Best Budget-Friendly Energy-Efficient Dishwashers and Refrigerators | The Light Lab

Best Budget-Friendly Energy-Efficient Dishwashers and Refrigerators

When it comes to the kitchen, the two biggest energy hogs are dishwashers and refrigerators. In fact, they’re the only ones in the kitchen that currently qualify for Energy Star ratings. Of course, that shouldn’t be surprising when you consider the jobs they do. Dishwashers use lots of heat to clean dishes and glassware to a sparkling, sanitized sheen while fridges use cold to preserve foods so they remain safe, tasty and ready to eat. But if your dishwasher or refrigerator are time-tested veterans with a decade or more of hard service, then it’s time to start thinking about shopping for new energy-efficient dishwashers and refrigerators.

How Much Money Do Energy Efficient Appliances Save?

  • Dishwashers: Currently, an average 1800 watt dishwasher run every other day for 90 minutes can eat up about $60/year in electricity, including heated drying features. However, that $60 doesn’t include the energy cost that comes from the amount of hot water they use. Older dishwashers dating before 1994 use more than 10 gallons of water per cycle —and if your water is a 40 gallon tank-style heater, then you’re using 1/4 of your hot water. That energy usage alone add $35 more to your annual electric bills
  • Refrigerators: Some folks hang on to refrigerators for a long time. About half the fridges in the U.S. are 10 years or older. About one quarter of U.S. households have two refrigerators. But that long term reliability can be offset by reduced energy efficiency. Fridges older than 15 years can use 25%-40% MORE electricity than newer fridges. For example, a 20 cubic foot top freezer fridge built between 2001 and 2010 uses 651 kWh and costs (at .12/kWh) over $78.00 annually to run. A similar sized new refrigerator uses only 430 kWh/year (as per the U.S.Federal standard) and a qualifying Energy Star model uses 10% less — just 386 kWh/year or only $46 — nearly half the price of the older model.

Best Budget-Friendly Energy-Efficient Dishwashers and Refrigerators | The Light Lab

Appliance Features and Energy Efficiency Trade Offs

If you are looking to replace an old dishwasher or an ancient fridge, be ready to research the models you like and compare them apples to apples. Energy-saving designs will differ between manufacturers, so be prepared to consider trade offs between energy efficiency, convenience and price. Know your priorities here. If you want those conveniences, be ready to lose some energy efficiency or pay more to have both.

For dishwashers, there are a few features to keep in mind. While an onboard heater may add to the dishwasher’s energy usage when it runs, it does reduce the need to keep your water heater set to a very high temperature all the time. A major energy using feature is the heated dry. While it can be a convenience, newer dishwashers with onboard water heaters rely on the heat from the hot water and venting to dry the dishes.

When it comes to refrigerators, not all configurations are as energy efficient. Top-mounted freezers use 10-25% less energy than bottom-mounted or side-by-side models. Automatic ice-makers, especially those with through-the-door dispensers, increase energy use by 14-20% —adding to your energy costs.

Best Budget-Friendly Energy-Efficient Dishwashers and Refrigerators | The Light Lab

What Does It Mean If An Appliance Is Energy Efficient?

An appliance like a dishwasher or refrigerator is considered to be more energy efficient based on when it uses more of its energy supply to do work instead of wasting that energy. Energy waste in an appliance usually occurs in two forms. In refrigerators, a common energy waste is the compressor motor running too often and for too long to keep the appliance cold. In dishwashers, the problem is wasting heat (using too much hot water). In either case, energy waste can be reduced through a combination of better engineering and better components such as low wattage electronics or temperature monitoring sensors. Reducing the amount of energy that an appliance consumes while improving the work it does increases its energy efficiency.

Generally speaking, Energy Star products are required to use at least 10% less measured energy than the current minimum amount specified by Federal Energy Efficiency Standards. Dishwashers need to be 12% more energy efficient to qualify while refrigerators must be 10% more energy efficient than the minimum Federal Standard.

With all the research and testing, it sounds like Energy Star qualifying energy efficient appliances should cost more. The fact is, they don’t.

Over the years, consumer demand for energy efficient appliances has increased, especially among millennials. To meet demand and cut production cost, some manufacturers’ models are designed to share the same chassis and overall layout. For some manufacturers, it’s been more profitable to produce more Energy Star rated appliances than regular models. In side-by-side comparisons of current models from GE and Frigidaire, Energy Star qualifying appliances are either the same price or in some cases cost a few dollars less.

Start Shopping EnergyStar Appliances

Understanding your home’s energy use is essential to helping increase your energy efficiency, especially in the kitchen. A comprehensive list of energy efficiency appliances for your kitchen and the rest of your home is available at

Check out how to find energy efficient cooking appliances!

Selecting the right kitchen appliances that works best for your family but helps you save money is a great way to manage your energy usage. That’s why all First Choice Power customers have access to their home’s energy usage online. Whether you’re on the go or at home, you can view how much energy your home is using 24/7! Sign up for an electricity plan today to learn more about your home’s energy use and how you can become more energy efficient.

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Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.