Considering Energy Efficiency When Shopping for Appliances
Last updated May 2023
Old appliances, particularly decades-old refrigerators and freezers, gobble up so much energy that governments and utility companies sometimes offer consumers incentives to replace them. For example, as of this writing the D.C. Sustainable Energy Utility program was offering $75 to $100 rebates to residents who bought energy-efficient refrigerators or clothes washers, $75 for efficient electric clothes dryers, and $200 for heat pump dryers. PEPCO was offering its Maryland customers a $75 discount off Energy Star-certified clothes washers and $50 rebates to recycle old appliances. Dominion Energy was offering $50 rebates to residents who bought efficient refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, and clothes washers, and $100 for electric dryers.
This year, new rebates from the federal High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Program will become available. Those who replace gas stoves with electric models can collect a rebate of up to $840. (Another rebate of up to $840 is available for those who install heat pump clothes dryers.) Additional financial help is available to those who must make improvements to their homes’ electrical systems to install covered appliances or HVAC systems. Whether you qualify for the full $840 rebate amount, half the incentive, or nothing depends on your household income.
By federal law, all new appliances must meet minimum energy- and water-usage standards, but some units are still more energy efficient and use less water than others. The most efficient ones can earn certification by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star program.
Energy Star-certified appliance models tend to cost a few hundred dollars more than non-certified options, but lower energy bills usually cover those higher price tags. So if your old appliance has died or needs an expensive repair, it is usually worth paying extra to get an Energy Star-certified replacement. Calculations on the Energy Star website compare annual operating costs of efficient and inefficient appliances according to how much you use them and how long you expect the new unit to last, among other variables.
In coming years, appliance manufacturers likely will be required to produce units that consume even less energy and water. In February 2023, the Biden administration proposed updates to decades-old regulations that would mandate stricter requirements. It estimated higher standards would save Americans $3.5 billion a year on energy and water bills while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.