Can replacing old appliances save on energy costs?

It’s rare that you won’t find pennies to pinch in any room of your home, office, or business, not least when it comes to energy efficiency.

The question is, when is replacing old appliances to save on energy costs worth the initial capital outlay? Over time, savings can rack up, and isn’t it always a good idea to tighten your belt a little?

The answer regarding energy-saving appliances tends to vary from appliance to appliance. Appliances come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from light bulbs to refrigerators to AC units, each having its own life span, working mechanism, and minute specifications. 

So, we’re not telling you to rush out to Home Depot and load up the forklift with the latest icons of green star efficiency. If that were the case, you’d probably do a better job by ditching the energy-saving appliances and using that money to go off-grid.

Unless your appliances hail from the last millennium (which isn’t as far back as it sounds), they should be replaced piecemeal, not altogether. With that in mind, there are definitely some appliances you ought to consider replacing.

First, there are different categories to consider in the question “How can I save energy with new appliances?” We’ll help break these down for you. We’ll also consider the amount you stand to save in real cold, hard cash too, which is always great.


Vacuum Cleaners

Consider that trusty ally in carpet maintenance, the humble vacuum cleaner. It may be kicking up more dust than the hoover dam and taking up more energy for the trouble of doing so. If so, it’s advisable to replace its woeful wavering drone with a consistent roar that is up to the task. But this is more a matter of saving yourself the frustration and getting the job done. Energy savings actually aren’t that impressive.

The working mechanism of a vacuum cleaner makes it a firm candidate for replacement every 5 to 10 years. This varies according to quality and type, but if you’ve been cleaning out your vacuum bag or dust compartment to no avail in terms of effectiveness, chances are a replacement will save you time and money. In that case, it’s best to opt for an energy-saving appliance. Upright vacuum cleaners aren’t worth repairing after 5 years, and here’s a consumer report to prove it.

Annual savings: $5 – $25


AC Units

Energy ratings in AC units have taken significant strides within the past two decades, but the initial outlay for a central AC unit can be inhibitory. So yes, it’s likely that you’ll get more bang for your buck with a new system, but with a central AC unit averaging $2000,  you’ll have to weigh up that kind of fiscal bloodletting against the slow march to recovering it back.

Of course, while you’re debating that with yourself, it’s never a bad idea to clean out the filters and coils and carry out regular maintenance on the ducts from time to time. This is one way to ensure an energy-efficient appliance without the need to load it on your credit card.

Annual Savings: $30 – $90


Furnaces

As a general rule, anything that requires heat to function is an energy guzzler and variation in energy efficiencies between new and older models is worthy of your consideration. How can I save energy with new appliances in the furnace range you may ask? Furnaces are split into two main categories, which is to say, they either store heat or don’t.

That capability makes for a world of difference, with potential savings in the three-figure range, updating your furnace suddenly becomes an attractive possibility, and if it’s on its last, then these savings will pay for themselves, but only after around 15 or so years.

By insulating your ducts, you stand to save a further 20 percent on your furnace’s energy consumption. The cost of a new furnace is around $1500, and its average lifespan is 15 to 20 years, so any cost savings are really funding your new heating experience. Savings are, in essence, paying for themselves down the line. But again, if you need a new furnace, this is a great chance to hunt for an energy-efficient appliance.

Annual savings: $35 – $110 USD


Refrigerators and Freezers

Unless you’re keeping the dream of the 90s alive in your kitchen with a hulking old refrigerator or deep freezer, a new unit probably won’t pay for itself within the next 10 years by way of energy savings.

Look out for any gaps in insulation and make sure that food is covered to prevent the compressor mechanism from continually engaging. Fridge repair isn’t going to provide too much runway for future use either. So it’s really a toss-up between convenience and expense. Extremely old refrigerators from pre-2000 do warrant replacement with new energy-efficient appliances though.

Refrigerators usually cost in the order of $1000 or more to replace with energy-saving appliances.

Suffice it to say, if you have to continually thaw out items in your refrigerator that aren’t meant to be frozen, or vice versa, convenience might necessitate a change because the repair isn’t generally worth it in older models.

Annual savings:
Refrigerators older than 20 years are vastly less inefficient than the models produced afterward, and savings can range from $90 to $200.

Savings between newer models vary somewhat, but they tend to max out at around $25; not really worth the effort of replacement.


Other Appliances Worth Considering

As we mentioned earlier, appliances that produce heat for distribution are among the most energy-heavy of all. Bend your attention towards energy-saving appliances like water heaters,  hair-dryers, ovens, and coil stovetops if you want to save on your next energy bill. Don’t ask “How can I save energy with new appliances” as a general question. Ask “How can I best manage or replace my heating and cooling appliances” instead.

Coil stovetops are the most brazen culprits of the lot when compared with newer technologies, and these justify replacement as soon as you get the chance. Induction stove-tops are the winner here, even when compared with gas stoves. Convection ovens beat traditional ovens by yards in terms of energy-saving appliances. If you are an avid baker these will also pay for themselves as their lifetime is among the longest of all heating appliances (just ask how long Granny Marcy has had hers).

You might think that dishwashers would warrant replacing since they also contain elements for heating, but total savings from buying a new energy-saving dishwasher are under 10 dollars a year, so they aren’t generally worth replacing.

Washing machines, on the other hand, can save up to $200 dollars per year in terms of both water and electricity. Although front-loaders aren’t worth replacing if they are still in working order, top-loaders are. 


Final Considerations

Cooling and heating account for 40% of energy usage. It’s in these areas that cost-saving really comes into play. However, aside from energy-efficient appliances like light bulbs, it’s actually pretty rare that appliances need to be replaced in large numbers.

Of course, there are other factors you need to consider, like frequency of use and the frustration of keeping old appliances that refuse to work at times. It goes without saying that if you’re already in the process of replacing a stove or a washing machine, it pays to choose the most energy-efficient appliance available, but don’t load up the forklift with energy stars just yet.

Here is a handy breakdown of all the energy vampires in your home. Being conscious of these will generally save you much more money than replacing relatively new items unless you’re talking about getting an induction stove-top or top-loading washing machine.


For all your electrical needs, you can contact us any day of the week. We’re masters at checking off all of the ways you can save energy in your home and business, so call us for a consultation today.

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