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Guide: Choosing energy-efficient appliances

With climate change and concerns about non-renewable resources on the minds of many North Americans, it follows that homeowners are interested in saving energy wherever possible. Purchasing energy-efficient appliances is an easy way to cut back on energy use and save money at the same time.

Canadians and household energy use

Statistics Canada reports that in 2011, 45 percent of Canadian households used natural gas as their primary source of energy and electricity was used by 38 percent. Other energy sources included wood and wood pellets, heating oil, propane and alternative energy, such as solar power. All of these households attempted to save a bit of energy. Eight-three percent could boast of using at least one energy-saving measure; washing clothes in cold water and turning off computer monitors when not in use were most frequently cited.

Ready-made solution

Everyone uses appliances in their homes. Since most manufacturers now produce energy-saving versions of these appliances, purchasing these models is an excellent way to contribute to energy savings.

It’s quite easy to identify energy-saving appliances. Those bearing the Energy Star sticker are the appliances that are designated as high-efficiency products in Canada, generally performing in the top 15 to 30 percent of all products in their class. Energy Star products have been rigorously tested and meet energy-saving guidelines without compromising performance.

To compare the efficiency of competing Energy Star-rated appliances, look for the EnerGuide label, which is required on all household appliances in Canada. The EnerGuide label lists the range of energy use typical for the specific category of appliance and the energy used by the appliance in question. Comparing EnerGuide labels for a variety of refrigerators, for example, allows the consumer to determine which uses the least energy.

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Energy efficient refrigerators

If saving energy is a priority for you, walk right past the refrigerator models with built-in water or ice dispensers. These conveniences can add 20 percent to the unit’s energy consumption, and the refrigerator already has the burden of being one of a home’s biggest energy consumers.

In addition, size matters. Many homeowners buy refrigerators that are larger than their needs require. For a couple, the Ontario Power Authority suggests a 12-cubic-foot unit. A family of four should consider a refrigerator with 14 to 17 cubic feet of capacity, and buyers should add two cubic feet for each additional person the unit will serve regularly. When you site your refrigerator in the kitchen, place it away from the stove and other appliances that produce heat, or it will need to work harder to keep food cold.

Energy efficient washers and dryers

Energy Star washers offer their users a couple of bonuses: not only do they save on energy use; they also save water. Energy-efficient washers use 50 percent less energy to run than standard washers. In addition, they require only 72 to 100 liters of water per load compared to the standard 160 liters. Front-loading models save more water than their top-loading cousins.

To be more energy efficient when using your washing machine, wash a full load rather than a smaller one and consider using cold water to save the energy needed to heat wash water. Clothes still come clean – witness the current line of detergents designed just for cold water washes.

Dryers don’t come with EnerGuide labels because they all use about the same amount of energy, but they do come with Energy Star ratings. There are ways to save on energy when drying clothes: some models have moisture sensors that stop drying when they sense that the clothes are dry enough, and many have cool dry options, too.

Your homeowner insurance provider needs an accurate figure of the value of your possessions in order to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need. So if you’ve got new energy efficient appliances, let your insurer know.

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