Improving the Energy Efficiency of Home Appliances

Close up of electrical outlet (AU/NZ standard) with on/off switches

Our special feature on greener choices around the home kicked off with a guest post on improving the energy efficiency of an existing home with small changes and targeted renovations/enhancements. This week, we’re taking a closer look at the energy efficiency of home appliances and equipment. 

Replacements and Upgrades

Using more efficient appliances or upgrading electronics to a better energy-rating is an “easy” way to reduce consumption without changing habits. It’s also expensive! In some cases, the upgrade may be worthwhile.  In other cases, you might be better off looking for near-term efficiency gains on older existing appliances while saving for future incremental upgrades when the time/budget is right. Using existing equipment smarter to lower your household energy consumption is a great place to start.

Cleaner Appliances are Greener Appliances

Clean appliances will run more efficiently. That’s a no/low cost adjustment that you can make today. Cleaning air inlets (aka fur magnets!) and ensuring adequate ventilation gaps will help things run efficiently. Don’t forget the out-of-sight-out-of-mind jobs.

Remember that just because an appliance is for cleaning doesn’t mean it keeps itself clean…sadly! All of those traps, filters, seals, etc benefit from regular cleaning, as unpleasant a task as that can sometimes be. It will also help your existing appliances operate better, smell better, and last longer.

If your freezer isn’t automatically frost-free, keeping it routinely defrosted will help to keep it chilling efficiently.

Energy Efficiency in the Home Laundry

In your laundry, try to take advantage of economy/eco modes, if your appliances have them. If you can customise the default settings, set it to your most efficient cycle so that you need to opt up when needed by exception instead of always remembering to opt down.

If you can’t adjust the default for your washing machine, get cheeky if your family is “forgetful” about cold washing and shut off the hot water at the wall. As a bonus, it will help to reduce the risk of accidental shrinking. 

Run full loads where feasible.  If operating on similar settings, you’ll use less energy and water.  That means you’ll generate less household wastewater, too.

Clothes dryers are power hungry and can be hard on your clothing, so line or rack drying is a win-win whenever possible. I’ll share some tips in a future post for how we are managing (sometimes with difficulty!) to do all of our household laundry without a tumble dryer here in rainy New Zealand.

Energy Efficiency in the Home Kitchen

Dish Washing and Dishwashers

In the kitchen, use the same eco-setting and full load principles with your dishwasher, if you use one. You can’t argue the convenience factor, but they’re also pretty green if you check out the pros/cons of dishwashers vs. handwashing from a green perspective

Refrigerators and Freezers

Set your refrigerator and freezer to appropriate temperatures. Keep them well-organised to reduce thermal losses through open doors (and food waste too!).

Freezers operate most efficiently when at their fullest, however, full yet organised is better. That way, you can quickly access what you need and reduce the likelihood for food waste as well.  Fridges also benefit from organisation, but need a little more room for air circulation. Not all storage spaces are equal so place food into suitable zones.

Ovens, Stoves, and More

Capacity applies when cooking as well, from pairing the right pot/pan to stove top element size or choosing a specialised appliance for frequent tasks.

If you frequently bake small meals, consider using a toaster oven instead of your full-sized oven.  A typical toaster oven uses one-third to one-half the energy of a full size oven and you can fit much more in than you might think.  This appliance gets a heavy workout at our place! We bought a convection toaster oven when renovating (no working kitchen for a LONG time) and it quickly became a favourite for smaller jobs.  It heats up much faster, performs very well, and is way easier to clean – excellent. 

On the flip side, when you can, take advantage of cool weather for bulk baking and reap the benefits of a little extra ambient warmth.

If you frequently dehydrate foods in your oven (e.g. lower temperature over long times, often with the door ajar and/or fan operating), consider whether a dehydrator might be a worthwhile addition to your appliances. I never expected to use mine so much, but I use it for flowers, herbs, food, but I love it best of all for making healthy homemade dog treats.

Hidden Powder Consumption

Of course, where feasible, using what you need only when you need it is always a way to cut consumption.  Electronics can be sneaky about consumption, so switching off at the wall (I love that individual outlet switches are the norm here!) or using a switched power-board is an easy win against power vampires. Where powering off isn’t feasible (or not manufacturer recommended), try to use standby and sleep options were available to save power when not in use.

Our current feature topic is greener choices around the home. This month’s posts explore home energy efficiency, with a focus on doable changes for real life improvements in your existing home and budget. Check out the full mini-series:

Improving the Energy Efficiency of Home Appliances


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