How to Use Your Appliances Efficiently

Your appliance is only as energy efficient as the way you use it. Here are some simple tips to help you maximize your energy savings.

Have you recently purchased an EnergyStar appliance? Congratulations on doing your part to save energy —and money!  Last time we looked at the benefits of EnergyStar appliances and the value of spending a little more on your purchase to save money in the long run.

Your appliance is only as energy efficient as the way you use it. Here are some simple tips to help you maximize your energy savings:

  1. Stay full. Your washing machine or dishwasher uses the same amount of water and energy when you run it half-full as completely full, so run full loads for maximum efficiency. Your freezer and refrigerator do better when they’re full too. It might sound counterintuitive, but in the event of a power outage, a full freezer and fridge will keep your food at the safest temperature longer.
  1. Take your temperature. Almost 90 percent of the energy consumed by your washing machine is used to heat the water—dialing down from hot to warm can cut energy use in half, while effectively cleaning your clothes. Also, keep in mind that many of today’s laundry detergents are formulated for use in cold water, so they might do the job just as well. Saving energy can also help save your clothes—washing them in cold water can help keep colors bright and avoid setting stains, as can air drying them rather than using your dryer.
  1. Cook smart. Did you know your microwave uses 30 to 80 percent less energy than a regular oven does? And, if microwaving isn’t the ideal method for cooking your food, consider using a toaster oven—its smaller size will use less energy too, and a crockpot is even better! Here’s another crazy fact: a pot without a lid uses 60 percent more energy on the stove. They say there’s a lid for every pot – so find the right size for yours!
  1. Make your oven a multitasker. Got your oven heated up anyway? Take advantage of the energy used to heat up the oven in the first place, and do as much baking as you can. Go ahead and throw in an extra chicken breast to bake for soup tomorrow, or mix up some banana bread. Ditto the dryer—drying multiple loads one after the other lets you make use of the residual heat.
  1. Maintain your machines. Keep your appliances clean for maximum efficiency. That means cleaning out the lint trap as well as hoses in your dryer; checking the trap and spray arm in your dishwasher for food particles; and vacuuming the coils of your fridge.
  1. Make the most of modern machinery (usually). Worried that these “energy-saving devices” are wasting energy while you’re saving yours? Don’t! Hand washing dishes actually wastes both water – up to 5,000 gallons compared to an ENERGY STAR dishwasher – and uses twice as much energy as a dishwasher. And it would be impossible to fathom how much less energy a washing machine uses than the ol’ fill-up-the-tub-and-slosh-them-around method. The one appliance where you should go easy? The dryer—air dry whenever possible!

Don’t waste the energy-efficient properties of your appliances by using them improperly. A little forethought and planning will ensure that you are getting the maximum value from your hard-working household helpers.

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How to Save on Energy While You’re on Vacation

While you will always inevitably have to think about some things from back home while you’re away basking in the Caribbean sun, you will not have to worry about wasted energy costs.

Vacations are amazing. In fact, I could use one right now. But I digress. Although vacations are wonderful and fun and great, they can definitely take a toll on your savings account – especially if you have a whole family to take with you.

When you leave the house for vacation or extended period of time, you have to worry about a number of things. The stress doesn’t end just because you’re going on vacation. Who is going to take care of the pets? Do I have food that could go bad and then leave me unpleasantly surprised when I return? What if the pipes freeze? All legitimate concerns.

While you will always inevitably have to think about some things from back home while you’re away basking in the Caribbean sun, you will not have to worry about wasted energy costs. Follow these simple steps before you board the plane and you could have a little extra cash in your pocket for something more exciting (like haggling with the locals!) while you’re gone.

Curtains and Blinds

Save heat energy by going around your house (it will take two seconds) and making sure all the curtains and blinds on the windows are shut. This helps heat from coming in during the summer and prevents heat loss in the winter.

Leave Lights On

When my family takes a trip, we always make sure to leave a couple lights on throughout the house so it gives an illusion that someone’s home. This can deter any potential burglars from stopping by, so it’s best to leave at least one light on when you’re away.

I know what you’re thinking – how in the world does leaving lights on save on energy? The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t. But, if you put those few lights on an automatic timer, to only turn on at certain times of the day or night, you will be saving a lot more than you would if they were not on a timer and keeping your house safe.

Unplug Energy Vampires

Vampire devices are electronics and appliances that are using energy even when they are off. The average American household has at least 40 of these throughout the home – wowza! Do yourself a favor and walk around to quickly unplug these before you leave. Doing so will save on unnecessary electricity costs while you’re away.


If you want to talk about high electricity usage, the refrigerator can be compared to a v8 diesel truck, which are gas hog beasts all on their own. So, back to refrigerators. They take up way too much energy, and even more if they are only half full.

Before vacation, we usually try to keep less food in our fridge in anticipation of our departure. Why not take this opportunity to completely clean it out? Get rid of old food and condiments and unplug everything so you can start fresh upon your return. If you’re going to do this, be sure to leave the doors open so it doesn’t get start to smell and mold.

An alternative to unplugging your refrigerator would be to turn the temperatures up. If you turn the refrigerator up to 42 degrees and the freezer up to 5 degrees, it will still be enough preserve the food that’s in there and still save energy.

Water Heater

Before jetting off to your destination, remember to go into the basement (or wherever it’s located) and shut off the circuit to the water heater. We only think about the luxuries of actually having hot water when it goes cold in the middle of the shower. This is not something that we often think about as consuming energy (it takes electricity to heat the water), but it consumes 25% of the energy you use in your home. Even when we’re not using the hot water. Since we don’t need hot water when we’re not in our house to use it, do yourself some justice and flip the switch before you leave for vacation.


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