Energy and water-saving tips for home appliances
Some appliances waste power when you're not even using them.
You can cut your electricity bills simply by turning appliances off at the wall when not in use and by using appliances efficiently.
With some appliances, such as washing machines and dishwashers, it's also worth thinking about water and detergent use. More water-efficient models will save you money, as less power is needed to heat less water. And environmentally-friendly detergents will help keep your family safer and reduce harm to the environment.
In 'standby' mode, appliances consume electricity even when they're not being used. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) calculates that standby power uses about 4% of a household’s electricity use every year - about $80
Standby mode is common in electronic appliances - for example home theatre systems, TVs, VCRs, DVDs and computers. But it is also used by things you might not expect such as dishwashers, microwaves, garage door openers and mobile phone chargers. Look around your home at night to see how many small lights are glowing to get an idea of which appliances are using standby power.
Sometimes, the standby power is doing nothing but keeping an LCD display alight. It might also allow appliances to communicate with each other. In addition, many small appliances use transformers which are constantly warm even when you are not using the appliance.
Home automation - controlling all of your appliances from a central control - guzzles standby energy. Home entertainment systems and computers also use considerable standby power.
For most appliances, cutting down on standby power use is as simple as switching appliances off at the wall. If you're buying an appliance, you may want to ask how much standby power it uses.
Fridges and freezers
Fridges and freezers use more power in a year than any other home appliance - about 10% of an average household's electricity bill.
You can cut down on operating costs by:
- putting the fridge or freezer in a cool spot out of direct sunlight and away from cookers, heaters and dishwashers
- ensuring there is at least a 75mm air gap around all sides of the fridge and making sure air can escape at the top and enter at the bottom - badly vented fridges use a lot more energy
- setting the fridge thermostat to between 3°C and 5°C, and the freezer between -15°C and -18°C (every degree lower requires more energy)
- keeping some free space inside the fridge for cool air to circulate - an overloaded fridge or freezer will have to work harder
- turning off the butter conditioner
- making sure the door seals are in good condition so warm air can't leak in
- defrosting if ice is more than 5mm thick
- getting rid of your second fridge - running a second fridge costs between $100 and $300 a year
Disposal of fridges
Some fridges and freezers use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as refrigerants. These damage the ozone layer if they escape.
EECA, in conjunction with Fisher & Paykel, offer a free recycling service for fridges over 10 years old in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch (visit the Fisher & Paykel website for more information).
If you trade in your old fridge or freezer, the delivery people will take your old one away for you. Or you can take it to the tip and leave it with all other fridges so that the CFCs can be disposed of safely by people who are experienced at doing this.
To save water, energy and detergent:
- wash full loads rather than several smaller loads
- follow the instructions on the detergent package - if there are lots of suds in the waste water you are using too much
- use the machine's economy cycle
- use cold water whenever possible - most of the energy used in washing clothes is for heating the water, and with modern cold-water detergents a hot wash isn't usually necessary
- use concentrated detergent – it costs less per wash and causes less water pollution. It’s particularly important to use concentrated detergent if you have a septic tank or greywater system.
Clothes dryers are poor users of energy. Many receive only 1-2 stars on the Australia-New Zealand energy rating scheme. And, according to Consumer NZ testing, every load costs an estimated 81-99 cents to dry.
Drying clothes on a washing line outside or a drying rack costs nothing. Sunshine also kills bacteria.
If you have to use a dryer:
- vent the dryer outside to remove moist air from the room - this keeps your home drier which can reduce heating and maintenance costs
- avoid overloading or over-drying
- part-dry or thoroughly spin-dry the clothes first
- clean the lint filter after each load.
To save energy when you're cooking:
- use the microwave when feasible - they are more energy efficient than ovens or cooktops
- cook meals that will last more than one night (you can always freeze the leftovers)
- use the right appliance for the job, eg the kettle for boiling water rather than a pot and the toaster for toast rather than the oven grill
- use pots/pans that are flat-bottomed and retain heat well
- use the right-sized element for your pot/pan and cook with the lid on (this will reduce condensation as well as save energy)
- make sure appliances are operating efficiently, eg make sure heat isn't leaking from your oven and keep reflector pans under elements clean and shiny
- keep oven doors closed as much as possible
- allow frozen food to defrost before cooking
- use a pressure cooker.
To save energy and water when you use a dishwasher:
- avoid rinsing dishes under the hot tap - instead, scrape plates well before loading them into the dishwasher
- clean the filter regularly
- run the dishwasher only when fully loaded
- select the cycle with the lowest temperature and the minimum time to get the job done - use the eco cycle if possible.
Many dishwashing detergents contain alkalis which can cause severe burns to the mouth, throat and airways if they're swallowed.
Many detergents are also harmful to the environment - for example, some contain phosphates which can get into waterways and cause toxic algal blooms.
To protect your children and the environment, look at the labels and choose detergents that:
- are enzyme-based
- don't use metasilicate or silicates as a major ingredient
- don't contain sodium perborate
- don't contain phosphates
- are licensed to use the Environmental Choice eco-label (the label is government-endorsed - look for the black tick and the licence number, or see www.enviro-choice.org.nz for more information).
If the label doesn't state the ingredients, avoid the product.
Is it better to wash dishes by hand?
Not necessarily. Washing by hand frequently involves rinsing under running water first and this wastes more water than you'd think.
According to Consumer NZ testing, washing the same pile of dishes that fit into a dishwasher will take 40 litres of water and cost about 13 cents. If you rinse the dishes with hot water (before or after), the cost rises. A dishwasher on economy cycle will pre-wash, wash and rinse for 13 cents.
If you have the right-sized dishwasher for your household and you use the eco setting, you're probably already saving water and energy.
Manage your power use
Use a power monitoring device – such as a Centameter or power meter - to help you monitor how much you are using and spending on electricity. Studies show that monitoring your power use can result in a 10% electricity saving.
It is useful to watch the meter as different appliances are working, so that you can see what the biggest power users in the house are. This will help you see where you can save on energy.
- Switch off your computer and monitor if you are not going to use them for a while.
- Check the instruction manual, even if you are familiar with the type of appliance. There may be maintenance or operation tips that will save energy.
- Use a timer for your heated towel rail.
From Smarter Homes
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From other sites
The Energywise website has more useful tips for reducing appliance energy use.
Try your local power company website for more energy saving tips.