Energy-efficient appliances & products
Energy-efficient-appliances & products
If you want to optimize your home for maximum energy efficiency, updating your home appliances is a great place to start. We’ll go over efficient appliances, smart appliances and home solar projects that can help transform your home’s energy consumption. Although implementing these changes will require a financial investment upfront, you’re certain to save energy and money in the long run.
Energy-efficient home appliances
In addition to heating, cooling, lighting and hot water, appliances consume a large amount of energy in the home. To have the most energy efficient home possible, you need to go beyond the proper use of appliances (e.g., turning off, unplugging, regularly cleaning). In some cases, the only way to see true energy gains is to replace outdated appliances. Older appliances can be extremely inefficient, especially compared to the more modern ENERGY STAR®-rated appliances. Below you will find a list of some of the best appliances on the market today in terms of energy efficiency, according to ENERGY STAR, as well as some tips on how to get the most out of these modern machines.1
If your home has gas hookups, be sure to consider gas appliances. Consumer Affairs reports having all gas appliances can take 30% off your electricity bill.2 Keep in mind you can also get gas lines installed, but doing will cost several hundred dollars.
Before purchasing a new dryer, first check the available connections in your laundry room. Go for a gas dryer if you have the option. It will help you save energy and lessen your impact on the environment.
Clothes dryers consume massive amounts of energy compared to other appliances, but most ENERGY STAR-certified models are guaranteed to use less energy than conventional dryers, sometimes by as much as 20%.3 Top-of-the-line dryers use sensor drying through moisture-sensitive controls to automatically stop the cycle when your clothes are dry. This is much more efficient than timed drying. When the dryer senses that your clothes are dry, it will stop automatically, as opposed to dryers without sensor technology, which will simply run until the timer reaches the end of the preset cycle. Also, don’t forget to use low heat settings to maximize your dryer’s energy efficiency.
Clothes washers are another energy guzzler you might want to replace if you have an older model, specifically a top loader, which is much less efficient than a front loader. Washing machines built before 2003 are known to be especially inefficient and could be costing you around $190 per year on average to hold onto.4
ENERGY STAR-rated clothes washers use “25% less energy and approximately 33% less water than standard models.”5 For maximum efficiency, be sure to follow the ENERGY-STAR laundry best practices.
Dishwashers do not drain your energy as much as other appliances, but if you want a home that is energy efficient through and through, then you’ll certainly want to ensure you have a modern, energy-efficient dishwasher. In addition to energy consumption, you'll want to consider the water usage of your dishwasher. Modern dishwashers have all kinds of technologies meant to maximize water usage, including soil sensors to test how dirty your dishes are and how much water and heat will be needed, clean-water rinse cycles, efficient spray jets and strategic dish rack designs that ensure every dish gets a complete cleaning.6
Consider the size of the dishwasher you need. If you are more inclined to wash dishes by hand or you simply don't use very many dishes, you can probably purchase a smaller dishwasher. There are even countertop-sized dishwashers available for people who might lack space for a full dishwasher, renters who want a dishwasher they will be able to move to their next home or people who use very few dishes and don't want to run their full-size dishwashers. Just be sure you get the right size for your household needs. If you get too small a dishwasher, you could end up running the dishwasher more often, which will reduce your savings overall.
Whichever dishwasher you select, be sure to choose one with several washing options — and then use those options. Choosing a lighter wash whenever possible will help cut down on water and electricity costs. And stay away from the heated dry option. It's usually not needed and can rack up energy costs with little to no benefit to you.
Refrigerators, especially outdated ones, are notoriously inefficient. If your fridge is more than 10 years old, it’s time to upgrade. ENERGY STAR-certified refrigerators are around 9% more energy efficient than standard models and can help you save a pretty penny over the next few years.7 To find how much money you can save by replacing or retiring your old fridge or freezer, check out the Flip Your Fridge calculator.
Before you hit the store to pick up a new fridge, be sure to choose the right size for your home, and opt for a model with the freezer on top. Those tend to be more energy efficient than models with bottom freezers or models with a side-by-side refrigerator and freezer.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, water heaters are the second largest consumer of electricity next to HVAC systems.8 As with most appliances, the older your water heater is, the more likely it is to be quite inefficient. Not only are modern water heaters incredibly more efficient, but today, the market includes a variety of technologically advanced, highly efficient water heaters that take energy efficiency to a whole other level, including solar water heaters and whole-home tankless water heaters. We’ll detail the various pros and cons of these different options below.
High-efficiency electric and gas water heaters
Traditional electric and gas water heaters are still very efficient if you choose the right model. The chart below shows how much energy and money you can save with an ENERGY STAR-certified high efficiency water heater. If you have a larger family, you can save even more and quickly recoup the initial cost of a new water heater. Also, electric water heaters in general are slightly less expensive up front than gas water heaters, but the cost for gas once you are using the water heater can be less than electric costs would be. Consider your gas and electric bills in addition to the efficiency features and the up-front cost of the water heater itself if you have a choice between the two types.
|Table 1. Savings and Paybacks for HPWHs|
|Household Size||Annual kwh Savings||Annual $ Savings||Payback (Years)||Lifetime Savings|
|Assumes: 12 cents/kWh; Incremental Cost = $800; 13 - year lifespan|
Tankless water heaters
Tankless water heaters, also known as demand-type water heaters, offer an alternative to traditional water heaters that rely on a reservoir of heated water to supply hot water around a home. Tankless water heaters only heat water once a hot water tap is turned on. This has several benefits. Most importantly, it means that there is no standby energy loss, helping you save energy and money. However, since water is heated on demand, the amount of hot water available is limited by a flow rate. Gas tankless water heaters generally have a higher flow rate than electric, but if you have a larger household, even a gas tankless water heater will have trouble keeping up with demand.9
However, if you have relatively low hot water needs, a tankless water heater can be 24%-34% more efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.10 They can also be 8%-14% more efficient for households that use a lot of water. Tankless water heaters are more expensive up front, but will also have lower maintenance and energy needs.11
Perhaps a fitting end to this guide on home energy efficiency, home automation is really the last step in the process of revamping your home, because in the end, the most energy efficient home also needs to be a smart home. Home automation features will help control all the systems in your house, from lights to thermostats to appliances, in the most efficient way possible. In truth, the possibilities are endless, but we will detail below some of the most popular and widely used tools.
If we were to rewrite this guide in a few years’ time, we might need to dedicate an entire page to smart appliances. With the continuing focus on “the internet of things” and the ability different systems and appliances have to communicate and send and receive data, it is possible that one day your thermostat will tell your HVAC to deliver a cool burst of air when your kitchen appliances say you are cooking. For now, many smart appliances are still on the cusp of innovation and are not ready to be brought to market, but there are currently available options worth considering and exploring, such as smart refrigerators with sensitive temperature controls or ovens that shut off as soon as your food is done. As with most smart tools and home automation products, the upfront cost can be high, but they provide the ultimate in home energy efficiency.
You might be thinking: Why a smart thermostat? Isn’t mine already programmable? Although, yes, your thermostat may be programmable, smart thermostats like the Nest Learning ThermostatTM take it to a whole other level. As previously stated, home heating and cooling is the biggest part of your energy bill. Smart thermostats help regulate these systems so they only run when needed and aren’t overworked. For instance, you can have the thermostat drop off while you’re away at work and then start up again so that your home is comfortable as soon as you walk in the door. Many thermostats let you control these systems remotely through an app, so you can turn down and monitor the systems when you’re away from home. Higher-end thermostats will even learn your behaviors, which ultimately prevents you from constantly tinkering with the temperature, causing systems to be overworked or run unnecessarily.
Automated lighting is also not entirely new, but the options now provided by modern technology are nearly endless. Traditionally, lighting controls came in the form of dimmers and timers, and these are still great alternatives to running bright lights non-stop. But today, a wealth of home automation tools are available that let you potentially control every light in your home, no matter where you are. Photo sensors outdoors are a great option to help ensure that exterior lights aren’t on unnecessarily. Then, there are wireless devices that let you control your lights directly from your phone, so you never have to leave the lights on or have lights on where they are not needed. You can invest in smart plugs so that you can control lamps and other devices from anywhere and program them to turn on and off at designated times. All in all, as evidenced earlier in the guide, a few tweaks will go a long way.12
Solar power is a great way to offset your energy usage while doing something good for the environment. Solar panels collect the sun’s rays and convert it into electricity for your home. Here are just a few of the ways you can implement solar around your home.
Rooftop solar panels
Solar panels have gotten increasingly more popular in recent years, and with good reason. As hardware and material costs have gone down considerably, it has become easier and more feasible for people to have solar panels installed. Even with the cost of the panels, the reduction in your electricity bills can net you savings in the long term. Installing solar panels can be quite expensive upfront, but there are many ways the upfront investment can be lowered, including government rebates and leasing options. If you’re an existing Reliant customer with solar panels on your roof, check out the Reliant Simple Solar Sell Back 12 plan. It allows you to sell the surplus energy your panels generate back to the electric grid, giving you even more savings. For more information on everything that solar power and solar energy can do for your home, visit the solar section of the Reliant website.
Heating and cooling account for the majority of your home’s electricity consumption. An easy and affordable way to help cut down on your HVAC costs without compromising comfort is with solar screens. Solar screens look similar to screen doors used to keep bugs out, but they’re more substantial and designed to keep heat out, reduce glare and block UV rays, which can cause fading of carpet, paint and furniture. Solar screens can be placed on the inside or outside of your windows and doors. The price can vary drastically from $45 - $500 per 30x60 window, depending on whether you purchase a fixed panel or motorized solar shades.13 If you can only afford to put solar panels on a few windows at time, do east- and west-facing windows first, then south windows.14
Solar outdoor lights
Lighting accounts for roughly 10% of your electricity bill. Switching to solar lights is a great way to lower your electricity costs while brightening up the outside of your home. Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, outdoor solar lights come in many styles and sizes, including landscape lighting, flood and motion lights for security, porch lights and even string lights. Best of all, solar lighting is eco- and budget-friendly. Plus, solar lights are easy to install and maintain. And you’ll never have to worry about remembering or forgetting to turn your solar lights on or off. Mother Nature has it handled.
1Products identified on this page are provided by companies other than Reliant and/or its parent company, NRG Energy, Inc. All questions or complaints concerning these products should be directed to their respective manufacturer. Neither Reliant nor its parent company, NRG Energy, Inc., is in any way affiliated with these manufacturers, and makes no representations or warranties of any kind with respect to the products or services of these companies.
8U.S. Department of Energy https://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/15-ways-save-your-water-heating-bill
9U.S. Department of Energy https://energy.gov/energysaver/tankless-or-demand-type-water-heaters
10U.S. Department of Energy https://energy.gov/energysaver/tankless-or-demand-type-water-heaters
11U.S. Department of Energy https://energy.gov/energysaver/tankless-or-demand-type-water-heaters
12U.S. Department of Energy https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/big-savings-outdoor-lighting