Do 'green' appliances actually save money?

Appliances that are 'Energy' Star certified for efficiency can save you money over time, but your mileage may vary depending on the specific appliance. See how dishwashers, refrigerators, and more stack up. 

Newer washing machines can cut electricity use by 25 percent, a potential savings of about $180 annually, according to the EPA.

These days, there's a lot of discussion about energy usage and the environment. And if you want to reduce your carbon footprint, there's a push to use more energy efficient appliances.

Most household appliances now come with models that are "Energy Star" certified, meaning that they've met energy efficiency standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. In general, Energy Star appliances may cost a bit more up front, but could save you money over time through reduced electricity and water usage. (See also: 8 Green Products That Aren't)

Here's a look at some common appliances and the possible cost savings associated with each one. Keep in mind that savings will vary depending on electricity rates where you live.

1. Refrigerator

Your fridge uses a ton of electricity, so it's logical to think you'd save money by switching to a more energy efficient model. But the actual cost savings is only significant if your current fridge is very old. The EPA has a handy calculator to help consumers determine potential cost savings. If you have an average-sized fridge acquired between 2001 and 2008, your cost savings by switching to an Energy Star certified model are estimated to be about $15 per year, based on the average national electricity rate. But if you're replacing a fridge from the 1980s, the savings jumps to $145 annually. Your savings may be more or less depending on the electricity rates where you live.

2. Freezer

If you have a standalone freezer, you may save a few bucks by switching to an energy efficient model. Most new freezers use about 10% less energy than older freezers, and the savings grows when compared to freezers that are more than 10 years old. Nearly half of the 36 million freezers in use in the U.S are older than 10 years, according to the EPA — and this is costing Americans $990 million annually.

3. Washing Machine

Another energy hog that uses up not only electricity, but water wobbles in your laundry room or garage. If you get an Energy Star certified model, you'll decrease water usage per load from 25 gallons down to 13. To put that in context, a typical family uses 400 gallons of water every day. New washers also cut down on electricity usage by 25%, resulting in a savings of $180 a year, according to the EPA. You will have a bigger impact on your utility bills by washing in only cold water — a cold rinse costs about 60% less than a warm one, according to Silicon Valley Power.

4. Dishwashers

The biggest cost savings from energy efficient dishwashers comes if you switch from a model made prior to 1994, according to the EPA. Those older models waste 10 gallons of water per cycle and use more electricity, costing you as much as $35 per year on your utility bills.

5. Dehumidifiers

The EPA says newer models of dehumidifiers are 15% more efficient than older ones. But even if you have the appliance on 10 hours a day for an entire year, you're only going to spend roughly $150. So it's not a level of savings that will impact your wallet all that much.

6. Air Purifiers

These machines that remove fine particles in the air can use more energy than you think. In fact, some suck more electricity than your fridge. But you can save as much as 40%, or 225 kilowatt hours per year. That results in a $25 savings annually, or about $215 over the life of a unit.

7. Hot Water Heaters

Nothing in your home uses more energy, except for lighting. And if you switch to an Energy Star water heater, you could save big bucks. In some states, you may even get cash to buy one. The federal government reports that a family of four will spend about $300 a year on electricity from an Energy Star heat pump water heater. That's less than half of the cost of an old standard electric heat resistance pump, and a projected savings of more than $3,000 over the life of the heater. Seven states offer incentives to buy an energy efficient heater; New Hampshire tops the list with a $1,000 rebate.

8. Televisions

Televisions are growing in size and resolution, but are also getting more energy efficient overall. And that's good, because Energy Star models are reportedly 25% more efficient than older televisions. Your overall savings, however, isn't massive. Even if your audio system and Blu-ray player are Energy Star compliant, your overall saving is about $200 over the life of the equipment.

9. Pool Pumps

Owning a pool doesn't make a lot of financial sense, but you can cut down on the cost by getting an energy efficient pump. Newer pumps are two-speed or variable-speed model, which can reduce the amount of electricity used by as much as 70%. This could translate into $280 to $340 saved annually, according to the government. There may also be rebates, depending on the state where you live.

10. Water Coolers

If you like to have bottled water dispensed from a cooler in your home, you might save a few dollars by getting an energy efficient model. The savings is relatively modest, at roughly $70 over the life of a unit. For the most savings, look for units with on-demand hot and cold capability.

This article is from Tim Lemke of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website.

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