Suggested date of release:
Anytime after November 28, 1999
Claudia Chandler (916) 654-4989
Media and Public Communications Office
1,255 Words
(Tenth in a series of 10 feature articles for 1999)

Ask Santa for an energy efficient appliance this year

This time of the year, appliances can be a welcome, much appreciated gift. But before you pick that new dishwasher, washer and dryer, or refrigerator this holiday season, consider these suggestions to make the most of your purchase. You could benefit for years to come in the form of lower energy bills.

Appliances really have two price tags. One is the purchase price posted on the appliance at the store. The other price is the operating cost paid out month after month, year after year, in the form of your electricity bill.

Take the example of a new refrigerator. Buy it today and 15 years from now it should still be keeping food cold. But at the end of its 15-year lifespan, you'll probably discover that you spent more operating the refrigerator than you did buying it in the first place.

That's why it's important to consider the operating costs as well as the purchase price when you make your buying decisions.

How to find an efficient appliance

Before you shop, it's a good idea to read articles and advertisements to find out about new technology and features. In addition, check out consumer magazines for information on product testing, reliability and repairs.

You may find the California Energy Commission's Appliance Database useful. It's on the web at www.energy.ca.gov/efficiency/appliances. (If you don't have access to the Internet, phone the Energy Commission's Hotline at 1-800-772-3300 for a copy of the list.) The Database lists high efficiency refrigerators, refrigerator-freezers, freezers, wine chillers, central air conditioners, gas furnaces, room air conditioners, and heat pumps. Data on other appliances, such as water heaters, may be obtained through the Hotline.

Major household appliances -- with the exception of electronic equipment like televisions and VCRs -- must meet federal or California standards for minimum energy efficiency. Several energy labels appear on appliances to help you make wise energy choices.

Yellow and black federal EnergyGuide labels appear on refrigerators, freezers, water heaters, dishwashers, clothes washers, room air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces, central air conditioners, pool heaters, and boilers. The labels come in different formats for different appliances, but they're all easy to understand and will help you make the wisest choice.

All EnergyGuide labels offer energy efficiency ratings, as well as the yearly energy cost to operate appliances like refrigerators. These figures help you compare competing brands and models of a similar size with similar features.

Energy StarĘ labels appear on appliances that are the most energy efficient in their class. Look for them on computers, televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, dishwashers, and room air conditioners.

What to look for in a new appliance:

New appliances may come with all sorts of bells and whistles, but consider your family's needs before you purchase features that you might not use. Those special features may -- or may not -- use extra energy.

Here are a few specific suggestions to help you choose energy efficient appliances this holiday season: Dishwashers, too, have EnergyGuide labels that estimate how much electricity is needed per year to run the appliance and heat the water it uses. Ratings are based on washing six loads a week using the normal settings. EnergyGuide labels on clothes washers also estimate electricity use and water heating costs. Ratings are based on washing eight loads per week. Your actual cost will vary depending on usage. Clothes dryers do not have EnergyGuide labels. Unlike most other appliances, the energy consumption does not vary significantly from model to model. Ranges and ovens don't come with EnergyGuide labels. However, you can purchase an energy efficient model simply by keeping the following in mind: Shop carefully for your new appliance this season and keep energy efficiency in mind. You'll truly give a gift that keeps on giving -- energy savings, year after year.

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Editor's Note: This and other timely consumer features on energy can be downloaded from the Energy Commission's Web Site at  www.energy.ca.gov/releases/1999_releases/features.

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