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Top 10 Energy-Draining Appliances And How To Manage Them

8 minutes
10/16/2023
A little girl in a witch's hat stirs a pot on the stove. Her kitchen is decorated for halloween.

Energy is a precious resource that fuels our daily activities. However, it’s no secret that some of our appliances can be secret energy vampires, silently draining power and increasing our utility bills. Don’t let your bills be haunted by the ghosts of excess energy consumption! Identifying and taming the top ten power-hungry appliances in your home is not only a matter of saving on costs, but also an important step towards a more sustainable future.

The Impact of Energy-Draining Appliances

Electricity prices are rising at ghastly rates. In 2022, the average residential electricity bill rose to $137 a month, a 5% increase from 2021. While increasing bills are hair raising, take comfort in energy-saving practices and efficiency upgrades to keep these costs under wraps. The average American household uses 10,632 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually, about 886 kWh per month. Inefficient appliances are real monsters on utility costs, adding hundreds of dollars to annual energy expenses. When preparing to face these 10 energy-hungry behemoths at home, remember that the battle against rising energy costs begins with understanding and taming your appliances.

The Top 10 Energy-Draining Appliances

1. HVAC

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) consume a frightening 51% of household energy consumption. It takes a lot of energy to keep homes comfortable, and spikes in utility bills lurk in the depths of winter and summer when HVAC systems work their hardest.. HVAC energy consumption varies based on climate conditions as well as the performance of the system itself. Electric furnaces range between 10,000-50,000 watts with average daily consumption rate around 26 kWh. Central air conditioning ranges from 3000-4000 watts with daily consumption averaging 55 kWh. Luckily, there are several things you can do to tame this beastly appliance.

HVAC Management Solutions:

  • Perform routine maintenance, which allows systems to perform at peak efficiency and catches problems before they become costly issues.
  • Install smart HVAC technologies like geofencing that can adjust your home’s temperature based on occupancy and daily routine.
  • Use ceiling fans – clockwise in the winter and counterclockwise in the summer for improved ventilation and comfort.
  • Don’t block inside air vents or outside A/C units.
  • Replace air filters regularly.

2. Water Heaters

The second biggest consumer hiding at home are water heaters, accounting for 18% of household energy use. Between showering, dishwashing, and laundry, excess consumption adds up quickly. The average water heater uses around 4000 watts, consuming about 12 kWh daily. This appliance is used everyday regardless of season, but mindful consumption and regular maintenance keep these costs manageable.

Water Heater Management Solutions:

  • Reduce the thermostat to 120ºF, reducing energy waste through heat loss. This also reduces the risk for scalding.
  • Practice mindfulness – consider shorter showers and only use your dishwasher or laundry appliances when full.
  • Insulate your water heater and hot water pipes, reducing energy waste.
  • Install water-conserving shower heads and faucet aerators.
  • Turn down the temperature when on vacation.

3. Lighting

While not a typical appliance, lighting is integral to household comfort. Lighting accounts for 15% of household energy consumption. Light bulb efficiency varies based on bulb type and use. For example, a 100-watt incandescent light used for four hours a day consumes 12+ kWh monthly whereas an LED equivalent used for four hours per day only uses 2.1 kWh monthly. Inexpensive upgrades and mindful use make a shocking difference in electricity bills.

Lighting Management Solutions:

  • Use LED light bulbs– they use 90% less energy, lasting 25 times longer than traditional lighting.
  • Install motion detectors on outdoor lights so they are only used when needed.
  • Prioritize natural sunlight over overhead lighting, whenever possible.
  • Choose LED holiday lights and put them on a timer.
  • Turn off lighting when leaving a room.

4. Laundry Appliances

Washers and dryers make up 5% of household energy consumption. While these appliances aren’t typically used daily, each laundry cycle consumes a significant amount of energy. On average, a washing machine is 500 watts with 5 hours of use weekly. The average dryer ranges from 1000-4000 watts with 5 hours of use weekly. This amounts to a sizable 115 kWh per month. Mindful laundry practices can create serious cost savings over time.

Laundry Management Solutions:

  • Only wash and dry full loads of laundry.
  • Air dry garments when possible.
  • Clean lint traps after each cycle.
  • Wash clothes with cold water.
  • Avoid overfilling machines.

5. Refrigerators

Refrigerators are an always-on appliance, accounting for 4% of household energy use. Refrigerators range from 100-180 watts, consuming an average of 56 kWh monthly. The age of your fridge makes a major difference in efficiency. Modern refrigerators use up to 75% less energy than their vintage counterparts, while offering significant improvements in capacity and features. Beyond upgrading outdated models, daily conservation practices can optimize your fridge’s energy use.

Refrigerator Management Solutions:

  • Position your fridge away from heat sources like ovens or dishwashers, if possible.
  • Regularly clean behind and underneath your fridge to maintain air circulation.
  • Keep your refrigerator’s temperature in a range of 35-38ºF.
  • Ensure door seals are air tight, and replace them if needed.
  • Keep most-used items in easily accessible areas.

6. Electric Ovens and Stoves

Electric ovens and stoves tend to be less efficient than their natural gas counterparts. Combined, they consume 4% of household energy. Average electric stoves range from 1000-3000 watts and electric ovens range from 2000-5000 watts. If used one hour per day, these appliances consume roughly 85 kWh per month combined. Ovens also have a tendency to warm your home, potentially increasing the demand for air conditioning.

Cooling Appliance Management Solutions:

  • Cook with ceramic or glass pans. They retain heat better than metal, enabling lower cooking temperatures.
  • Turn off burners a few minutes before completing a meal. Use residual heat to finish cooking.
  • Opt for smaller, more efficient appliances like microwaves or slow cookers when possible.
  • Use these appliances during cooler hours of the day.
  • Strategically cook multiple dishes at the same time.

7. Dishwashers

Similar to laundry appliances, the efficiency of your dishwasher is dependent on how it’s used. The average dishwasher is around 1200 watts and accounts for 3% of household energy consumption. When used for one hour per day, dishwashers will consume around 70 kWh per month. This figure will vary depending on your frequency of use, so energy conscious behaviors are essential.

Dishwasher Management Solutions:

  • Regularly clean and maintain the appliance to avoid clogs or buildup.
  • Turn off the heated dry option. Air dry dishes when feasible.
  • Strategically arrange dishes to maximize cleaning efficiency.
  • Only run your dishwasher with a full load of dishes.
  • Run your dishwasher in the cooler hours of the day.

8. Computers

Computers typically get lumped into electronics and entertainment systems in the grand scheme of household energy. Combined with entertainment systems, they account for 6% of a home’s energy consumption. Computers are energy vampires, consuming significant power when asleep or on standby. Standard desktop computers, when used around 4 hours per day, consume around 27 kWh per month. This figure doesn’t account for potential vampire consumption.

Computer and Electronics Management Solutions:

  • Enable power management settings that activate sleep mode rather than a screensaver when stepping away from work.
  • Turn off and unplug your computer and devices like printers or monitors when not in use.
  • Opt for a smart power strip with surge protection if unable to unplug devices.
  • Unplug laptop chargers when not in use to reduce vampire energy waste.
  • Reduce your monitor’s brightness when possible.

9. Televisions and Entertainment Systems

With entertainment systems, the model you choose makes a big difference in efficiency. Televisions range from 80-400 watts. The average American watches about 4-5 hours of TV daily, accumulating to roughly 55 kWh per month. This figure changes drastically in an avid gamer’s household. LED TVs are the most energy-efficient options, however the larger the screen, the more energy is consumed. Entertainment systems are also culprits of standby energy consumption.

Entertainment System Management Solutions:

  • Consider a smart TV with remote control and scheduling features to match your routine.
  • Opt for energy-efficient LED models, especially those with Energy Star certification.
  • Enable automatic brightness control (ABC) to enhance viewing while saving power.
  • Use a smart power strip for your TV and peripheral devices to reduce energy waste.
  • Turn off your entertainment system when not in use.

10. Microwaves

Microwaves are generally an energy-efficient way to cook, however they still have conservation considerations. Average microwaves range from 600-1000 watts. If used for 15 minutes daily, it will consume a mere 6 kWh per month. However, the age of your microwave makes a major difference in performance. Microwaves have a lifespan of about 10 years, afterwards quality and efficiency decrease dramatically. Older models can haunt your bills with phantom energy use due to clock displays or other always-on settings. Maintaining your microwave and upgrading when it becomes outdated is essential.

Microwave Management Solutions:

  • Unplug your microwave when not in use, reducing phantom energy use.
  • Use microwave-safe cookware and lids to heat food more efficiently.
  • Regularly clean your microwave to improve performance.
  • Replace outdated models with energy-efficient options.

Upgrading Energy-Draining Appliances

While assessing your appliances, you may notice a few are ready for an upgrade. When the time comes, opt for models that have been awarded the Energy Star label which notates its high level of efficiency. While these models may have a higher upfront cost, they make up for it in energy savings over time. Additionally, the government offers energy efficiency tax credits and rebates to offset upgrade and installation costs. Upgrading to energy-efficient appliances saves money on your energy bills while contributing to a more sustainable future.

Monitoring Household Energy Use

Energy management is an ongoing process. Regularly monitor your energy consumption to identify opportunities for improvements and conservation practices. Consider upgrading to smart appliances with energy-use reporting. Smart systems empower energy conservation through scheduling features that optimize HVAC and lighting systems to match your daily routine and home occupancy. Smart features naturally encourage energy-saving behaviors through remote controls and monitoring with smartphone apps or computers.

The ghosts and ghouls of energy waste don’t have to haunt your home and fill you with dread. By incorporating some energy conservation magic, you can keep gruesome energy bills at bay. Understanding how your appliances affect energy consumption will empower you to tame these power-hungry monsters and contribute to a more sustainable home. As your energy-saving sidekick, Price To Compare is here to help you find the most cost-effective energy solutions for your home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How can I determine which appliances in my home are the most energy-draining?

A: Use this guide as a starting point, and then assess the age of the appliances in your home. You can also review the Energy Guide Label (EGL) for each appliance for a better understanding of its energy demand. Additionally, consider an energy audit for an in-depth assessment of your home’s energy performance.

Q: What are some simple tips for reducing energy consumption of my appliances?

A: Energy conservation practices like turning off lights and electronics when not in use as well as regular monitoring and maintenance of appliances are simple ways to reduce consumption.

Q: Will replacing older appliances with energy-efficient models really save me money?

A: While older appliances were built to last, energy-efficient appliances consume less energy, require less maintenance, and provide remarkable cost savings over their lifespan.

Q: Are there government incentives or rebates available for purchasing energy-efficient appliances?

A: Yes, the government offers rebates and tax incentives for efficiency upgrades through the Department of Energy and Energy Star.

Q: How can I track my energy usage and ensure that my conservation efforts are working?

A: Learning how to read your utility bill and your electric and gas meters is the first step in tracking energy use. Compare current and past bills to track changes over time to ensure that you’re effectively managing your appliances.