If you're making the investment to upgrade or purchase new appliances with your remodel, look for appliances bearing the Energy Star logo. These appliances have been designed to use less energy than traditional models, using energy more efficiently and reducing phantom loads. Refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, air conditioners, and most home and office electronics (televisions and computers) can be Energy Star certified.
Visit the Energy Star website to search for qualified products. The non-profit Consortium for Energy Efficiency works with the EPA to create higher efficiency standards than ENERGY STAR, and their website has an easy to search product data bases to find and compare products.
Gas vs. Electric Appliances
Like many things in your home, appliances have two costs: the initial purchase investment and the operating & maintenance costs. Stoves, clothes dryers, and water heaters are the most popular appliances available as either gas or electric and efficiencies vary by the type and model. Most gas vs electric decisions are made based on the type of utility connection you have available. If you have both, note that it is inherently more efficient to burn gas to create heat than to turn electricity into heat. In most cases, gas will be more affordable to operate. Energy Star does not certify clothes dryers and stove/range/ovens.
Stove/Range/Ovens: ENERGY STAR does not certify stove/oven/ranges because there is limited variability in efficiency, converting as much energy directly to heat as possible. Things like insulation, oven door gaskets, and reduced use of the "self clean" setting can improve the efficiency and operating costs of ovens. Based on operating costs alone, gas stoves tend to cost half as much as electric stoves. Also, gas stoves now have electric ignitions to avoid energy used by pilot lights. The following table (from Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings) compares the operating costs of different ovens, assuming gas prices are $.60 a therm, and electricity is $.08 a kWh.:
|Electric Oven||350||1 hour||2.0 kWh||$.16|
|Electric Convection Oven||325||45 minutes||1.39 kWh||$.11|
|Gas Oven||350||1 hour||.112 therm||$.07|
|Electric Frying Pan||420||1 hour||.9 kWh||$.07|
|Toaster Oven||425||50 minutes||.95 kWh||$.08|
|Electric Crockpot||200||7 hour||.7 kWh||$.06|
|Microwave Oven||"High"||15 minutes||.36 kWh||$.03|
For more information when selecting stove/range/ovens, visit the following websites:
Clothes Dryers: The most efficient clothes dryer you can purchase also happens to be the cheapest -- a clothesline! While its obvious that drying your clothes outside saves energy and money, it isn't practical for year-round use in our climate, although it is worthwhile to use drying racks indoors in winter. Because most dryer models use similar amounts of energy, the Energy Star does not certify these products. Connection type and operating costs are going to be the driving factors in which to purchase. Gas dryers are more efficient and typically more affordable to operate. Installing a gas connection with proper ventilation in a home set up with electric is an option but may be costly depending on location of the appliance; be sure to talk with your utility provider and a contractor before purchasing gas appliances if you do not already have a gas hook-up. Do look for a sensored & automatic shut-off setting that can detect moisture levels when buying a new dryer. This prevents unnecessary timed drying. Learn more about selecting dryers at:
Water heater: Upgrading traditional domestic hot water systems (DHW) present a significant opportunity to save money on energy use and lessen your environmental impact. In most homes, gas or electric powered conventional hot water systems inefficiently heat a large supply of water and hold it for use. Replacing these old systems (which typically last 10 to 12 years) - even before they've reached the end of their lifespan - is often a worth-while investment. If you notice any leaking or have created an orphaned hot water heater with the recent upgrade of your furnace, it's time to think about replacement. Energy efficient replacement options include demand/ flash tankless systems, indirect/ side-arm systems, and solar hot water. Learn more
Purchasing Energy Star appliances can help you save big bucks in your kitchen; depending on the model you're replacing, you can save $100-$200 on your annual utility bills! Smaller refrigerators use less energy than larger ones, so begin by considering whether you can live with a smaller unit. Energy Star certified refrigerators are required to use 20% less energy than those that do not bear the certification logo. Compare the actual energy use numbers on the yellow EnergyGuide label for the different models you're considering. Note that the range shown on the tags vary by style of appliance. For example, side-by-side refrigerators are less efficient than similarly sized top-mounted freezers. For dishwashers, newer models use less water and less energy. They also have built-in heating units to raise the water temperature of only the water its using, reducing the demand on your larger water heating systems. Download the U.S. Dept. of Energy's document, "Guide to Kitchen Appliances," to help make energy efficient appliance replacements.
Range Hoods: Range hoods help remove excess moisture and stale air created by cooking from the kitchen. Range hoods that exhaust air directly to the outdoors are the best option to remove gasses, particulates and smoke that can affect respiratory health. They should be equipped with a damper to stop infiltration of outdoor air. Recirculating range hoods are available, however the benefits of this type of hood are limited to odor removal and do not address moisture and the quality of indoor air.
Install quiet, low-sone (rated 2.0 sones or less) range hoods to save energy and reduce excess noise. Look for an ENERGY STAR model, but at the date of writing options are limited to high-end models. For a typical kitchen range, hoods should vent 100 cfm.
If your range is wider than standard it may require a higher cfm. A commercial-style kitchen range can create a lot of heat that can melt internal components of the range hood if the heat is not exhausted properly. Check with the range manufacturer or range hood manufacturer for cfm requirements and warranty limitations. Recent research has changed recommended ventilation rates and ventilation standards are shifting. The most recent standard by ASHRAE, the national engineering society leading the field in setting standards, has lowered recommended rates.
When adding a range hood, you may need to provide make-up air to your home. Envision that each cfm of air that leaves the house is like one basketball of air leaving the house per minute. If the range hood is 150 cfm, that is similar to 150 basketballs of air leaving the home per minute. If air isn’t brought in to replace the air that leaves, other combustion appliances may be compromised – resulting in potential carbon monoxide and poisonous gas issues. Check with a building performance professional to avoid CO issues before purchasing and installing range hoods.
Typically kitchen range hoods should vent 100 cfm, or meet the specifications set by the Home Ventilating Institute (HVI) and described in the HVI Range Hood Brochure. For optimal performance, look for a range hood with two fan settings and make sure your fan is sized and located properly for your home. To test whether your current kitchen exhaust is adequate or needs to be upgraded, use toilet paper to see how many cfm are being moved. It takes about 25 cfm to hold up one piece of toilet paper, so if it can hold four pieces, it is providing enough ventilation. Check with building performance professional to avoid CO issues before purchasing and installing range hoods.
Why are range hoods so important? Without a range hood, moisture and particulates are left to contaminate the air in your home. Excess moisture can get into wall and ceiling cavities and affect structural components of your home. It also can degrade finishes by causing peeling, swelling, and staining. Cooking on a gas stove creates carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, smoke, and other particulates that may trigger asthma in children and exacerbate it in adults. A range hood helps provide cleaner, fresher air for you to breath in your home; this reduces possible health problems caused by poor indoor air quality.
Faucets and GPM: Between cooking, washing dishes, and cleaning, the average household uses 11% of their total indoor water use in the kitchen. Conserve water by installing a kitchen faucet with a low gallons per minute (GPM) rating. Since 1998, the EPA has set the maximum flow rate of faucet fixtures at 2.2 GPM. The 2011 Enterprise Green Community Criteria requires kitchen faucets use a maximum of 2.0 GPM, and recommends 1.5 GPM! Unlike bathroom fixtures, the WaterSense label program does not exist for kitchen faucets because of their different uses. When choosing a faucet, be aware of GPM and look for a fixture that has a rinse-spray valve; this is an easy way to use less water for cleaning up around the kitchen.