Enertia homes a highly energy efficient hybrid

Published on Wed, Mar 10, 2010
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Photo: Tax credits for 30 percent of the cost of the installation are now available for renewable energy equipment such as this geothermal heating and cooling system. Photo by John Brownlow

There has never been a better time to upgrade some of those older creaky appliances that are gobbling up much more energy (or water) than they need to in your home. Fortunately, most of the sifting-through to find the best values has already been done for you.

The first thing to do when shopping for new equipment is to look for models emblazoned with the blue EnergyStar logo. This helps you zero in on those models that have been determined by the federal government – EnergyStar is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy – to be at least 10 to 25 percent more energy-efficient than conventional models.

For dishwashers, for example, EnergyStar qualified models use 31 percent less energy and 33 percent less water than conventional machines while performing as well as or better, according to EnergyStar. With clothes washers, EnergyStar models can cut energy use by over a third and water use by half. EnergyStar-rated refrigerators will cut electrical use in half, compared to older machines made before 1993. With air conditioners, the savings is there, too, though at a more modest 10 percent over conventional models.

EnergyStar, which began in 1992 and first evaluated only computers and monitors, is a great jumping off point for evaluating everything from major appliances to home heating and cooling, lighting, home electronics, office equipment and more. The EPA recently extended the label to cover new homes and commercial and industrial buildings.

After first zeroing in on EnergyStar models, be sure to check out the accompanying yellow EnergyGuide sticker, which gets down to the nitty-gritty and estimates how much energy the appliance uses, compares its energy use to similar products and lists approximate annual operating costs.

Another way to help sort through the thousands of appliances out there that are EnergyStar-compliant is by checking out the Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports magazine) free Greener Choices website, which compares a wide range of merchandise according to their relative environmental impact.

Greener Choices provides detailed information on dishwashers, washers and dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators and vacuum cleaners. Each appliance is assessed in comparison to other models via the website’s Green Buying Guides, which can help consumers decide how green they should go.

For more information about the EPA’s Energy Star program, visit www.energystar.gov. For more information about Greener Choices, visit www.greenerchoices.org.