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Home Energy Buyer's Guide

Home Energy Buyer's Guide

Getting ready to invest in appliances, electronics or upgrades at home? These days, you’ve got plenty of options. Whether you’re in the market for insulation, remodelling your kitchen, or just pricing out a new PC, a few tips can help you make smart choices when it comes to your energy use.

Build Savings: Materials


Adding insulation is the first step to reducing heating and cooling bills and helps keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Start by insulating your attic, then walls, and then tackle your basement, foundation or crawl space. Since walls account for the greatest area of the building’s exterior, wall insulation can be more expensive. For an accurate appraisal, hire a professional to perform an energy audit on your home.

It’s important to know the “R-Value,” which measures resistance to heat conduction. The higher the R-Value, the more insulating the material. Get personalized R-Value recommendations for your home using the DOE’s ZIP-Code Insulation Program.


Consider upgrading to an efficient double-pane model with gas filling and low-e coating. Look for a system with a combined low U-factor (0.35 or less) and a low solar heat-gain coefficient (0.3 or less). Consult the ENERGY STAR® website for recommendations.

Temp Control: Heating & Cooling

Central Heating

Look for the ENERGY STAR® logo to identify the most energy-efficient models on the market.

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) measures the amount of heat delivered to your house compared to the amount of fuel supplied to the furnace. The higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient the furnace. The most efficient new furnaces rated by ENERGY STAR® have an AFUE of 90% or higher.

Ask a qualified contractor to follow ASHRAE and Air Conditioning Contractors of America guidelines when sizing and quoting a system for your home.

Bright Ideas: Lighting

Interior Lighting

New technologies can save on lighting energy and costs. LED lights are great replacements for halogens in recessed fixtures in kitchens and living rooms.

The color appearance, or color “temperature” of a bulb, is measured in degrees Kelvin (K). Warmer yellow-red colors range from 2,700 K to 3,000 K, while cooler blue-greens range from 3,600 K to 5,500 K. Fluorescents produce cooler whites and may be better for visual tasks, while warmer lights may be better for living spaces because they are more complimentary to skin tones.

Recipes for Efficiency: Kitchen


Your dishwasher’s best feature is its water efficiency. When shopping for a new dishwasher, look for the ENERGY STAR® logo to confirm minimum efficiency standards. The most efficient dishwashers use about five gallons of water per load in light or energy-saving modes (compared to 11 gallons for conventional dishwashers).

A higher Energy Factor (EF) number indicates a more efficient machine. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy recommends an EF of at least 0.65 for dishwashers. Consider a dishwasher with cycle options, or an energy-saving compact model.

Refrigerators & Freezers

Your refrigerator is one of the most energy-intensive appliances in your home, so it’s a good idea to buy the most efficient model within your price range. When shopping for a new refrigerator, look for the yellow EnergyGuide label to compare estimated annual operating costs with similar models and learn how much energy the appliance is expected to use.

Refrigerators with the freezer on top or bottom tend to use less energy than side-by-side models. For standalone freezers, chest freezers are more efficient than upright, front-loading models. Also keep in mind that ice and water dispensers can increase energy usage and cost.

Stoves & Ovens

The federal government doesn’t set energy regulations for stovetops or ovens, so there are no Energy Guide labels or ENERGY STAR® qualifications for these products. For help choosing the most energy-efficient appliances, follow the guidelines below.

Most new gas stovetops have electric ignitions instead of standard pilots, providing energy savings no matter how often you cook. The most efficient electric stovetops are magnetic induction, followed by halogen elements.

Convection ovens are more efficient because they circulate heat, and self-cleaning ovens have more insulation, resulting in higher energy efficiency.

Higher-quality cookware is another good way to enhance efficiency. Look for glass or ceramic pans instead of metal, and opt for copper-bottom pans over regular pans.

Keep It Clean & Green: Laundry

Clothes Dryers

Look for a unit with automatic shut-off controls activated by moisture sensors. Temperature sensors are less accurate as moisture sensors, but are still a good way to save energy. Machines with heat pump systems are more expensive, but only use a portion of the energy of conventional dryers.

Clothes Washers

A washer’s Modified Energy Factor (MEF) measures efficiency: A more efficient machine will have a higher MEF. The highest MEF of ENERGY STAR®-rated products is 3.4. Find the complete Qualified Product List at energystar.gov.

A washer’s Water Factor (WF) is the number of gallons used per each cubic foot of laundry. The lowest WF of ENERGY STAR®-rated products is 2.5. Front-loading units are more efficient than top-loading versions.

Plug In to Savings: Electronics

Home Electronics

Televisions: LCD technology is more efficient than plasma. Find a model that uses LED as the light source, with energy saver mode and automatic adjustments for efficiency and image quality. Some TVs include a “presence sensor” to shut down when no one is in the room.

Computers: Select models with solid-state hard drives, and upgrade monitors to smaller models with LCD screens. Consolidate office equipment into a single Multifunction Machine (MFM) to save energy, money and space.

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