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Energy-efficient appliances may cost more up front, but they pay for themselves over time through reduced utility bills. Unfortunately, not all energy-rated appliances are created equal. Use these tips to make smart choices when selecting new appliances for your kitchen.

Refrigerators

Running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, it’s no surprise that the refrigerator is usually the biggest drain on household electricity. Energy Star-rated appliances are a good place to start, but these labels can be deceiving. Actual energy consumption varies widely between models. Get the facts at www.energystar.gov.

When looking for a new refrigerator, consider the following:

  • Size – Small, overfilled refrigerators work harder to cool; big, underused ones waste energy chilling empty space. Don’t buy more refrigerator than you need.
  • Configuration – Get more bang for your buck by choosing a refrigerator with more storage in a smaller space. According to Consumer Reports, freezer-top models provide the most usable storage, with bottom freezer models coming in second and side-by-sides showing up third.
  • Special Features – Skip the in-door water and ice dispensers. These fancy extras burn more energy than they’re worth. Use a sink-mounted filter or a filtering pitcher instead.
  • Location – Position the refrigerator away from the oven, dishwasher and other heat sources.

Cooktops, Ranges and Ovens

Unlike most household appliances, different types of energy can power cooktops and ovens. Most stoves and ovens use either electricity or natural gas. Both have their pros and cons.

  • Electric Stoves- Electricity is an inefficient cooking medium; temperatures are difficult to regulate, and because burners are slow to cool, much of the available energy is dissipated unused. Although electric ranges and ovens can be converted to alternate green fuels such as solar, most of the electricity available in the United States is currently produced by burning coal, a major contributor to greenhouse gases.
  • Natural Gas Stoves – You’ll never see a chef at a five-star restaurant cooking on an electric range. Natural gas is easily regulated, and burners cool quickly when the source of heat is removed. However, burning natural gas results in the release of carbon monoxide and other harmful chemicals. Always use a quality, top-mounted vent hood when cooking with natural gas. Natural gas is plentiful and cheap, but most of it is obtained through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Environmentalists have expressed concern that this process is polluting nearby soil and groundwater.
  • Ovens – Ovens are inherently inefficient. Only six percent of the energy generated is used in cooking. As with refrigerators, choose the smallest size possible to suit your needs. Two smaller ovens will give you extra space for entertaining while reducing the energy load during daily use.

Dishwashers

Up to 90 percent of the energy consumed by your dishwasher is used to heat the water. An Energy Star-rated model can help. These dishwashers use about 10 percent less energy on average, and many contain a booster heater to heat the water to recommended temperatures without overtaxing the household water heater. Choose a dishwasher with a variety of wash cycles, including water miser, china light and no-heat dry. New steam dishwashers are quieter than traditional models and energy-efficient. On the downside, they take longer to complete a cycle.

Easy energy saving tips for your dishwashers:

  • Always run a full load.
  • Don’t wash your dishes twice. If pots and pans must be scrubbed to remove baked-on foods, you’re better off using elbow grease and washing them once, by hand. Scrape plates instead of rinsing them to conserve water.
  • Use light or energy-saving cycles whenever possible.
  • Choose the no-heat drying option to reduce energy use.