When you’re shopping for appliances, think of two price tags. The first one covers the purchase price — think of it as a down payment. The second price tag is the cost of operating the appliance during its lifetime. You’ll be paying on that second price tag every month with your utility bill for the next 10 to 20 years, depending on the appliance. Refrigerators last an average of 12 years; clothes washers last about 11 years; and room air conditioners last about 9 years.

When you shop for a new appliance, look for the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR products usually exceed minimum federal standards by a substantial amount.

The ENERGY STAR logo is on all qualified products that meet specific standards for energy efficiency. ENERGY STAR-qualified products exceed the federal minimum standards for efficiency and quality — sometimes significantly. Look for the label on appliances, electronics, water heaters, windows, and other products that consume energy in your home.

To help you figure out whether an appliance is energy efficient, the federal government requires most appliances to display the bright yellow and black EnergyGuide label. Although these labels will not show you which appliance is the most efficient on the market, they will show you the annual energy consumption and operating cost for each appliance so you can compare them yourself.

The EnergyGuide label is required to be placed on all appliances by the manufacturers. The label provides information about energy consumption, and shows you how much energy an appliance uses compared with similar models. Keep in mind that the numbers are averages: actual costs will differ somewhat depending on how you use them. The label shows the following:

Maker, model number, and size of the appliance.
Estimated yearly operating cost (based on the national average cost of electricity), and the range of operating costs for similar models.
The ENERGY STAR logo indicates that this model meets strict criteria for energy efficiency.
Estimated yearly electricity consumption.
Key features of the appliance and the similar models that make up the cost comparison range.


You can save energy in your kitchen through more efficient use of your dishwasher, refrigerator and freezer, and other common appliances.

Most of the energy used by a dishwasher is for water heating. The EnergyGuide label estimates how much power is needed per year to run the appliance and to heat the water based on the yearly cost of natural gas and electric water heating.

Check the manual that came with your dishwasher for the manufacturer’s recommendations on water temperature; many have internal heating elements that allow you to set the water heater in your home to a lower temperature (120° F).
Scrape, don’t rinse, off large food pieces and bones. Soaking or pre-washing is generally only recommended in cases of burned- or dried-on food.
Be sure your dishwasher is full (not overloaded) when you run it.
Avoid using the “rinse hold” on your machine for just a few soiled dishes. It uses 3-7 gallons of hot water each use.
Let your dishes air dry; if you don’t have an automatic air-dry switch, turn off the control knob after the final rinse and prop the door open slightly so the dishes will dry faster.

When shopping for a new dishwasher, look for the ENERGY STAR label to find one that uses less water and energy than required by federal standards. They are required to use 4.25 gallons of water per cycle or less — older dishwashers purchased before 1994 use more than 10 gallons of water per cycle.

The EnergyGuide label on new refrigerators tells you how much electricity in kilowatt-hours (kWh) a particular model uses in one year. The smaller the number, the less energy the refrigerator uses and the less it will cost you to operate. In addition to the EnergyGuide label, don’t forget to look for the ENERGY STAR label. A new refrigerator with an ENERGY STAR label uses at least 15% less energy than non-qualified models, 20% less energy than required by current federal standards, and 40% less energy than the conventional models sold in 2001.

Don’t keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold. Recommended temperatures are 35°-38°F for the fresh food compartment and 0° F for separate freezers for long-term storage.
Check the refrigerator temperature by placing an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator. Read it after 24 hours. Check the freezer temperature by placing a thermometer between frozen packages. Read it after 24 hours.
Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Test them by closing the door over a piece of paper or a dollar bill so it is half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the paper or bill out easily, the latch may need adjustment, the seal may need replacing, or you may consider buying a new unit.
Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.
Regularly defrost manual-defrost freezers and refrigerators; frost buildup decreases the energy efficiency of the unit. Don’t allow frost to build up more than one-quarter of an inch.

Look for the ENERGY STAR label when buying a new refrigerator. Select a new refrigerator that is the right size for your household. Top freezer models are more energy efficient than side-by-side models. Features like icemakers and water dispensers, while convenient, do use more energy.

Place the faucet lever on the kitchen sink in the cold position when using small amounts of water; placing the lever in the hot position draws hot water even though it may never reach the faucet.
Look for a natural gas oven or range with an automatic, electric ignition system, which saves gas since a pilot light is not burning continuously.
Look for blue flames in natural gas appliances; yellow flames indicate the gas is burning inefficiently and an adjustment may be needed. If you see yellow flames, consult the manufacturer or your local utility.
Keep range-top burners and reflectors clean; they will reflect the heat better, and you will save energy.
Use a covered kettle or pan or electric kettle to boil water; it’s faster and uses less energy.
Match the size of the pan to the heating element.
Use small electric pans, toaster ovens, or convection ovens for small meals rather than your large stove or oven. A toaster or convection oven uses one-third to one-half as much energy as a full-sized oven.

10 DIY Appliance Maintenance Tips To Keep Them Running Like New

1. Verify your oven door has a tight seal. Without a proper seal, your oven can lose more than 20 percent of its heat. The result is that food takes longer to cook or cooks unevenly. To check the seal’s condition, open the oven door and locate the rubber or fiberglass gasket around the perimeter of the door. Feel for any broken, torn, or deformed areas, and close the door to see if you can find any leaks. If you do, replace the seal.

2. Clean or replace dirty range hood or downdraft vent filters. Wash metal-mesh grease filters by hand in soapy water, or run them through the dishwasher. Charcoal or paper filters should not be washed. Replace them instead.

3. Clean stovetop drip bowls. Remove drip bowls from underneath your burner elements and presoak them in a cleaning solution for five minutes. Then hand wash and replace. Remember to clean drip bowls immediately after spills. If spills burn into the bowls, you might need to replace them.

4. Clean coils in your refrigerator. Dirt, dust, and pet hair can clog up refrigerator coils, restricting air flow and causing the refrigerator to work harder to keep cool. Once or twice a year, use a handheld vacuum to clean the coils and suck up any loose particles. The location of refrigerator coils varies by model, but most can be found either behind the kick plate (the front panel near the floor) or at the rear of the fridge.

5. Change your refrigerator water filter. Filters that don’t efficiently remove contaminants and impurities could expose you to harmful water. Instructions for changing the filter vary by model, but most are as easy as turning the filter a quarter inch and popping it out or locking it in place. Perform this simple task every three to six months, depending on water usage.

6. Fix rusty dish rack tines. Rust on the tines of your dishwasher racks can adhere to and ruin your dishes and silverware. To solve this issue, purchase a tine repair kit, and use a sealant to adhere the replacement tips over any rusty or chipped tines. Let dry for at least 24 hours before running the dishwasher.

7. Clean and deodorize your garbage disposal. Turn the disposal off and look down the drain for any large, stuck items. Use tongs or another tool–not your hands–to remove blockages. Pour a mixture of ice cubes and salt, or vinegar down the drain. Run cold water over it for 10 seconds, and turn on the unit. To remove odors, place a handful of citrus peels in the disposal, run cold water, and turn it on.

8. Clean your dryer exhaust. Lint in the dryer exhaust not only reduces appliance efficiency, it is a fire hazard. To clean, loosen the clamp and pull the exhaust off the back of the dryer. Remove large clumps of lint from the tubing and the hole in the back with your hands, or if you can’t reach, gently scrape with a straightened coat hanger. Vacuum and reattach.

9. Inspect washing machine hoses. Most washing machine floods are caused by leaks in the hose. Check the hoses that connect to the back panel on your washing machine for any cracks, leaks, or weak spots on the hoses. If you find any deformities, replace the hose. And at minimum, replace the hoses every five years.

10. Clean your air conditioner filter. Clogged or dirty filters restrict air flow, reducing energy efficiency as well as the appliance’s lifespan. As a result, filters should be cleaned every two to four weeks. To clean the filter, remove the front panel of the unit. If a reusable filter is in place, vacuum it to remove as much dirt as possible. Disposable filters can simply be replaced.

13 Must Know Appliance Buying Tips

download (3)Before You Begin Your Shopping Trip

Think of it this way: Unlike a rug, lamp, or hat, you can’t take it back—or at least not easily. That’s why it’s called a major appliance. Here are 13 ways to avoid major buyer’s remorse.

Learn From Others’ Mistakes
I know one sadder-but-wiser home cook who won’t shut up about her pricey gas range making an annoying click click click…click click click… when the burners are set on low. Well, others suffer so you won’t have to. Your friends will be all too willing to share their appliance-related delights and bitter disappointments. Invite yourself over to kick the tires of their new front-load washer, induction cooktop, or stainless-steel microwave. Ask if which features please them most, how often they’ve had to call for repairs, and what they’d do differently if they could do it again.

Never Make an Impulse Buy
Admit it—you almost bought a car once because it had really great cup holders. You can avoid similar behavior in an appliance showroom by making a list of your priority features (“energy efficient,” “lifetime warranty”). Staple it to a list of competing showrooms and Web retailers so you can comparison shop for the best model with the best combination of features at the best price. Wait for a sale if you can; they say fall is the best hunting season because showrooms are trying to clear space for next year’s models. Whenever you go, ask a friend with a level head to come along.

Above All, Know Thyself
Just because you watch Top Chef doesn’t mean you are one. If, fact is, you live on leftover pizza, you won’t be happy with a fridge that’s so narrow the box has to go in vertically. One dessert maven I know nearly bought a trendy bottom-mount freezer, which would have required constant bending over to dig for the butter-pecan. Then there was the guy who brought home a supersize washer—hey, it was on sale!—before realizing he lived alone and owned only five days’ worth of underwear.

Read the Fine Print
Don’t even look at that seductive touch-pad-temperature-probe-microwave-option-three-way-stove-and-bottle-washer without first reading the instructions. If you find yourself unfolding a sheet of paper more delicate than a 17th-century map, with type so small you can’t read the words after “CAUTION,” or you find you are lost in the programming instructions on page 43 of the owner’s manual—in Spanish—keep looking. This is not your perfect appliance.

Make Sure You Don’t Destroy the Foyer
You’d be surprised by how many otherwise intelligent people place orders for appliances that won’t fit in their allotted space—assuming their new fridge, washer, or whatever doesn’t get wedged up against the ceiling of the foyer. Appliance salespeople are full of stories about savvy customers who fail to note that the only way to access the kitchen is up a set of steep stairs, through a narrow doorway, and down a hallway that takes a sharp turn before dead-ending in a spot too small for its hoped-for purpose. Bring a map to the showroom with every single angle and dimension. If the salesperson seems to be not paying attention, ask for her home phone number so you can call at midnight to go over the measurements one more time.

Never Fall for a Pretty Face
Another friend of mine found herself snapping up an entire suite of appliances because she loved the way their handles matched. Sure, you love those sexy grates and cunning knobs (see “Never make an impulse buy,” previously). But when the electronic ignition on the range blows, leaving you with no way to cook on the day before Thanksgiving—or the icemaker quietly springs a leak, covering the floor with an inch of water, you will no longer recall that magic moment when you fell in love across a crowded showroom floor.

Listen Carefully
Never compare models without comparing decibel levels. One serious home cook I know just had to have a commercial-kitchen range hood. It’s so noisy he can’t bear to turn it on.

Get the Right Size for You and Your Cooking Equipment
Appliance cavities come at different heights and in different sizes. If you like to use your microwave as a second oven, make sure it can hold your Pyrex baking pans. A new range should be big enough inside to accommodate your favorite roasting pan—with plenty of head room for the turkey. (Not sure? Take a 20-pound bird with you when you go shopping.) Watch out for ranges with low-slung ovens (perhaps built that way to allow for a thick cooktop with fat designer knobs) and for front-loading washers pitched so low they require a pedestal (i.e., extra space) to save your aching back.

Do a Door Inspection
Fridge doors can open on the left or right, so resist a deal on a floor model if the door opens on the wrong side (or ask if the door can be rehinged). And by the way, does that door stick so firmly only Superman can open it, tempting you to leave it open while you finish making dinner? Sticky doors may help save energy—and keep you on your diet—but after I’d yanked open my new fridge one time too many the handle came off in my hand.

Ask What Else You Need to Buy
Major appliances can be awfully needy. Cooktops that throw off impressive amounts of sizzle, smoke, and steam require equally dazzling exhaust fans. A high-rpm front-loader that really knows how to spin-dry clothes may also rattle a room, especially upstairs, and require reinforcement of the floor. Dryers need to vent properly; it’s best to figure out how you will be venting your sweaty new giant before you lug it home.

Measure Three Times, Buy Once
As long as you are taking down dimensions (see “Make sure you don’t destroy the foyer,” previously), stop to consider how your new appliance will interact with its surroundings. Measure that counter-depth fridge’s proposed parking space, then measure the fridge—again; “counter depth” may mean “except for the thick door and its beefy handle.” Look behind your existing gas range; if the gas pipe protrudes, your new range may protrude too. And watch out for a fridge or front-load washer whose door opens so wide it blocks traffic, causing frustrating delays while some family member contemplates the contents of the produce drawer or the loss of a dear sock.

Prepare for Repairs
Never buy a major appliance without asking for the names and cellphone numbers of people who can service it. Service varies by brand and location. Maybe you read about those poor rich people who bought status-y European appliances for their vacation homes, only to discover that Euro appliance repair people dwell exclusively in the city.

Get Ready to Haggle
Many dealers will match the lowest price offered by the competition. If the price still seems high, see if you can negotiate a deal by buying more than one appliance at a time. When all else fails, ask for free delivery and installation or a free extended warranty. Incidentally, extended warranties are rarely worth paying for—but you probably already knew that.