When a light bulb burns out, you replace it. When a door knob wiggles loose, you fix it. Appliances, however, aren’t always so simple to fix. For many, when shopping for an appliance, energy efficiency is top priority– especially since they make up 13% of your home’s total energy costs. But keep in mind that dryers, refrigerators, and dishwashers are built to last for years. So before you consider getting rid of your outdated appliances, implement these simple tricks to help prolong their efficiency.
Refrigerator and Freezer
In addition to properly storing your food, the Food and Drug Administration recommends keeping your fridge set at or below 40°F and the freezer at 0°F. That’s perfectly in line with the energy.gov website’s recommended 35-38°F, which is optimal for keeping food fresh and your fridge running for the long term. You’ll also want to be sure your refrigerator door shuts securely. Not even a dollar bill should be able to slide through the seal. Of course, if it does, resealing the door (or drawer) is a quick fix.
Defrosting your refrigerator is a more tedious task, but one that’s integral to keeping an outdated appliance from using excess energy. Any more than a quarter-inch of frost buildup will largely impact your appliance’s cooling ability. Since older refrigerators often feature manual defrost systems, you’ll want to check this about once a week. Follow the defrosting instructions specific to your make and model.
Dishwashers built before 1994 can waste more than 10 gallons of water per cycle. But the process of heating that water is the greatest source of expense. The Energy department recommends lowering your home’s water heater to 120°F. When selecting a wash mode, skip “rinse and hold”; it uses 3-7 gallons of hot water. Instead, choose the “air dry” setting, shut off the dishwasher once it’s done rinsing, and crack open the door to let dishes dry.
It may be tempting to let the machine do all of the work. Unfortunately, this is not a luxury for older units. You can avoid having to run a second cycle, or use hot water to finish them by hand, when you take a few minutes to scrape leftover food into the trash or garbage disposal.
You don’t need a brand new high-efficiency washer; just be mindful of how much energy is required by hot-water loads. Navigate around costs by choosing a cold-water setting. Only wash clothes when you have a full load, and adjust the water level accordingly. As long as clothes aren’t caked in mud, you can get away with a low-soil setting to limit water usage.
It’s almost too easy, but cleaning the lint screen after every load can help your dryer run more efficiently. Whenever possible, hang clothes to dry. If clothes and towels become too stiff from air drying, throw them in the dryer for about five minutes with one fabric softener sheet. It’s just enough time to fluff up your laundry without using much energy at all.
Remember, no matter how outdated your appliances may look on the outside, it’s how efficiently they work that will ultimately save you energy and money.