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Energy Efficiency 101: Home Appliances & Efficiency Tips

By Jordan Remington

Render of a refrigeratorHome appliances are the largest culprits that make energy bills skyrocket. The three most voracious energy gobblers are heaters, air conditioners and water heaters. The energy used to operate water heaters is higher than the monthly consumption of almost all small appliances and digital devices in a typical home combined, according to Duke Energy.

As appliances age, efficiency declines, and energy use naturally increases. Older appliances and new Energy Star appliances run better and cost less to operate with proper cleaning and maintenance in the following ways.

Climate Control: Heating & Cooling

Since heating and cooling units directly impact health and finances, homeowners can’t afford to skimp on maintenance and upkeep. Comparing energy rates bi-annually is good practice. For example, Saveonenergy.com’s help center says competition among utility suppliers is driving down energy costs, and more billing options are available for controlled spending, fixed billing and quarterly payments. Changing suppliers could take hundreds of dollars off the annual household energy bill that you’re used to paying now.

Many manufacturers recommend hiring a certified appliance repair technician to do an annual inspection. Between scheduled maintenance:

  • Periodically check return air and supply vents to ensure air is flowing normally. Clean the grates and remove pet hair, dust and dirt that prevents a full airstream from flowing into the room.
  • Vacuum the area around, under and behind indoor units, including the coil area. Replace filters every quarter to keep the air cleaner and for appliances to operate more efficiently.
  • Test the thermostat annually for accuracy.

Water Heaters

Inspect water heaters frequently. Look for water in the drip pan and condensation on pipes and the unit body. Insulating the tank and cold water lines provides a layer of protection that prevents pipes from freezing in the winter and retains warmth inside the tank, rather than heating the surrounding area. Insulation isn’t just for appliances and pipes. According to Home Depot, a properly insulated house can reduce energy expense by as much as 10 percent.

Refrigerators & Freezers

Keeping your appliance clean helps extend the life of the unit. If cold air escapes, the refrigerator is overworking to maintain the proper temperature. Periodically check rubber seals to ensure doors close tightly, and no air is leaking. Using a damp cloth and soft bristle brush, clean the folds and creases to remove buildup from food splatters and spills.

Kitchen grime, dust and dirt accumulate around the condensing coils. Consult the appliance manual for the location of the coils and how to remove the grill to reach them. Two annual cleanings are typically sufficient to keep kitchen appliances working efficiently. However, quarterly cleaning is recommended for homes with indoor pets, especially shedding pets.

A full freezer efficiently keeps foods frozen. Plastic containers filled with tap water make excellent space-fillers in freezers. The frozen water aids in temperature control by reducing empty airspace that requires cooling.

Safety First

Before cleaning or working on any electrical device, turn off the power and/or flip the breaker switch to prevent injuries. Get help moving large appliances to protect your back and joints.

Managing a household budget for energy reduction takes a little time and human energy, but the results are worth it. How have you optimized your home appliances to save your household money? Share your tips in the comments.


Jordan works in the IT department of a solar energy company. He is passionate about the environment and how technology can be used to lessen our impact on the earth.

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