7 Deadly Energy Sinners: The Energy Hogs Hiding in Your Home

by Dealnews on 13 March 2012 8 comments
Photo: skippyjon

A good number of Baby Boomers can recall conversations with their grandparents about a time before electricity, or when an "icebox" was literally a container that housed a block of ice that kept food inside cool. But my, how times have changed. We have gizmos and gadgets that didn't even exist a decade ago, and we consume energy at an alarming rate. Between 1949 and 2010, domestic energy consumption has more than doubled to about 100 quadrillion BTUs (PDF), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. During that same period, consumption of coal, petroleum, and natural gas have skyrocketed — yet energy use from renewable sources, such as the sun and wind, has remained surprisingly flat.

Look around your own home, and you'll find power guzzlers in both likely and unlikely places. But by making some fairly painless changes, you can see big savings: in energy, cash, and yes, saving the planet by shrinking your carbon footprint. Here's a look at some of those power-hungry appliances, and what you can do to be more efficient and economical without backbreaking hassle. (See also: 5 Ways to Save Water, Energy, Money, and the World in One Afternoon)

Old Refrigerators

They sure don't build 'em like they used to, right? While older refrigerators may hold up better than their newer, more sleek-looking cousins, they also use up to three times more energy. Opting for a new EnergyStar-rated refrigerator can save you significant cash in the long run. The LG Electronics 25-Cu. Ft. French Door Refrigerator is EnergyStar-certified and has a chic three French door design. Plus your savings don't stop there! First, you're eligible for EnergyStar tax credits for your purchase. And some electric utilities like ComEd in Illinois will pick up your obsolete appliances when you replace them — and give you cash to boot. Want to figure out your potential savings? The Environmental Protection Agency has this handy refrigerator retirement savings calculator where you can see how the savings add up.

Old Freezers

Every time frozen dinners go on sale, I wax nostalgic for the chest freezer my parents had at their house. But those older freezers cost about $120 a year to operate, according to the California Energy Commission. Costs like that can easily wipe out any supermarket savings and can even put you in the hole. If your freezer's there for sentimental value, get rid of it — and consider replacing it with a more efficient EnergyStar model, or doing without one at all. Going the latter route will save you enough money in appliance and power costs that you can buy frozen dinners at full price and still come out ahead. (Of course, March being National Frozen Foods Month, you can stock up at a discount all the same.)

Clothes Dryers

While the whirring and chugging of your washer's spin cycle might suggest it uses lots of energy, the dryer is the real power hog of the pair. Figures from the U.S. Department of Energy show that dryers consume between 1800 and 5000 watts of power. So 200 hour-long drying cycles could run you as much as $85. Not only does investing in a clothesline and clothespins cost you mere pennies, but avoiding the dryer will also preserve the life of your clothes, saving you money in other areas as well.

Space Heaters

Thank goodness we're getting out of winter, as space heaters consume about as much power as a blow dryer (750 to 1500 watts), but stay on for much, much longer. One space heater might not consume a lot, but multiply that by three or four units, and you've got some real power guzzling going on. The obvious alternative — wearing thick sweaters or layers — really does work.

Televisions

It's common to use the TV as a white noise machine when we're not watching, but we might as well paper our walls with dollar bills. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates TV power consumption at between 110 and 170 watts, meaning that if you leave it on eight hours a day, you're consuming close to 1 kilowatt of energy. Over the course of a year that could add up to $30 per TV set you leave on. Just as you would with lights, shut TVs off when they're not in use. It's also wise to invest in a newer television set like the Panasonic VIERA 42" 120Hz 1080p LED-Backlit Widescreen LCD Television, which will only cost you $10 per year to operate (assuming it's on for five hours a day).

Personal Computers and Monitors

While many consumers now favor laptops for home and on-the-go use, it's not as if the tower computer with a separate monitor is a thing of the past. Taken together, a computer and its monitor eat up close to 300 watts of energy. Supposing you leave your computer on eight hours a day, you're now looking at more than $60 in energy usage over the course of a year. When you computer's not in use, power down. Put those extra savings toward some nifty software packages or a wireless mouse.

Swimming Pool Pumps

People who live in warmer climes might not think about their pool pumps, but the same device that circulates water also sucks wallets dry. Department of Energy statistics show that a typical pool pump costs $240 a year to operate. But in a study by the Center for Energy Conservation at Florida Atlantic University, pool owners saved as much as 75% when they used conservation measures such as downsizing their pump or running it less.

When it comes to looking for power hogs around the house, you won't exactly have luck listening for a piggy squeal. But here's the next best thing — consider age. Simply put, old appliances, especially the large ones, don't run nearly as efficiently as newer ones from a power-consumption standpoint. Also, as a general rule, know that any appliance that has a huge power draw (such as a space heater) is going to sock your electric bill if you forget to power it off. Put these bits of wisdom to work, and chances are you'll save hundreds of dollars a year on your energy bills. Getting in the habit of shutting all your appliances and lights off when not in use is going to help that bottom line, too.

This is a guest post by Dealnews.

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Guest's picture
dave kuck

I think there's some sound advice in this article, but going out and purchasing a brand new something just because it's more efficient than the old something often isn't wise financially.

i.e., the TV example. If I have a TV that functions perfectly as-is and costs me $30 a year to operate, it will take me over 30 YEARS to break even on energy costs alone by buying a $650 TV to replace the old one.

That said, if you want a new TV, by all means, get a new one, but don't throw the old one out just because it's not as efficient as a brand new one.

Guest's picture

While I don't know how much difference it makes, I also unplug the tv from the wall if I am away for a week...I remember reading years ago that the newer tvs are still using energy when not in use so that when you turn them on, they are quick to provide a picture. Got 2 benefits out of that - 0 power consumption while away and sometimes I watch less tv - I come home from a trip and just ignore the old soap box!

Guest's picture
Elyse Stein Zois

Oh sure, I'm going to go have a clothesline put up in my backyard so I can lug wet laundry up from the basement and hang it up over my head. Maybe the person who wrote this is young and perfectly healthy but I'm not and if the job didn't kill me my cardiologist would. What is next? Maybe I should scrub my clothes on a washboard. How about other people giving up the video games, smartphones, book readers and all the other superfluous things they spend good money on. I'll keep my dryer thank you,

Guest's picture

We've got quite a few TV's and computers, and it's not just the electricity these things eat up, they also get into serious battles with our air conditioner, making it work harder, and driving up the bill even more! Vicious cycle! lol

Guest's picture

We have a freezer (circa 2003), a refrigerator (circa 1997), and use laptop computers with LCD or LED monitors. We figured out - a long time ago - that all of those other appliances mentioned (although we've never had a pool pump, because we don't have a pool :) were power hogs and got rid of them - no dryer, no television, no space heating (we heat solely with our woodstove).

With regard to the television, we discovered that most of the shows we might want to watch, we could watch online anyway or on Netflix. So, it just seemed logical to cut the cable (and saved $70/month) and then, get rid of the television, since we were watching everything on the computer anyway. By not using the television for the past year, we saved over $200 on our electric bill.

And by cutting out most of those other things, we use less than 400 kwh of electricity per month, averaging about 10 kwh/day.

Meg Favreau's picture

I'm jealous of your wood stove. My parents have one, and even though I'm in sunny Southern California now, I miss it sometimes.

Guest's picture
Guest

My experience shows that the dryer vs. laundry line is true. My family does approx 5 loads of laundry a week. If all of it goes into the dryer, our electric bill is noticeably higher. When we line-dry, not only is the bill lower but our clothes do remain in good shape much longer.

I'm fortunate to have a laundry line in my basement to use in fall, winter & early spring. (Basically, whenever the heating system is on.) We only use the dryer during rainy stretches in warm weather.

Guest's picture

Also check with your power provider.Some are paying and removing old frigs and freezers..Plus may other saving enerygy rebates