Energy Efficiency: Be Smart with Appliances

Oct 27, 2022

Household appliances can be a significant contributor to energy bills and one of the best ways to reduce electricity usage is to use energy efficient appliances. However, using your appliances in more efficient ways is also important in reducing consumption. For example, you might not see big savings from a new ENERGY STAR fridge if the door is constantly open, or if you overload your dryer and it takes ages to dry your clothes.

To learn more about energy efficiency labels, visit: belco.bm/energy-efficiency-look-for-the-label/

Fridge & Freezer:
Your refrigerator and/or freezer are, more than likely, some of the largest appliances in your home and some of the largest electricity consumers. They are also some of the most important because they keep your food and beverages safe for consumption. While you must leave these appliances running 24/7 there are steps that you can take to ensure your fridge and freezer are consuming the energy as efficiently as possible.

“The most energy-intensive part of the food chain is the kitchen. Much more energy is used to refrigerate and prepare food in the home than is used to produce it in the first place.” – factretriever.com

  • Keep your Fridge & Freezer Full, but not Overfilled:
    Fridges and freezers operate most efficiently when full, which can also help regulate the temperature inside. If they aren’t full, try putting bags of ice in the freezer, or pitchers of cold water in the fridge. However, be careful about overfilling them as this will reduce airflow and cause the appliance to work harder and use more energy. This is especially true for freezers as the chilled air must be able to move evenly around the food to keep it frozen.
  • Keep Your Fridge & Freezer Away From Direct Heat:
    Place your fridge and/or freezer away from direct sunlight and other heat sources such as ovens or ranges. The direct heat will cause the unit to use more energy to stay cold.
  • Ensure your Fridge & Freezer have Adequate Space:
    Fridges and freezers have a fan to cool the appliance. Space is required in order for the fan to be able to cool down the appliance as intended. Therefore, your fridge and/or freezer shouldn’t be located in confined spaces, pressed up against walls. If they must be located against a wall, make sure there is a gap for air to flow behind the appliance.
  • Keep Your Fridge & Freezer at the Correct Temperature:
    It is important to keep a moderate temperature in your fridge. If the inside compartments are too cold, it will suck up more electricity than it should. However, you don’t want to lower the temperature too drastically, as temperatures that are too low will spoil the food. It is important to keep perishable items cold, but not so cold that vegetables lose their freshness. The ideal refrigerator temperature is between 35- and 40-degrees Fahrenheit in the main part of the fridge, with the optimal temperature at 37 degrees Fahrenheit. The refrigerator temperature should always remain under 40 degrees in all sections. Many newer fridges come with built-in digital thermometers to check the temperature of a refrigerator. The ideal freezer temperature is 0 degrees Fahrenheit, so everything stays very cold. A freezer should be cold enough to keep food frozen and preserve it until they are ready to be cooked or reheated. NOTE: It is important to always check manufacturer settings and food safety settings.
  • Do not put hot Food or Beverages in the Fridge and/or Freezer:
    Avoid heating up the inside of the fridge and freezer by inserting containers holding hot food or drink. Instead of putting hot food straight into the fridge or freezer, let it cool as close to room temperature as is safe for the food or the recipe. This will keep the fridge and freezer from using more electricity than necessary to maintain a cold temperature.
  • Keep Your Fridge & Freezer Clean:
    One important thing you can do for your appliance(s) is clean it. While this may seem like an obvious step to some, many don’t realise that cleaning your fridge and freezer can not only prevent bad odours but can also improve the appliance’s efficiency. Additionally, you should make sure that the back side and the underside of the refrigerator and freezer are clean. This can keep your appliance from experiencing dust-related issues in the future.
  • Create a Maintenance Schedule:
    Routine maintenance is important for appliances. Dirt should be cleaned from the refrigerator/freezer coils every six months to a year – more often if there are shedding pets in the home. When coils are dirty with lint, dust, or pet hair, the refrigerator has to work harder than it’s designed to, which can prevent the appliance from cooling properly and efficiently. This can increase the energy cost of the refrigerator and shorten the life of the appliance. Additionally, if your fridge has an ice maker, be sure to clean or replace all filters regularly. Dirty filters make your system work harder and run longer than necessary.
  • Keep Your Fridge & Freezer Door Closed as Much as Possible:
    Probably the simplest, but the most overlooked, way to keep an energy efficient home is to come to your appliance prepared as often as possible. In other words, know what you are going to get before you open the fridge. Every time you open the fridge, you are expending more electricity to compensate for the room temperature being let in and the cold air being let out. So, it’s best not to open the door just for contemplation; instead, think about what you want before you reach in to get it.

For more helpful tips on setting energy efficient temperatures on home appliances, including your fridge and freezer, visit: belco.bm/energy-efficiency-setting-temperatures/

Microwave:
A microwave is a fantastic invention for reheating food. Instead of waiting for your oven or stove to heat, you get nearly instant results. However, while you use your microwave to save time, you should also be sure to reduce wasted electricity while reheating.

“Inefficient appliances, drafty windows and doors, poor insulation, and other fixable energy wasters cost U.S. consumers an estimated $300 billion a year—more than the U.S. military budget.” – zerowastechef.com

  • Keep Your Microwave Clean:
    When you have a lot of built-up, caked-on food residue in your microwave, the appliance must expend unnecessary energy on heating up the buildup in addition to the food you are actually trying to reheat or cook. Additionally, your microwave sucks up the moisture and hardens the old food buildup which can then catch on fire.
  • Avoid Using Your Microwave to Defrost Where Possible:
    While we can’t deny the usefulness of your microwaves defrost function when you’re in a bind, it does suck up a lot of energy. The best thing you can do is defrost your food over time in the fridge before turning to your microwave, if you even need to use it at all. Fully defrosting without using the microwave is actually better for saving energy and saving cooking time. Please be mindful of food temperatures and best practice with the type of food you are preparing to ensure health and safety.
  • Choose Your Microwave Over Your Oven When Possible:
    Your microwave uses less energy than your oven, so when cooking smaller meals or reheating leftovers, using the microwave is your most efficient option. Save the oven for larger meals.

For more helpful tips on how to cook and use your cooking appliances more efficiently, visit: belco.bm/energy-efficiency-cook-more-efficiently/

Stove/Oven:
Most home cooks have standard go-to methods for cooking certain dishes, but it’s good to take a step back to consider how much energy goes into preparing the food on your table and whether there’s a better, more efficient way of doing it. You might be surprised at which little things can make a big difference.

“According to SmarterHouse, a 6” pan on an 8” electric burner wastes more than 40 percent of the heat produced by the burner.” – treehugger.com

  • Ensure Your Oven’s Door Seals Are Clean and Tight:
    The door seals should be able to hold a slip of paper snugly. If the paper slips out easily, replace the seals. Another way to check the seals is by placing a lit flashlight inside the cold oven and closing the door. If you can see light around the door, the seals need to be replaced. This will ensure the heat remains in the oven and that the oven is not using more energy then necessary to achieve the desired temperature and to stay at that temperature.
  • Turn Your Oven Off Early:
    By turning your oven off a few minutes early, the residual heat will continue to keep your food cooking while allowing you to stop consuming energy.
  • Don’t Put Tinfoil in your Oven:
    Many people are tempted to put tinfoil in the oven to catch any drippings that bubble over the sides of dishes while cooking; however, the reflective surface of tinfoil disrupts the heat distribution process within the appliance. Additionally, it can potentially create an obstruction to the oven’s fan, which reduces the ovens efficiency.
  • Match Your Pot Size to The Size of Your Stovetop Element:
    The base of the pot should just cover the electric cooking ring. If the pot is too large for the element, more energy will be required to heat the pot. If the pot is too small, energy is lost.
  • Double or Triple Your Recipe:
    Cooking a large pot of soup on the stove top doesn’t require much more energy than cooking a small amount. Likewise, if your oven is on to cook something, throw something else in at the same time. Cooking more food at once will not only reduce the amount of energy consumed but will also allow you to cook less often which frees up your time.
  • Chop/Cut Your Ingredients into Smaller and Uniform in Size Pieces:
    By cutting food into smaller and uniform in size pieces, they will cook faster and reduce cooking time, which in turn reduces the amount of energy required.

For more helpful tips on how to cook and use your cooking appliances more efficiently, visit: belco.bm/energy-efficiency-cook-more-efficiently/

Dishwasher:
Because dishwashers need to use a lot of water to get your dishes clean, they will always waste a lot of electricity and resources. However, there are ways to ensure they are making use of all the water and electricity used optimally.

“In the U.S., two-thirds of all households have a dishwasher.” – constellation.com

  • Review Available Dishwasher Technologies Prior to Purchase:
    In addition to investing in an energy efficient dishwasher, consumers should consider the dishwasher technology options available to them before investing. Today’s dishwashers have improved to include energy and water efficient technologies. According to ENERGYSTAR.gov, soil sensors, for instance, test how dirty the dishes are throughout the cycle. The result is clean dishes with minimum water and energy use. Water filtration has improved as well, which is what removes food from the wash water, which in turn enables more efficient use of water and detergent during a cycle. More efficient dishwasher jets mean today’s energy-efficient dishwashers spray detergent and water more accurately, helping to lower overall dishwasher water usage.
  • Determine Your Dishwasher Water Usage:
    Home Water Works says older dishwashers use 10-15 gallons per load. In the US, a family of four typically generates an average of 150 loads per year, consuming about 1,800 gallons of water annually. In contrast, a new ENERGY STAR® dishwasher will use 5.5 gallons per load. That could yield, Home Water Works says, an annual dishwasher water usage reduction of nearly 1,000 gallons annually. Additional energy cost savings would come from heating less water as well.
  • Load Your Dishwasher Correctly:
    There is a proper way to load a dishwasher to ensure maximum efficiency. For example, the bottom rack should be filled with silverware, cutting boards, plates, pots, and pans, ensuring that dishes are separated so that they are in the path of the water streams; while the upper rack should be filled with large utensils, cups, bowls, wine glasses, and plastic storage containers. The ideal placement for silverware is handle down, while pots and pans should be placed with the open side facing down. Plastic items should go on the top rack when possible as the heating element is normally at the bottom of your dishwasher. Bowls should be stacked neatly on an incline so that the washing solution can reach inside the bowls. Ensure nothing is obstructing the path of the rotating device at the bottom of the dishwasher and remove any food particles stuck near the drain at the bottom of the dishwasher.

For more helpful tips on how to be more energy efficient when it comes to water usage, specifically in dishwashers, visit: belco.bm/energy-efficiency-be-water-conscious/

For more helpful tips on setting energy efficient temperatures on home appliances, including your dishwasher, visit: belco.bm/energy-efficiency-setting-temperatures/

HVAC Units:
By utilising the following energy efficiency air conditioning tips, you can ensure your system is running at optimal efficiency, which in turn will ensure the impact on your monthly bill is kept to the minimum. Additionally, you can reduce the likelihood of breakdowns and costly repairs.

“…In 2018, there were over 1.6 billion air conditioners worldwide. That number is expected to rise by 4 billion more by 2050, which is very bad if you consider problems with emissions and global warming. Right now, about 90% of US homes have AC. Those numbers are exceptionally high, especially compared to hotter continents like Africa and South America, where only 8% of all households have air conditioning.” – comfyliving.net

  • Ensure Your HVAC Unit is the Correct Size for the Room:
    Air conditioner size is synonymous with cooling capacity and is measured in BTUs and tonnes. One tonne equals 12,000 BTUs. In general, the air conditioner size you need depends mainly on the size of your home and various other factors, such as insulation, floor plan layout, local climate, other heat emitting appliances within the space and so on. According to essentialhomeandgarden.com, your home will generally need between 20 to 30 BTUs of cooling capacity per square foot of finished living space. However, the previously mentioned factors could cause this number to vary.
  • Ensure Your HVAC Units Are Properly Placed:
    Exposure to excessive sunlight can cause your HVAC unit to use more energy to cool your living area. Placing the exterior unit in a shaded area can prevent this, but you also want to be careful about placing it beneath trees or shrubs that can clog the vents and prevent proper ventilation. 
  • Ensure Your HVAC Units Have Proper Ventilation:
    Proper ventilation is important to allow for efficient heat exchange from the unit to the outside air.
  • Clean or Replace Filters in Your HVAC Units Regularly:
    The purpose of filters is to remove the dust, dirt, and debris that circulates through the air, but if you have dirty filters, your system will have to work harder and run longer than necessary.
  • Have Your HVAC System Professionally Serviced Regularly
    Getting your air conditioning system professionally serviced once per year is the best way to maintain your system. It reduces the need for repairs, frequency of breakdowns and extends the lifespan of your air conditioner.

For more helpful tips on setting energy efficient temperatures, including your HVAC system, visit: belco.bm/energy-efficiency-setting-temperatures/

Washer Machine:
Curtailing the energy needed to run the washing machine is difficult. However, there are a couple of tips that can help you achieve a more energy efficient home while still keeping your clothes looking great and smelling fresh.

“The average washing machine uses 400 to 1300 watts of energy per hour. The exact wattage depends on the brand of your washing machine and the load cycle that you use. ENERGY STAR® certified washing machines use about 25% less power than a regular washer. A washing machine uses about 90% of the energy to heat the water as it enters the tub. While load times will vary depending on the device and cycle that you’re using, the average wash cycle takes 50-60 minutes to complete. If you’re like most families, you’ll wash about 300 loads of laundry per year. Over time that adds up to a significant amount of electricity.” – energybot.com

  • Invest in the Correct Size Washer Machine:
    For a small family, an oversized washing machine is not a smart choice as it is not only costly but consumes more electricity during operation. Similarly, for a big family, an undersized machine will not be enough to wash all clothes in one go and you will have to wash clothes in more than one load. This means that your machine will run for a longer duration and will consume electricity in every wash. So, be sure to choose a washing machine size that suits your household size.
  • Invest in the Right Type of Washer Machine:
    A front-load washing machine is more efficient than a top load. It also uses less water and electricity compared to the top load washing machine.
  • Only Wash Full Loads:
    Wash full loads when possible as the washing machine will use the same amount of energy no matter the size of the clothes load.
  • Use the Shortest Cycle Possible:
    If you are doing laundry daily, try to use the shortest cycle, especially on clothes that have a quick turnaround. An added bonus: running frequently worn items on a lower setting will allow them to last longer.
  • Say No to the “Standby” Mode:
    Like any other home appliance, washing machines also consume electricity in standby mode. So do not leave your washing machine in standby mode.

For more helpful tips on how to be more energy efficient when it comes to water usage, specifically in washer machines, visit: belco.bm/energy-efficiency-be-water-conscious/

For more helpful tips on setting energy efficient temperatures on home appliances, including your washer machines, visit: belco.bm/energy-efficiency-setting-temperatures/

Dryer:
Dryers waste a lot of electricity, so cutting down your dry time is always a good idea for a more energy efficient home.

“More than 80 percent of households in the United States own a washing machine, for example, with even higher ownership rates in countries like Germany, Russia, Spain, the UK, Canada, Italy, Japan, and Turkey. With global annual revenues from washing machines and dryers’ sales to exceed 70 billion U.S. dollars in the future, the segment is a major part of the household appliances industry.” – statista.com

  • Wait For Your Washer Machine Cycle to Finish:
    Always wait until your washing machine cycle is complete before moving clothes into the dryer. You may think you’re saving electricity by cutting the cycle short, but you’re actually just forcing the dryer to work overtime to compensate. Clothes that are damp will dry much faster than clothes that are sopping wet.
  • Dry Heavier Cottons Separately:
    Loads will dry faster and more evenly if you separate heavier cottons like linens and towels from your lightweight clothing.
  • Utilise Your Dryer’s “Cool Down” Cycle if Available:
    If your dryer has a “cool down” cycle, this can save energy because the clothes will finish drying with the remaining heat in the dryer.
  • Clean the Lint Filter After Each Drying Cycle:
    If you use dryer sheets, remember to scrub the filter once a month with a toothbrush to remove excess build-up. Another important step for optimal function is to keep your dryer clean. Having too much lint or disintegrated debris in your laundry will slow your dryer to a crawl. The slower the dryer is, the harder it will be for it to actually dry clothes, meaning you’ll have to put your clothes through a second cycle just to get the job done.
  • Hang Your Clothes to Dry When Possible:
    The number one thing you can do to minimise wasted electricity is to use alternative drying options before turning to your appliance. Larger, heavier linens, such as bedding, towels, and tablecloths, can take a long time to dry in the machine. Take advantage of line drying for these bulky items; then just give them a light, 20-minute run in the dryer to get rid of the stiffness that comes with line drying. You’ll get the benefits of dryer fluffing without running the appliance for an hour or more.

For more helpful tips on setting energy efficient temperatures on home appliances, including your dryer, visit: belco.bm/energy-efficiency-setting-temperatures/

Televisions, Mobile Phones, Tablets, Laptops and Home Devices:
To maximise efficiency means we must become aware of how energy is used, where it’s wasted, and how it can be used more effectively and efficiently in everyday life. Our home and personal devices can contribute unnecessarily to our energy usage and costs.

“In the average home, 75% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. The average desktop computer idles at 80 watts, while the average laptop idles at 20 watts. A Sony PlayStation 3 uses about 200 watts and nearly as much when idle. Idle power consumes more electricity than all the solar panels in America combined.” – statista.com

  • Adjust the Brightness of Your TV:
    The factory settings are typically brighter than necessary for most homes, and you should make use of the ambient light sensor if available. If you’re viewing your TV in a darker room with the sensor switched on it can reduce power consumption by adjusting the contrast of the picture automatically.
  • Do Not Go to Sleep with The TV Running:
    If you’re someone who tends to fall asleep with the TV on, that’s a habit to get out of as soon as possible. Not only does it waste energy to have the TV on when you’re asleep, it’s bad for your health – research has shown that stimulation from TVs and mobile phone screens makes it harder for you to power down.
  • Opt for a Laptop:
    If you don’t strictly need a desktop set-up, opt for a laptop, which is smaller and therefore more energy-efficient than larger options.
  • Don’t Leave Your Mobile Phone, Tablet or Laptop Plugged in All Night:
    It only takes a couple of hours to charge.
  • Turn Off and/or Unplug Your Devices When Not in Use or Utilise Power Strips:
    When your devices are not being used power them down, unplug them or put them on a power strip that can easily be turned off to avoid the constant energy use associated with “Standby” modes, also known as phantom energy.

For more helpful tips and information on how to attack phantom energy, visit: belco.bm/energy-efficiency-phantom-energy/

Ceiling Fans:
Ceiling fans, when used correctly, can assist in cooling you down and ventilating your home. Most modern fans have a switch that can reverse the direction of the blades. In summer the fan should be set to spin counterclockwise which pushes air down and creates a cool breeze which helps keep you feeling cool and reduces the need to run an air conditioner constantly and therefore save energy. In winter set the fan to spin clockwise at low speed. As warm air rises, the updraft created by setting a fan to spin clockwise allows for the redistribution of warm air that tends to accumulate near the ceiling which can reduce the need to run heaters and save on energy costs.

“According to The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the average energy consumption per ceiling fan is 346 kWh per year. NRDC predicts that the energy consumption of ceiling fans can decrease for over 60% if blade design, motors, and lighting are improved.” – splendidfans.com

Water Heaters:
Beyond reducing hot water usage, timers are a great way to save energy – set them to when hot water is needed to avoid heating water all day when not in use. Pay attention to the thermostat on your water heater and set it to the temperature that is adequate for use in the kitchen or bathroom. If you only need to turn the hot water halfway or three quarters for hot water, energy is being wasted in the excess heat and you can lower the thermostat.  

“Water heating is the second largest energy expense in your home, accounting for about 18% of your utility bill. To conserve hot water, you can fix leaks, install low-flow fixtures, insulate accessible hot water lines, and purchase an ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher and clothes washer.”– energy.gov

For more helpful tips on how to be more energy efficient when it comes to water usage, specifically in water heaters, visit: belco.bm/energy-efficiency-be-water-conscious/

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