How much is too much?

Learn how to estimate your home appliances’ energy use to see if it’s time for an upgrade.

You’ve had your fridge forever. With the exception of some crumbling parts of the seal, it’s in pretty good shape and keeps your food cool. Why worry about budgeting for an upgrade?

Some homeowners forget the impact inefficient appliances have on a home’s monthly power bill. Replacing a refrigerator made before 1993 with a new, Energy Star-rated model could knock  between $65-$100 off  your electricity bill each year. To sweeten the deal, rebates funded by the federal stimulus bill provide further incentives for folks replacing old appliances with new, energy-efficient alternatives.

This leaves consumers with a question when evaluating older appliances: how much energy use is too much? To estimate the energy use of an appliance, use this formula:

Wattage × Hours used per day × Days used per year ÷ 1,000 = Kilowatt-hour (kWh) used annually

 For example:

Standard, large-screen television (214 Watts)

214 Watts × 4 hours per day x 365 days per year ÷ 1000 = 312 kWh

 Then calculate the annual cost to use an appliance by multiplying the kWh per year by ($0.10) rate per kWh used.

 312 kWh × $0.10 = $31.20 per year

 In contrast, an Energy Star-rated standard, large-screen TV (151.5 Watts) costs $15.15 to power annually.

You can usually find the wattage of most appliances stamped on the bottom or back of the appliance, or on its nameplate. The wattage listed is the maximum power drawn by the appliance. Since some appliances have a range of settings (i.e. hairdryers), the actual amount of power consumed depends on the setting used at any one time.

 Here are examples of the range of wattages for common household appliances:

  •  Clothes washer: 350–500 Watts
  • Clothes dryer: 1800–5000 Watts
  • Dishwasher: 1200–2400 Watts (heat drying feature increases energy use)
  • Hair dryer: 1200–1875 Watts
  • Microwave oven: 750–1100 Watts
  • Refrigerator (frost-free, 16 cubic feet): 725 Watts

 Once you calculate how much money you spend to run aging home appliances, compare this to what it would cost to use more efficient models. With federal incentives bringing down the price of an Energy Star-rated refrigerator or clothes washer, the annual energy savings could be worth an up-front investment. There are other benefits too. For example, not only have clothes washers have become 64 percent more energy efficient since 2000—the tub size increased by 9 percent. With a new model you can wash more clothes for less money every month!

Don’t want the hassle of adding up the potential savings? Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives’ website,, demonstrates how small changes like replacing an appliance or unplugging electronics lead to big energy savings.   On the website under ‘Add Up Your Savings,’ you can walk through a typical home’s kitchen, living room, and other common areas. Upgrade appliances and make other energy-smart choices in each room. Each time you make a change, you’re shown how much money you could save on your annual electric bill!

Ready for an upgrade? Remember, incentives are available to help you make an energy-efficient switch. For Minnesota specific details on how you can take advantage of the federal ‘Cash for Appliances’ program, with rebates ranging from $50 to $250, visit Details on other state and local utility rebates are available at

 Source:  U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; U.S. Energy Information Administration, Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, Natural Resources Defense Council, U.S. Energy Information Administration

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