make the most out of your appliance energy use with a little research before buying a new model and a few easy adjustments to the way you use them.