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Publication #FCS3266

Energy Efficient Homes: Appliances and Electronics1

Kathleen C. Ruppert, Wendell A. Porter, Randall A. Cantrell, Hyun-Jeong Lee, 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 (U.S. DOE, May 2014).

  • Approximately 13 percent of your average annual energy cost goes to operating your refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine (i.e., clothes washer) and (ENERGY STAR®, n.d.).

  • “Overall, ENERGY STAR®-labeled office products use about half the electricity of standard equipment” (U.S. DOE, May 2014).

  • Appliances and electronics account for approximately 20 percent of your home energy bill (U.S. DOE, January 2014).

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


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 is a third price, one that is 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 location, how much you use the appliance, 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: the refrigerator, for example, lasts approximately 11 years, and the washing machine averages about 10 years. You will 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 or electronic device?

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

What is the ENERGY STAR® logo?

ENERGY STAR® is the 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 certified products


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Do all types of appliances and electronics have ENERGY STAR® guidelines or specifications?

Currently, the following six major appliance types have ENERGY STAR® guidelines to meet certification requirements:

  • Washing machines

  • Clothes dryers

  • Dehumidifiers

  • Dishwashers

  • Refrigerators

  • Freezers

  • Air purifiers (cleaners)

Categories of electronics that offer ENERGY STAR® certified products include:

  • Audio/Video

  • Set-up boxes and cable boxes

  • Telephones

  • Televisions

Categories of office equipment that offer ENERGY STAR® certified products include:

  • Computers

  • Displays

  • Imaging equipment

  • Small network equipment

  • Uninterruptible power supplies

  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones

Note that the EPA has a designated category for ENERGY STAR® Most Efficient 2015 (Figure 2). This label recognizes products that deliver cutting-edge energy efficiency along with the latest in technological innovation. The year included on the label designates that the device/appliance meets the criteria for the year indicated. If interested, learn more about this label at

Figure 2. 

Sample ENERGY STAR® Most Efficient logo for use on qualified products.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

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 (Figures 3 and 4) is a bright yellow tag that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) developed to help consumers more easily compare energy efficiency among similar products.

Figure 4. 

Sample transitional (new) EnergyGuide washing machine label


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Note that the EnergyGuide label in Figure 4 reflects updated energy testing procedures and is different from those you may have seen in the past. Previous labels (Figure 3) feature the numbers in black while these “transitional” new labels feature bright yellow numbers and were required on new washing machines manufactured beginning March 7, 2015. So, before comparing the features of different products, make sure you are comparing models tested to the same energy-efficiency measures so you can make a more accurate comparison. The FTC has more information about reading the label at

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

No, not all appliances are required to present the EnergyGuide labels. The FTC's Appliance Labeling Rule (implemented in 1980) and now referred to as the “Energy Labeling Rule” requires the placement of the EnergyGuide labels on any new product in the following product lines:

  • Boilers

  • Central air conditioners

  • Washing machines

  • Dishwashers

  • Furnaces

  • Heat pumps

  • Pool heaters

  • Refrigerators

  • Refrigerator-freezers and freezers

  • Room air conditioners

  • Televisions

  • Water heaters (some types)

Note that the Energy Labeling Rule also includes labeling for plumbing products and ceiling fans as well as labeling requirements for certain types of light bulbs.

What will the EnergyGuide label tell me?

EnergyGuide labels for most appliances prominently display estimate yearly operating costs in dollars per year. Oftentimes this estimated yearly operating cost is shown within the operating cost range of similar models. However the labels are appliance specific. The FTC has more information about reading the EnergyGuide label at

Remember, EnergyGuide labels will not tell you the best appliance to buy, but they do provide a lot of information to help you in your decision making. The labels 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 washing machine 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 is ENERGY STAR® certified?

No, just the display of an EnergyGuide tag does not mean the appliance is ENERGY STAR® certified. Some manufacturers are incorporating the voluntary ENERGY STAR® logo on their certified 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 has not earned the ENERGY STAR® certification.

What are some other, more general energy-saving tips for appliances, electronics, and office equipment?

If you want to keep your current appliances performing at their top efficiency, operate them as indicated in the product manuals, always run at full capacity, and follow a regular maintenance schedule. When considering a new appliance or device:

References and Resources

American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. (2015). Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings Online. Retrieved from

Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP). (n. d.) Products: Residential. Retrieved from

Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE). (2015). CEE program resources: Residential. Retrieved from

Earth911. (2014). Got something to recycle? Search for a recycle solution below. Retrieved June 3, 2015, from

Federal Trade Commission. (2015). Electronic Code of Federal Regulations: Title 16, Chapter 1, Subchapter C, Part 305. Retrieved June 8, 2015, from

Federal Trade Commission. (January 2015). Shopping for home appliances: Use the EnergyGuide label. Retrieved from

Federal Trade Commission. (2013). Transitional label – example. Retrieved from

International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). (2015). InterNACHI’s estimated life expectancy chart for Florida homes. Retrieved from

Laitner, J., McDonnell, M., & Ehrhardt-Martinez, K. (November 13, 2014). The energy efficiency and productivity benefits of smart appliances and ICT-enabled networks: An initial assessment. Retrieved from

Mauer, J., deLaski, A., Nadel, S., Fryer, A., & Young, R. (May 21, 2013). Better appliances: An analysis of performance, features, and price as efficiency has improved. Retrieved from

Miller, C., Sullivan, J., & Ahrentzen, S. (2012). Energy Efficient Building Construction in Florida. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida.

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). (n. d.). Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE). Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). (May 2014). Energy saver: Tips on saving money & energy at home. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). (May 10, 2015). Estimating appliance and home electronic energy use. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). (January 2, 2014). Resolve to save energy this year. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). (July 16, 2014). Tips: Home office and electronics. Retrieved from

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (February 27, 2015). RAD partners and affiliates. Retrieved June 3, 2015, from

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy. ENERGY STAR®.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy. (2015). ENERGY STAR® Most Efficient 2015. Retrieved from

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy. (2015). Special offers and rebates from ENERGY STAR® partners. Retrieved May 29, 2015, from

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ENERGY STAR®. (n.d.) Save energy at home. Retrieved on May 26, 2015 from



This document is FCS3266, one of an Energy Efficient Homes series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension. 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. Revised June 2012 with the support of the Florida Energy Systems Consortium ( Revised June 2015. 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


Kathleen C. Ruppert, Extension scientist, Program for Resource Efficient Communities; Wendell A. Porter, lecturer and P.E., Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Randall A. Cantrell, assistant professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; Hyun-Jeong Lee, former assistant professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; and Travis Prescott, former editor, IFAS Communications; UF/IFAS Extension, 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.