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Refrigerators

Buying a new appliance? Here's how to prioritize energy efficiency

An industry insider tells us how

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There’s a lot to think about when shopping for large appliances. So much that the experience can go from start to completely overwhelming in a matter of minutes. There are brands to consider, special features to analyze, sizes to measure, and budgets to calculate. Add energy efficiency to the mix and your mental state goes into meltdown mode.

Until recently, energy efficiency has been an afterthought for many consumers, but with rising concerns for our planet, shoppers are starting to question what it means to be “energy-efficient.” When it comes to large appliances, we sat down with Jessica Petrino, an educator and appliance expert at appliance and home retailer AJ Madison, to talk about what’s important and what you should look for when buying new large appliances.

Here are her top five tips, as well as a peek into what energy-efficient large appliances she uses in her own home.

1. Using an appliance can be more efficient than not using an appliance at all

A woman loads a dishwasher in a kitchen
Credit: Getty Images / monkeybusinessimages

Using an energy-efficient dishwasher saves gallons of water over hand washing.

The idea that foregoing a large appliance like a dryer or a dishwasher altogether in the name of energy savings is flawed.

For example, Petrino says that washing dishes by hand can use 25 gallons of water per hand-wash load. Instead, “an Energy Star dishwasher uses 3 gallons per load, and that’s a huge, 75% savings.”

One affordable and top-performing Energy Star-rated dishwasher that we've tested in our labs is the Beko DUT25401X. When it comes to energy and water efficiency, the DUT25401X uses far less of each than average, across its three cycles. In fact, Energy Star gives it its official certification and rates it one of its Most Efficient 2021 models.

2. Consider Energy Star-rated appliances

If you look at the raw numbers, the cost per year to run an energy-efficient, Energy Star-rated large appliance may not be that different from a less energy-efficient machine. However, when you make comparisons between the decade-old large appliance you’ve been running to the new one you’ll be buying, the difference is much greater.

Petrino says, “When comparing a 2021 energy-efficient appliance to an older energy-hogging appliance, that's when you see enormous cost savings. Most appliance buyers are replacing appliances that are 8-plus years old. The new intelligent energy-saving features and tighter efficiency standards will make a difference over the product's lifecycle.”

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For example, an Energy Star dishwasher may only be 10% more efficient than the average dishwasher on the market, but someone buying a new dishwasher to replace a 10-year-old dishwasher will save both money and energy.

There are also other perks. Petrino says, “You might as well search for the Energy Star label, because many local utility companies offer extra incentives and rebates to buy Energy Star-rated products.”

3. Maximize the special features of your appliances

White man squats and sorts laundry
Credit: Getty Images / Kerkez

When it comes to the laundry room, front-loading washers tend to be more efficient, because they spin more quickly, which makes the clothes it is washing drier at the end of a cycle.

Sure, the special features that brands innovate for their large appliances can be the coolest things about them and the deciding factor of why you may select one appliance over another. So, when you take the time and chunk out of your budget to buy a large appliance with special features, use them wisely.

Don’t stand at your refrigerator with the door open, trying to decide what you want to eat. This lets out cold air, and can raise the temperature into a danger zone for food safety. Plus, your fridge has to work a lot harder to drop the temperature back down to below 40°F.

Petrino says, “LG came out with a refrigerator that has an InstaView door, so if you’re having a midnight snack, you can check on the contents of the fridge without opening the door.”

Samsung, too, features efficiencies on its Family Hub refrigerators, which boast smart screens on the exterior door panel that can help you track expiration dates or recommend recipes based on what you have on hand. This cuts down on food waste. Thanks to an internal camera, you can also see what’s in your fridge from your phone. “You can plan your snack from the couch,” says Petrino. “[You] conserve energy by viewing your refrigerator's contents from your phone, without opening the door.”

When it comes to the laundry room, front-loading washers tend to be more efficient, because they spin more quickly, which makes the clothes it is washing drier at the end of a cycle. This means your dryer has to work less hard to get your clothes dry.

Petrino knows what she’s talking about from personal experience. “I was doing laundry in the washer and dryer set that came with my house [when I bought it]. They had to have been from the 1980s,” she says. “One day I was like, it’s time. I see what my utility bill and my water bill is. I ended up replacing them with a high-efficiency pair from GE. There are a couple features that I think are really special. I love that the front-load washer dispenses detergent for me. This plays into energy efficiency, because it prolongs the lifecycle of the machine. Most people over-soap, but the machine works less hard if there’s less soap.”

Petrino also suggests considering a dryer with heat pump technology, because they are designed to recycle the air inside the dryer.

“A heat pump dryer works as a closed-loop system by heating the air, removing moisture from the clothes, and then reusing it once the moisture is removed,” she says. “Since heat pump dryers recycle heat, this vent-free dryer technology does not require external ducting. Unlike other ventless condensation dryers, heat pump dryers do not expel hot air into the laundry space, which can get toasty during warmer months.”

4. Embrace brand technologies that create efficiencies

White stones sit in a clear plastic disc on a black background
Credit: Getty Images / luchschen

Bosch dishwashers feature the brand’s own Crystal Dry technology, which utilizes the mineral zeolite that produces heat when it comes in contact with water.

It’s easy to get lost among the marketing terms that brands use to describe the special features fitted to their appliances. While some may be gimmicky, others are actually highlighting incredible innovations unique to the brand that may save you time, money, energy, or all three.

For example, some Bosch dishwashers feature the brand’s own Crystal Dry technology, which utilizes the mineral zeolite that produces heat when it comes in contact with water. Of all the drying methods we’ve encountered while lab-testing dishwashers here at Reviewed, zeolite has proven itself the best and most effective. When it comes to energy efficiency, how dishwashers dry dishes matters—some methods use energy, while others, like the zeolite, don’t.

As another example, Petrino says she has a Fisher & Paykel refrigerator, an upmarket appliance brand based in New Zealand. “They have an adaptive smart technology, and it will learn how you live and adjust the functionality of the [refrigerator] compressor and cycles on and off to be most efficient.”

5. Consider the big picture

Female finger presses button on black induction stove top
Credit: Getty Images / iStockphoto

Induction ranges have less residual heat loss, which is more energy efficient.

Even if a large appliance isn’t Energy Star-rated, you may be able to make energy-efficient choices when it comes to replacing a large appliance.

Petrino says, “I ended up replacing an old coil-top stove with a Bosch induction stove. To this day, stoves are not necessarily Energy Star-rated, but I ended up going with an induction stove, because it has less residual heat loss.”

Additionally, many brands are offering a secondary way to clean the oven, which uses steam to help loosen gunk—which is a more energy-efficient method, Petrino explains. “Most ovens come with a self-cleaning cycle. Some new ranges offer a water-assisted cleaning cycle. This is usually more efficient as it relies on steam to loosen messes from the oven cavity. Water-assisted self-cleaning cycles run at a lower temperature and shorter duration than traditional self-cleaning modes.”

Here’s how to get the look

Follow Petrino’s lead by using the very same large appliances she hand-picked for her own home.

Refrigerator: Fisher & Paykel Refrigerator RF170WDRJX5 with Active Smart Technology

This counter-depth, bottom-freezer refrigerator features an internal ice maker, humidity control, and it is Energy Star-certified.

Petrino says, “My smart, energy-efficient refrigerator is designed to learn my living habits. Its Active Smart Foodcare technology tracks how one uses the refrigerator and adjusts the temperature, airflow, and humidity inside to keep food fresher for longer. With an Energy Star rating, this refrigerator adapts to daily use by cooling and defrosting only when needed and has an annual energy usage of 535 kWh per year.”

Fisher & Paykel RF170WDRJX5 at AJ Madison for $2,599

Dishwasher: Bosch 800 Series Dishwasher SHX878ZD5N with CrystalDry

Bosch’s 800 Series dishwashers are the best dishwashers we’ve ever tested in our Reviewed labs.

“Bosch is one of the most popular dishwasher brands in the American market, and for a good reason,” explains Petrino. “The selection is extensive; the features are luxurious, all for an affordable price. Last year, Bosch introduced Crystal Dry technology in the 800 Series and select Benchmark Series dishwashers. This first-of-its-kind innovation uses Zeolite, a natural, non-toxic compound [that] uses chemistry, not electricity, to dry in a new energy-efficient way.”

Bosch 800 Series SHX878ZD5N Dishwasher at Appliances Connection for $1,249

Range: Bosch Benchmark Series HIIP056U Slide-in Induction Range

This slide-in induction range offers two cooking zones, quicker boiling capabilities, a warming drawer, and convection baking.

Petrino says, “Cooking appliances are not yet Energy Star-rated; however, induction is the most efficient cooking technology on the market. With induction, 90% of the heat generated goes into cooking your food. Induction is also low maintenance, easy to clean, and relatively safe. Select Bosch ovens offer an eco-cooking mode that shuts the oven function off before the cooking time is complete.”

Bosch Benchmark Series HIIP056U Slide-in Induction Range at AJ Madison for $3,799

Laundry: GE Front-load GFW850SSNWW Smart Washer and GE Electric GFD85ESSNWW Smart Dryer

Although we haven’t tested this washer and dryer set in our labs, similar GE models have tested well. You can buy these models individually, or as a set.

“This energy-efficient front-loading washer allows you to pre-load detergent into the machine to eliminate the guesswork in adding soap to your washer cycle,” says Petrino. “This set also comes with Microban Antimicrobial Technology in their parts, resulting in a longer-lasting appliance and odor-free clothes.”

GE Front-load GFW850SSNWW Smart Washer at Best Buy for $1,199.99 GE Electric GFD85ESSNWW Smart Dryer at Best Buy for $1,034.99

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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