Energy Efficiency Tips on Four Household Appliances

Thinking about some Do-It-Yourself (DIY) home improvement projects for your Texas home, but you’re not really sure about what to do or where to start? You’ve come to the right place! Welcome to the DIY Energy Efficiency Tips series from First Choice Power. We’ll show you how to improve the energy efficiency of your home, including hints that make the jobs easier.

One of easiest ways of improving your appliances’ energy efficiency is to change the way you use them. Oddly enough, that’s also what makes it so hard because it has to do with changing a habit. This month, we’re going to look over four of the most common home appliances and how easy ways of changing your usage behavior can reduce your electricity consumption.

1) Ceiling Fans

They don’t thermally cool a room but they do help cool you. The human body cools by evaporative cooling — water hold lots of heat. So when sweat evaporates from your skin, you feel cooler. Ceiling fans blow a breeze across your skin. They cool you down, not the room. Say there’s a difference between the air temperatures near the ceiling versus near the floor. Ceiling fans might circulate and mix those temperatures but they do not reduce (or increase) the actual temperature of a room. They can’t physically add or reduce heat. They just move air. That’s why you should turn them off when you’re not in the room or leaving your home. Make sure to clean the blades monthly. Blades collect dust, pet dander, and allergens. Cleaning the fan helps it spin more freely and effectively.

2) The Washing Machine

Energy Efficiency Tips on Four Household Appliances | The Light Lab

It’s well known that today’s clothes washers are far more energy efficient than those in use a decade ago. But consider too that laundry detergents have also come a long way. Most powdered detergents are designed to activate in water above 65°F. For many homes in Texas, that applies to the temperature of cold water when it comes out of the tap. By only using hot water for those instances when you really need to sanitize fabrics, you can reduce your hot water usage and your home’s energy consumption.

Also make sure to clean out your washing machine monthly. Dirt, lint and soap scum collect in plumbing traps and build up on the sides and top edges of the wash tub. Front-loading machines need routine cleaning around door gaskets to both ensure a water-tight seal and to kill mold or mildew. Clean washing machines are more effective at cleaning your clothing.

3) The Dryer

Dryers use LOTS of electricity to do one thing: tumble wet clothing in hot, dry air to remove moisture. And if you’re running your dryer during the day, you might be causing your air conditioning to work even harder to keep your home cool. In some cases, even though most of the dryer’s heat and humidity gets vented outside, some of that will build up in your home when you’re running the dryer. This means your home’s air conditioning unit will have to work harder and longer to keep your home cool, causing your electricity usage to increase.

Instead, by running your dryer at night when it’s cooler you’ll use less electricity. You can also use drying racks and fans at night instead. Hang your clothing on drying racks or even doorways in a hall and set a fan to blow on them over night. Your clothing will gently dry over night, take less damage from the tumbling and twisting about in a dryer, and use far less energy.

It is also important to clean out your dryer yearly. The dryer lint clogs reduces the air temperature in the dryer, traps moisture, and makes the dryer run much, much longer — costing you a lot more money.

4) The Refrigerator

Energy Efficiency Tips on Four Household Appliances | The Light Lab

Next to central air conditioning, refrigerators are the biggest energy user in the home. Refrigerators can be energy hogs if they’re used continually crammed full. A too-full fridge reduces air flow and creates ice buildups that force and your fridge to run longer to maintain temperature. Air circulation is key to keeping temperatures and humidity uniform and also prevents ice jams that can leak water all over your kitchen floor.

Also bear in mind that we’ve grown accustomed to putting all kinds of foods into refrigerators even though they don’t need to be refrigerated. Items such as apples, tomatoes, bananas, pears, onions, potatoes, mustard, ketchup and soy sauce do not need to be refrigerated.

Energy Efficiency Tips on Four Household Appliances | The Light Lab

Additionally, how you store food inside your refrigerator does affect how efficiently it works and how safe its keeps your food. Different zones have slightly different temperatures and humidity levels that benefit some foods more than others. The trick is knowing which foods fare best in which zones:

Zone 1: The door

Foods stored in the door storage undergo fluctuating temperatures when the door is opened. Opening the door displaces much of the cold air. Cold air literally falls out the door. Put the grab-and-go drinks here. Since gallon jugs of milk take longer to warm than quarts, jugs can stay in the door but quarts of milk should go on a shelf.

Zone 2: The main compartment

This is the most thermally stable area. At the bottom, store packaged raw meat, as well as packaged cheeses, and dairy. Above, fruit juices, berries, adult beverages, eggs, perishable left-overs, and other foods should be stored at ~40°F.

Zone 3: Drawers

Keep lunch meats and cheeses in the coldest part of the fridge, usually at the bottom. Store raw meat, poultry, and seafood here in sealed containers that prevents juice from dripping on to other foods.

Zone 4: The Freezer

Setting the freezer temperature to at 0°F will keep everything frozen solid and safe to eat. Be sure to wrap food items completely to avoid the drying effects of freezer burn which makes it taste bad.

Also keep an eye out for:

• Stacking items on top of the fridge reduces air circulation for the cooling coils in the back. Items stacked on top also acts as insulation that traps heat.
• Dirty, cracked, or worn door gaskets let warm, moist air leak into the fridge making it use more energy over time to maintain temperature. Routinely cleaning these gaskets helps keep your fridge running efficiently.

Practice these energy efficiency tips to keep your Texas home’s electricity bill low and to get more from your home’s appliances!

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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.