Shopping for appliances in any home improvement warehouse is liable to cause most of us significant sticker shock. We wonder how we’ll stretch the budget to afford that new microwave or stovetop. At times like that, going green and energy efficiency and sustainability, though undeniably worthy, seem like grand, faraway-and totally unattainable-concepts.
The Energy Star program was created to serve as a bridge to that faraway land. Created in 1992 as a joint initiative between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Star is tasked with reducing greenhouse emissions by promoting energy efficient products in homes and businesses. Qualified products may be identified by the blue Energy Star label on the packaging.
Business case for improving energy efficiency
The average annual energy expenditure for a single family home is $2,200. Of this, 13% is associated with appliances. This equates to an appliance-related annual energy cost of $286. Since appliances tend to last a long time, up to 10 or more years, this annual savings become significant over the life of the product.
Yes, Energy Star products cost more than their non-labeled counterparts. But one of the criteria that must be met to earn that blue label is a timely return on investment. That is, if they cost more than their non-qualified competitors, the annual energy savings must make up for the cost difference in a reasonable amount of time.
In addition, energy efficient product purchases are often eligible for special financing, cash rebates and tax incentives which offset the higher cost.
Making the big decision
The decision whether or not to purchase Energy Star appliances will depend on whether you’re building a new home or upgrading an old one, and the status of your current appliances if you’re retrofitting.
Hands down, new homes should be built with energy efficient appliances. To install anything else would drive up the home’s total cost of ownership and deflate the resale value.
Upgrading your current home, non-working appliances
Choose only Energy Star labeled appliances when replacing household appliances that have died. Research available financing options, cash rebates and tax incentives in your state to drive down the cost.
Upgrading your current home, working appliances
The trickiest decision to make is whether or not to replace working appliances with more energy efficient models. Here are three key questions to ask in making that decision:
1. What is your current level of energy consumption? Is it reasonable for you consumption and lifestyle? Your energy provider may be able to help you answer these questions.
2. How old are your current appliances? If they’re relatively new, check with the manufacturer to find out their energy usage and compare to the usage of the new products. The potential savings stated by the EPA assume you are replacing older appliances. If the old appliances are not significantly less efficient than the new ones, it may not pay to upgrade.
3. How long are you planning to stay in your home? If you’re getting ready to sell, being able to list the house as energy efficient may provide the extra selling point you need in a tough market. On the flipside, it means that you won’t gain the savings over a number of years to offset the upfront cost. Do the math.
Doing it because it’s the “right thing”
There is no question that fitting our homes with energy efficient appliances is the right thing to do for our environment. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to do all of the “right things” they’d like to do. Only you can evaluate the pros and cons of installing Energy Star appliances in your home. Just know that you aren’t the only one who has to live with your decision. The environment belongs to all of us.