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Use your Energy Sense

Ken Sheinkopf, associate director for the Florida Solar Energy Center often writes about life-cycle costing and "how the cost of owning and operating an appliance over its lifetime is quite different from its purchase price." A prominent factor in purchasing a car is gas mileage, figures of which are prominently displayed on the windows of new cars. Appliance buyers should get the same message. The federal government has been putting the yellow EnergyGuide labels on major home appliances since the 1970's, updating them as needed. Many consumers still question why these labels are necessary and why pay more for an appliance.

Energy-efficient appliances often cost more than not-as-efficient appliances - a cost that is usually quite moderate. This cost shouldn't prevent buyers from paying a little more in order to save money in the long run. According to Sheinkopf, "life-cycle thinking implies that the real cost is the purchase price plus the cost of energy and maintenance over the product's lifetime."

When consumers weigh an appliances time in use and the amount of time they are operating, they can see the potential for significant energy use. Consider also that the average freezer or refrigerator bought today can last 20 years and most other appliances from 12 to 18 years - imagine the cumulative energy usage over time.

The purchase price is only one indication of the real cost of an appliance. The fuel (electricity, gas, propane) to provide the operating power should also be considered. Use is especially high for refrigerators and freezers that must run constantly. Other appliances such as washers and dryers may not be run as often, however, take into account the number of loads of clothes washed per week or the number of baths/showers your family members take.

This same type of thinking must be applied to water-using appliances also. Many energy-conscious builders are installing energy-conserving toilets and showerheads in new homes. As well, water and sewer rates have increased dramatically in recent years, especially since droughts and water shortages have brought water use issues to the forefront.

Most major home appliances have become more energy efficient in the past few decades. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that a typical new refrigerator having automatic defrost and a top-mounted freezer uses less than 650-kilowatt hours per year. This is about a third of what was used by a typical 1973 model.

So - be sure to consider life cycle costing and SAVINGS$$$$$$$$ to your pocketbook and to natural resources before you make a decision.

[For detailed information on energy use and costs of home appliances, visit]