New eco-friendly appliances, especially the big ones such as refrigerators and washing machines, are a serious commitment for homeowners. It’s exciting to think about getting something shiny and clean in your house, but it can also cause some worry. Buying new eco-friendly appliances usually means spending a large chunk of money. It also usually means dumping a heap of metal and other non-biodegradable substances into a landfill. Before you buy, be sure to do some research to determine what features you need, what models are most energy efficient and which brands are most likely to last.
Determine what size appliance you need
Size in this case not only means dimensions but also capacity. First, you want to make sure your appliance will fit the space you have for it. Measure for height, width and depth. Keep in mind there needs to be space for the door to open, too. Appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines often allow you to switch whether the door opens from the left or right.
Second, you don’t need a washing machine that will accommodate 20 pairs of jeans at a time if you live alone. Many appliance models will give you an approximation of what size household it is appropriate for. There’s no need to get an appliance that’s bigger than what you need, unless you plan on adding to your family.
Identify the minimum features you need
Do you need something simple or do you want all the bells and whistles? Consider the energy cost of additional features, as well as the added cost to the appliance itself. For example, an ice maker and water dispenser in a refrigerator door can add up to 14-20 percent to your energy bill every year, and these features are also one of the top reasons that refrigerators need repair. Is the convenience worth all that to you?
Look for the ENERGY STAR label on Eco-Friendly Appliances
Appliances with the ENERGY STAR label meet trusted and strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. For example, washing machines with the ENERGY STAR label use about 20 percent less energy and 35 percent less water than other washing machines.
Look for energy consumption information
Most appliance manufacturers provide information on their labels or in their specifications about how much energy their products typically use in a year. Use these numbers to compare appliances’ energy use so you can factor this into your buying decision.
Read consumer reviews and ratings about the appliances you are interested in. There’s no sense buying something – even with an ENERGY STAR label – if other buyers’ experiences show it might break down in a few months. Adding a relatively new appliance to the landfill is never environmentally friendly.
Look for opportunities to reuse and recycle
If your used appliance is still in working order, it may be perfect for someone else! You could sell or donate it to someone who can use it. Alternatively, contact your local recycling facility to see if your appliance can be recycled. Many municipalities will pay you to recycle your old refrigerator or freezer.
This article was written by Kristina Ross, blog editor for SaveOnEnergy.com.