Is the Appliance Upgrade Worth It?

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

We often hear that it pays to upgrade to new appliances. New appliances are more energy efficient; therefore, they save money. However, when a new refrigerator can cost anywhere from $600 on up, how much energy is being saved to justify this expense? Evaluate which appliances are worth the upgrade.

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Energy Star

What's so special about Energy Star? Energy Star is a label given by the EPA to designate those appliances which "meet strict energy efficiency criteria." By meeting these criteria set by the EPA, the appliances use less energy which helps the environment and our bankbooks.

For instance, the average clothes washer which uses gas heated water costs an average of $6.76 per month to use. Meanwhile, to upgrade to an Energy Star will downgrade the cost to $1.84 per month.

The typical dishwasher costs $.70 per load. Upgrade to an Energy Star and it only costs $.34 per load. New dishwashers can be purchased for $385. Within 1070 loads the dishwasher will have paid for itself in the savings of operation alone (not to mention that newer dishwashers use less water than older models.) This can be met within three years' time if not earlier.

Energy Star provides its estimated uses and cost per month on the appliance tags. Deduct your monthly savings plus any repair bills that your old appliance may cost and make the decision whether or not to upgrade.

Newer Is Better

Generally, newer appliances use less energy than old ones. Technology has stepped up in the environmental field, and some of the changes are dramatic. Learn at what rate your current appliances operate and compare it to the rate of newer appliances. Some will see little change such as TVs which may use more if they are flat panel or plasma screens. Others, like clothes dryers and refrigerators have made great improvements.

For example, a gas water heater with a .54 energy factor costs $26.94 per month while a gas water heater with a .61 energy factor costs $23.89 per month. The difference in the energy rating as well as the cost is minimal.

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However, if a new refrigerator is what you have in mind, your purchase may pay off in the end. If your refrigerator is older than 2001 you could save on the upgrade. A top freezer refrigerator built before 1990 costs $13 per month to run while a new top freezer model built after 2001 costs only $5.18 per month. When looking at styles consider their efficiency. While a new top freezer costs $5.18 per month, a new side by side costs $6.68 per month. Add that difference to the difference in the initial purchase price.

Actions Alone

Rather than upgrading, save in other ways, too. Instead of purchasing a new gas range, turn off the pilot light instead. The average cost per month of the gas range is $2.92. If you leave the pilot light on for convenience, it's going to cost you $6.65 per month.

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