Lower Your Bill

Your Guide to Energy Savings

Saving energy means saving money. It also means a more comfortable and efficient home for you and your family. Energy-efficient products use less energy to operate, thus saving you money by reducing your heating, cooling and lighting costs. The tips found on these pages can help you conserve energy in and around your home.

Comparing average energy usage of different models can save you money over the lifetime of an appliance.

By Pam Blair - April 2003 issue of Ruralite

When shopping for electrical appliances for your home, don't be fooled by the price tag. The least expensive model may not be the bargain it would seem at first glance. It could cost you a fortune to operate — an expense that adds up year after year, for as long as you own the appliance. While energy-efficient products tend to cost more than their energy-guzzling cousins, the higher initial investment may be offset by lower energy use. An energy efficient appliance that costs $200 more than a less-efficient model - but that results in an energy savings of $100 a year — will pay for itself in just two years. Because most major appliances remain in the home for many years, that makes the more expensive model a far better bargain.

Deciphering Energy Usage

The energy efficiency of similar appliances can vary significantly. Unfortunately, merely looking at various models won't necessarily reveal the differences. However, the EnergyGuide can help you comparison shop.

The bright yellow stickers show the highest and lowest energy consumption or efficiency estimates of similar appliance models, based on test procedures established by the Department of Energy (DOE). This information enables consumers to compare the features, size and energy usage of models they are considering. From "uses least energy" to "uses most energy," a scale shows how a model stacks up against the competition.

Since 1980, the Federal Trade Commission has required the EnergyGuide labels to be displayed on refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers, room air conditioners, water heaters, furnaces, boilers, central air conditioners, heat pumps and pool heaters. Labels are not required on clothes dryers, portable space heaters, kitchen ranges, microwave ovens, lights or on-demand water heaters.

Improving Energy Efficiency

According to the DOE, the EnergyGuide label has helped boost energy efficiency.

  • Refrigerator efficiency has doubled through foam insulation and better condensers, compressors, evaporators, fan motors and door seals.
  • The same things have improved freezers by 52 percent.
  • Improved spray arms and filtering systems, better wash action, less hot water usage and introduction of an air-dry cycle have boosted dishwasher efficiency by 37 percent.
  • New coil designs, more efficient compressors and better air circulation systems have improved air conditioners by 29 percent.
  • Thanks to more rinse options, less hot water in the warm setting, better mixing valves and more effective water extraction, clothes washers are 27 percent more efficient.
  • Improved fan motors and heat exchanges have boosted water heater performance by 12 to 15 percent.

Efficiency Equals Savings

According to the DOE, through 2000, consumers saved a cumulative $28 billion and enough natural gas to heat 19 million typical U.S. homes for a year, thanks to energy efficiency standards and better labeling programs.  In the year 2000 alone, the standards helped reduce the use of electricity by an amount equivalent to the output of 14 large power plants. Advances in energy efficiency have meant ongoing financial savings for consumers.

According to industry officials, a new energy-efficient refrigerator costs about $50 less a year to run than a refrigerator manufactured in 1980. New room air conditioners cost about $26 less a year to run than those of 20 years ago. Household savings vary based on how much an appliance is used, the climate, and local utility rates.


Appliances account for about 20 percent of the energy consumed in your home. Using the most energy are refrigerators and clothes dryers. Appliances today carry an EnergyGuide label which will tell you the annual energy consumption and operating cost for each appliance. When shopping for a new appliance, you must consider more than the price tag.

Compare the EnergyGuide label to see what your future expenses will be in operating the appliance.


  • Make sure the doors are air tight and replace any worn seals.
  • Choose a refrigerator with automatic moisture control. This control prevents moisture accumulation without the use of a heater. A refrigerator with an anti-sweat heater uses 5 to 10 percent more energy.
  • Maintain the proper temperature. Recommended temperatures are 37 to 40 degrees (F) for the refrigerator and 5 degrees (F) on the freezer of your refrigerator. A separate freezer should be kept at 0 degrees (F).
  • Defrost a manual defrost refrigerator regularly to lower the amount of energy needed to keep the motor running. Frost should not be allowed to build up more than one quarter of an inch.
  • Vacuum the condenser coils, usually found at the bottom of the refrigerator, unless you have a no-clean condenser model.
  • Uncovered foods and liquids in the refrigerator release moisture that makes the compressor work harder. Cover liquids and wrap food stored in the refrigerator.


  • Check the manufacturer's recommendations on water temperature. Many have an internal water heater that will allow a lower temperature setting.
  • Don't rinse your dishes, but do scrape off large food particles.
  • Use your dishwasher only when it's full, but don't overload it.
  • Turn off the "rinse hold" as it uses three to seven gallons of hot water each time it is used.
  • Let your dishes air dry. If you don't have a switch to control this, turn off the control knob after the final rinse and open the door a fraction to allow the dishes to dry faster.
  • Dishwashers use less water, about six gallons less, than washing dishes by hand.>


  • Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible.
  • Wash and dry full loads only.
  • Clean the dryer's lint filter after every load to improve air circulation.
  • Use the cool down cycle on your dryer to allow clothing to finish drying with the residual heat in the dryer.>
  • Inspect your dryer vent to ensure that it is not blocked. This will save energy and can prevent a fire.


  • Always leave the faucet lever on the kitchen sink in the cold position when using small amounts of water. Leaving the lever in the hot position uses energy to heat the water even though it never reaches the faucet.
  • Keep the burners and reflectors on your range-top clean and they will reflect the heat better.
  • A covered pan boils water faster than an uncovered pan.
  • Turn the burner on your electric stove off several minutes before the allotted cooking time. The element will stay hot long enough to finish the cooking.
  • For small meals use a small electric pan or toaster oven instead of the stove or oven. A toaster oven uses a third to half as much energy as a full-sized oven.
  • A pressure cooker or microwave oven saves energy by greatly reducing cooking time.

Heating and Cooling

Keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer uses more energy than any other system in your home. Typically, 44 percent of your utility bill goes toward heating and cooling. Appropriate insulation, weatherization and thermostat settings will help you conserve energy. Here are a few tips that can help:

  • Set the thermostat as low in the winter and as high in the summer as it is comfortable.
  • Clean furnace filters once a month or as needed.
  • Clean the warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators, and make sure they are not blocked by carpeting, drapes or furniture.
  • Use your bath and kitchen ventilating fans wisely and turn them off when finished. In one hour, ventilating fans can pull out a houseful of warmed or cooled air.
  • During heating season, open the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows to allow sunlight to enter your home, but close them at night to keep out the cold. During cooling season, keep the window draperies and shades closed during the day to prevent solar warming.
  • Check the ducts for air leakage.
  • Don't place a lamp or television near the thermostat. The thermostat will sense heat from these appliances and improperly cool or warm your home.
  • Whole house fans will help cool your home by pulling cool air through the house and exhausting warm air through the attic.
  • Purchase energy-efficient equipment when you buy a new heating and cooling system.

Look for high Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings and the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The national minimums are 78 percent AFUE and 10 SEER.


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