The energy costs to operate everyday appliances such as refrigerators and freezers, ranges and ovens, washers and dryers, and dishwashers account for about 20% of your electric bill. You can reduce these costs by using appliances efficiently and by looking for high-efficiency choices when it’s time to buy new ones.

How Much Are You Paying to Run Your Appliances?

To determine how much electricity an appliance uses, follow these steps:

  1. toaster oven illustrationFind the wattage of the appliance. (It’s usually listed on the serial number plate.)
  2. Estimate the hours per month that you use the appliance.
  3. Multiply the wattage by the hours of use per month. Divide the result by 1,000 to get your total monthly kilowatt-hour (kWh) usage for the appliance.
  4. Figure out your average monthly cost per kWh by dividing your total monthly electric bill by the number of kWh used. (kWh used will be listed on the bill.)
  5. Determine your monthly energy cost for the appliance by multiplying the kWh usage by your cost per kWh.

Refrigerators & Freezers

  • Keep it clean. Regularly defrost models that aren’t frost-free, and clean the condenser coils of your refrigerator three or four times a year.
  • Shut the door. Don’t stand in front of an open fridge contemplating the contents. Decide what you need before you open the refrigerator, then get what you need and shut the door.
  • Fill the freezer. A freezer that’s two-thirds to three-quarters full requires less energy to operate than an empty one. If you don’t have enough food to fill the freezer, add some water-filled plastic milk cartons or soda bottles.
  • Test the seals. Fold a paper towel, shut the refrigerator door on it and then pull the towel out of the closed door. If there’s no resistance, you probably need new seals around the door to keep the cold air in.
  • Maintain the right temperature. The optimum refrigerator temperature is 38 to 42 degrees. For the freezer, it’s 0 degrees or higher (although not higher than the freezing point of 32 degrees, obviously).

Electric Ranges & Ovens

  • Keep it covered. Use pan lids to retain the heat in the pan. Remember that water boiled in a covered pan comes to a boil faster.
  • Use the right pan. Don’t waste energy by using a pan or pot that is too small for the burner, or that is too large or heavy for the amount or type of food you are cooking.
  • Turn off burners sooner. Because electric burners stay hot for a while after they’re turned off, you can turn the burners off several minutes before the allotted cooking time. The food will finish cooking without using more electricity.
  • Preheat selectively. Baked goods may require a preheated oven to come out just right, but other foods don’t. There’s no need to preheat when you’re cooking a main dish or heating a casserole.
  • Use heat-conducting cookware. Ceramic, glass, and stainless-steel cookware conduct and retain heat better, which means that you can reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees when you use them.
  • Close the door. The oven loses about 25 degrees of heat every time you open the door. Use a timer to gauge doneness instead of opening the oven door every few minutes to check.

microwave illustration
Fact: A toaster oven uses a third to half as much energy as a full-sized oven, which makes it a great choice for small meals and snacks.

Tip: Reduce your energy bills for cooking by using your microwave instead of your range or oven when you can. Microwave ovens use less energy than traditional appliances, and they don’t heat up your kitchen.

Washers & Dryers

  • Don’t run small loads. Wait until you have enough laundry for a full, large load.
  • Sort by wash temperature. Use hot water only for whites and hard-to-clean items. Wash everything else in warm or cold water to save on water heating costs.
  • Pretreat stains. The more you can do to remove stains and heavy soil before you wash, the less likely you’ll have to wash an item a second time.
  • Shorten the wash cycle. Cutting washing time from 15 to 7 1⁄2 minutes will save about 25% of the electricity needed to run the washer.
  • Fill the dryer. Don’t waste electricity by drying just one or two items.
  • Dry heavy items separately. Dry heavy items like towels in a separate load from lighter-weight items that don’t need as much drying time.
  • Don’t over-dry. Use the cool-down cycle to allow clothes to finish drying with the residual heat in the dryer. If your dryer has a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the machine when clothes are dry, use it.
  • Install a vent/filter kit. This will allow you to vent clean, warm air from your clothes dryer into your home during winter, recycling heat that would otherwise be wasted.
  • Use a clothesline. Anytime you can dry clothes outside instead of in the dryer, do. That’s free solar energy!

Clean Up With the Right Laundry Temperature

  • Hot wash/warm rinse: 0% electricity saved
  • Hot wash/cold rinse: 33% electricity saved
  • Warm wash/warm rinse: 33% electricity saved
  • Warm wash/cold rinse: 67% electricity saved
  • Cold wash/cold rinse: 100% electricity saved

woman loading laundry into front loading washing machineFront-Loading Machines

Front-loading washing machines are more efficient than top-loaders. They use:

  • 40 to 60% less water
  • 30 to 50% less energy
  • 50 to 70% less detergent


  • Run a full load. Don’t run your dishwasher when there are only a few items in it.
  • Shorten the cycle. Keep the dishwashing cycle as short as possible. Don’t use a long “pots and pans” cycle if you’re only washing plates, glasses and silverware.
  • Air-dry dishes. Skip the drying cycle to reduce the amount of electricity needed to run the dishwasher.

Fact: It takes less water to wash a load of dishes in the dishwasher than to wash them by hand—approximately 9.9 gallons compared to an average of 15.7 gallons.

Buying New? Put Energy Efficiency First

Energy Guide LabelThere’s plenty of consumer information available to you today to help you make the most energy-efficient choices when purchasing new appliances.

Fact: When buying a new freezer, choose a chest-style freezer instead of an upright model. Chest-style freezers retain cold air better when the door is opened.

Pay Attention to the EnergyGuide Label. It includes the estimated energy consumption in kWh on a scale with similar appliances and the estimated yearly operating cost based on the national average cost of electricity.

Look for the ENERGY STAR

Appliances that receive an ENERGY STAR rating from the U.S. government are among the most efficient available today. They may cost more to purchase, but they will also cost less to operate over the time you own them.

  • An ENERGY STAR washing machine may use about a third of the energy and less water than other machines.
  • Most ENERGY STAR washers remove more water from your clothes during the spin cycle, so the clothes don’t take as long to dry in the dryer.
  • An ENERGY STAR refrigerator can save $35 to $70 a year compared to older models. That adds up to $525 to $1,050 over the average 15-year life of the unit.
  • ENERGY STAR dishwashers use less water and energy, and must exceed minimum federal standards for energy efficiency by at least 25%.

Appliances in a Nutshell

  • Consider lower-cost cooking alternatives such as toaster ovens and microwaves
  • Know how to read an EnergyGuide label
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR to find highly energy-efficient new appliances