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Publication #FCS3266

Energy Efficient Homes: Appliances in General1

Hyun-Jeong Lee, Kathleen C. Ruppert, Wendell A. Porter, and Travis Prescott2

Quick Facts

  • The average annual energy cost of a home is about $2,200 and appliances are a major part of home energy use (ENERGY STAR®, n.d.).

  • Approximately 13% of your average annual energy cost goes to operating your refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer (ENERGY STAR®, n.d.).

  • Some utility companies even have buy-back programs for old appliances.

Let's face it—that 1980s refrigerator of yours may still keep your food cold, but it has to work awfully hard to do its job, it runs constantly, and you can feel the heat from its coils making your kitchen even hotter in the summer; and your aging laundry appliances aren't helping matters because you have to run your dryer for at least an hour and a half just to get your towels dry; then there's the steam rising from the dishwasher during its drying cycle and you find yourself wishing it had a no-heat-drying option button you could press as you wipe your brow and notch your air conditioning thermostat down a couple of notches—your appliances are costing you money long after you've paid for them. Isn't it time they started paying you back for a change?

When shopping for appliances, remember that there are actually three prices involved. The first is the one everyone thinks of: the purchase price. The second price is for repairs and maintenance. But there's a third price, one that's just as important: the operating cost of the appliance. Operating cost will depend on the cost of fuel (kilowatt-hour, cubic foot, therm, etc.) in your region, how much you use the appliance as well the way you use it, and the overall energy efficiency of the appliance. Operating cost shows up on your utility bill each month for the life of the appliance: your refrigerator, for example, may operate effectively for 15–20 years; your dishwasher, about 10 years. You'll need to consider how any given appliance will affect your utility usage.

Naturally, you want your total expenditure to be as low as possible! But remember to think long term: an energy efficient appliance may have a higher purchase price—but your operating costs could be significantly lower, and often, the maintenance/repair costs on a new appliance can be lower, too. Check consumer advocacy print and Internet sources for information such as repair history and maintenance needs.

What should I look for when seeking an energy efficient appliance?

There are two key elements that you need to look for when you shop for an energy efficient appliance: the ENERGY STAR® logo, and the EnergyGuide label.

What is an ENERGY STAR® logo?

ENERGY STAR® is a name of a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that aims to assist in money savings and environmental protection by promoting energy efficient products and practices. Highly specific minimum standards and testing procedures of each type of product set the bar for meeting strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and DOE. If a product meets or exceeds the minimum standards, the product earns the ENERGY STAR® and can then be promoted as such (Figure 1).

Figure 1. 

Sample ENERGY STAR® logo for authorized products only


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Do all type of appliances have ENERGY STAR® guidelines or specifications?

No, not all appliance types are eligible to earn the ENERGY STAR®. For example, you will not see a clothes dryer bearing the ENERGY STAR® logo because there is little quantifiable difference in energy use between models. Currently, the following six major appliance types have ENERGY STAR® guidelines:

  • Clothes washers

  • Dehumidifiers

  • Dishwashers

  • Refrigerators

  • Freezers

  • Room air cleaners and purifiers

However, manufacturers of these and many other appliance types must provide potential buyers pertinent information regarding a given product's energy consumption on the standardized EnergyGuide label.

What is the EnergyGuide label?

The EnergyGuide label (Figure 2) is a bright yellow tag that the Federal Trade Commission developed to help consumers more easily compare energy efficiency among similar products.

Figure 2. 

Sample EnergyGuide label


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Will I see the EnergyGuide labels on all products that use energy?

No, not all products are required to present the EnergyGuide labels. The Federal Trade Commision's Appliance Labeling Rule* (implemented in 1980) requires the placement of the EnergyGuide labels on any new product in the following product lines:

  • Refrigerators

  • Refrigerator-freezers and freezers

  • Dishwashers

  • Clothes washers

  • Central air conditioners

  • Room air conditioners

  • Water heaters (some types)

  • Heat pumps

  • Furnaces

  • Lighting products

  • Fluorescent lamp ballasts

  • Plumbing products

  • Televisions (manufactured after May 10, 2011)

  • *Note that changes in the Rule are anticipated in the near future because, as of this writing, public comments as to suggested changes are being evaluated by the Federal Trade Commission.

What will the EnergyGuide label tell me?

EnergyGuide labels for most appliances prominently display yearly operating costs in dollars per year. Oftentimes this estimated yearly operating cost is shown within the operating cost of similar models. In addition, the current EnergyGuide label continues to display the estimated annual energy consumption of the appliance. The Federal Trade Commission has more information about reading the EnergyGuide label at

Remember, the EnergyGuide labels won't tell you the best appliance to buy, but they do provide a lot of information to help you in your decision making. They also help consumers assess the trade-offs between the energy costs of their appliances and other expenditures.

Make sure you compare similar models with similar capacities. For example, comparing one top-loading clothes washer with another top-loader that handles the same-size batch of laundry will help you make a more informed decision than comparing models that lack such similarities.

Does an appliance with an EnergyGuide label also mean that it's ENERGY STAR® qualified?

No, just display of an EnergyGuide tag does not mean the appliance is ENERGY STAR® qualified. Some manufacturers are incorporating the voluntary ENERGY STAR® logo on their qualified appliance EnergyGuide labels, but if you don't see the ENERGY STAR® logo on the bright yellow EnergyGuide tag, investigate further—the ENERGY STAR® logo might be on the appliance itself, or perhaps the item hasn't earned the ENERGY STAR®.

What are some other, more general energy-saving tips for appliances?

If you want to keep your current appliances at their top efficiency, use the appliances as indicated in the product manuals, always run at full capacity, and follow a regular maintenance schedule. When considering a new appliance, you can maximize your savings by also:

  • determining how much energy a certain appliance uses by using the U.S. Department of Energy's website at;

  • checking with your local utility company to see if they offer rebates or incentives for the purchase of energy efficient appliances (a rebate makes that energy efficient dishwasher or refrigerator an even more attractive buy, and some utility companies even pay you to turn in older working inefficient models);

  • checking out the ENERGY STAR® website at to determine if there are any special offers or rebates available from ENERGY STAR® partners; and for potentially more savings,

  • visiting the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) website at

Further Resources

American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings: Online Guide

Miller, C., Sullivan, J., and Ahrentzen, S. 2012. Energy Efficient Building Construction in Florida, ISBN: 978-0-9852487-0-3, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.


ENERGY STAR®. (n.d.) Appliances. Retrieved on May 29, 2012 from

ENERGY STAR®. (n.d.) Where Does My Money Go? Retrieved on May 29, 2012 from

Federal Trade Commission/Federal Register. April 11, 2008. Rule Concerning Disclosures Regarding Energy Consumption and Water Use of Certain Home Appliances and Other Products Required Under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (“Appliance Labeling Rule”); Final Rule.

Federal Trade Commission. January 6, 2011. 16 CFR Part 305. Disclosures Regarding Energy Consumption and Water Use of Certain Home Appliances and Other Products Required Under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (Appliance Labeling Rule). Retrieved on May 29, 2012 from

Federal Trade Commission. FTC Seeks Public Input on Proposed Changes to Appliance Labeling Rule. Retrieved on May 29, 2012 from



This document is FCS3266, one of an Energy Efficient Homes series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. This material was initially prepared June 2008 with the support of the Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Energy Office, which Is now the Office of Energy, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This revised version was prepared June 2012 with the support of the Florida Energy Systems Consortium ( Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsoring organizations. Visit the EDIS website at


Hyun-Jeong Lee, former assistant professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; Kathleen C. Ruppert, extension scientist, Program for Resource Efficient Communities; Wendell A. Porter, lecturer and P.E., Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering; and Travis Prescott, editor, IFAS Communications; University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.