Biggest User

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 cold. Why worry about budgeting for an upgrade?

For starters, inefficient appliances can have a huge impact on your home’s monthly electric bill. Replacing a refrigerator made before 1993 with a new, ENERGY STAR-rated model could knock $65 to $100 off your power costs each year.

When evaluating older appliances, one key question emerges: Which is the biggest user? To estimate the energy consumption of an appliance, use this general formula provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s

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

Remember: 1,000 watts  = 1 kilowatt (kW).

Then calculate the annual cost to use an appliance by multiplying the kWh per year by 10 cent rate per kWh used.

For example, a PC and monitor:

[(120 Watts + 150 Watts) × 4 hours per day × 365 days per year] ÷ 1000

= 394 kWh × 10 cents/kWh

= $39.40/year

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 shows the maximum power drawn by the appliance. Because some appliances have a range of settings—just like the volume on a radio—the actual amount of power consumed depends on the setting used at any one time.

Keep in mind that as electronics and appliances become more technologically savvy, they often draw power even while turned off. A good indicator of this—called “phantom load”—is to check the device for a light that stays on all the time.

Phantom load will add a few watt-hours to energy consumption, but a few watt-hours on each of your many electronic devices adds up. To avoid this silent power draw, unplug the device or invest in a “smart” power strip, which allows certain electronics—like a cable box, which takes time to reboot after it’s been unplugged—to continue using electricity while others can be completely shut down.

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. There are other benefits, too. For example, not only have clothes washers become 64 percent more energy efficient since 2000, but the tub size has 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.

And before any energy efficiency upgrade, remember to check and to find if rebates or incentives are available in North Dakota.  

Source:  U.S. Department of Energy, Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, ENERGY STAR

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6 Responses to Biggest User

  1. Mark says:

    Good information here…
    I do have a question. Does an appliance that qualified for an “Energy Star” rating 10 years ago, still qualify for that honor in 2013? I have a higher end “Energy Star” qualified refrigerator, but it is 10 years old. It has been maintained and works great! Any pressing need to dump it for a newer model?

  2. kwhonline says:

    Great question, Mark. Energy Star changes the requirements for qualifying appliances through the years, depending on technology advancements. One suggestion would be to visit your local library, check out a Kill-A-Watt meter, and measure the use on your refrigerator and that way you have a solid number to compare to a new one. They are very easy to use and can be used on various appliances throughout the home. If you have any more questions on the refrigerator or the Kill-A-Watt meter, please call our energy management department at 701.3564400.

  3. Mark says:

    I actually have a Kill-A-Watt Meter. Not easy to get at the refrigerator outlet, but I will give it a try!
    I actually made a change in my kitchen appliance usage a few years ago because of the Kill-A-Watt. I had a Bunn coffee maker that kept water warm and ready to make a 3 minute pot of coffee anytime I wanted one. When the Bunn died, I went back to a regular drip coffee maker and wait a few extra minutes.

    Here were my findings for the Bunn Test…

    Total time of test= 731 hours (30.45 days)
    Total KWH usage= 28.46 KWH
    28.46 X .10/KWH= $2.85 for the month.

  4. Mark says:

    I pulled out the refrigerator this morning and put the Kill-A-Watt meter in line. I set my calendar to remind me to check it in a month. I will report my findings then.

    Side note… it is unbelievable the crud that can accumulate under a refrigerator! Everyone should go there from time to time 🙂

  5. Mark says:

    Guess I never left the information I collected from the refrigerator. Sorry this is late!

    I have a Maytag “Wide by Side” that is 10 years old. It is Energy Star rated, or at least it was back when I bought it in late 2002. It does have an ice maker, but we are not using it now. My wife and I are empty nesters so there is not a lot of “grazing” going on with the door open!

    in the 31 day test, the refrigerator used 60.97 KWH.
    60.97 KWH X .10 = $6.10 / Month

    Not as bad as I thought it might be!

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