Shopping for appliances

If you’re in the market for a major appliance, fall is one of the best times of the year for good deals as newer models come out and retailers try to move inventory. But before you buy that big ticket appliance, you should consider more than just the sale price.

All new appliances actually have two price tags: the initial purchase price and the long-term cost of operation. What might seem like a great deal could actually cost you more in the long run if you don’t shop wisely.

When buying appliances, always choose the size and capacity that’s right for your family’s needs. A large capacity washer might be economical for a large family but an energy-waster for a retired couple.

“Consumers should do research online before they shop,” advises Gabriel Esquibel, a Technical Specialist with UniSource Energy Services. “Read product ratings and reviews and check out prices so that you buy the right appliance for your needs and budget.”

Esquibel says one way you can tell if an appliance will be an energy-saver is to look for the ENERGY STAR® label. This lets you know that the product has energy-efficient technology and features that have been proven to reduce energy use and costs.

Of course, how you use that appliance also affects your energy bill. Here are some other things to consider when buying and using major appliances.

Clothes Washers

Is your washer older than 1999? If so, you might be using four times more energy than a new ENERGY STAR washer that has newer settings and technology. Front-loading washers generally are more efficient than top-loading models. Look for variable settings for water temperature and load size, as well as a high-spin cycle. Running only full loads using the cold water setting and the high-speed spin cycle will clean your clothes with a shorter wash cycle and shorten dryer time, both of which save money.

Clothes Dryers

The newest and most efficient models have sensors that stop the cycle when the load is dry and use 20 percent less energy. They also offer energy-saving features, like variable heat and load size settings. Using the low heat setting saves energy and reduces wear and tear on your clothes. Some newer dryers use a heat pump to heat and recirculate ambient air. Be sure to clean the lint tray after each use.


Dishwasher technology and efficiency have improved greatly in recent years. Newer models have soil sensors that reduce the cleaning cycle if the water is still usable for cleaning.  Improved dish rack designs, water filtration and jets also maximize water and energy savings. To optimize savings, run full loads, use the eco-wash cycle and air dry the dishes.

Stoves and Ranges

Buying a highly-efficient gas or electric range or oven is bit trickier because there are no models with the ENERGY STAR label. Generally, however, gas ranges tend to be more efficient and a little more expensive than electric models because of their instant heat and uniform heat transfer. Self-cleaning ovens also use less energy because they have better insulation.

Convection ovens are another option but are costlier. These ovens use less energy than standard ovens because they continuously circulate heated air so that food cooks faster.

Water heaters

Water heaters account for the second largest source of energy use in a home, costing about $600 a year. To pick the right size, check your peak water use on your water bill and then choose a capacity to meet that demand.

Energy efficient models are available in both gas and electric configurations. ENERGY STAR-certified electric water heaters use less than half the energy of standard models by using a heat pump to transfer heat from surrounding air to the water. High-efficiency natural gas models also are a good choice. They heat water twice as fast as electric models to deliver more hot water faster.

When selecting a water heater, look for the ENERGY STAR label and the Energy Factor (EF) rating. The higher the EF, the more efficient it is. Rebates are available on some models through Southwest Gas.


A 15-year-old refrigerator uses nearly twice as much energy as a new ENERGY STAR model due to improved insulation and compressors.

The configuration you choose also will affect energy use. On average, an ENERGY STAR unit with the freezer above the refrigerator costs about $45 a year to run. A unit with a freezer on the bottom costs about $70 per year to operate, and a side-by-side is the most expensive to run at $77 a year.

Extra features like through-the-door water and ice dispensers will boost the initial purchase price and operating cost over the lifetime of the product.

If you do get a deal on a new energy-efficient refrigerator, resist the temptation to keep the old one as a backup. It will simply eat up any energy-savings that you achieve from your new purchase.

For more help selecting the most energy efficient appliances, visit ENERGY STAR.

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