Do energy efficient appliances really make a difference?

With all the talk about energy-efficient appliances, many people wonder how much of an impact these upgrades actually have.  We drilled down on a few of the biggest energy-users to break down some real numbers.

Refrigerators: Save $100 a year

Have and old fridge? Replace a 1980s model with one that meets today's standards and you'll save $100 or more a year in utility costs, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.  Insider tip: Refrigerators with top freezers use 10 to 15 percent less energy than same sized side by side models. There are many reasons modern refrigerators are more efficient today.  Thinner, more effective insulation virtually eliminates cold escaping when the doors are closed.  New refrigerators have smaller pumps and compressors that efficiently provide a regulated temperature of your choice, easily manipulated by a control pad.  In addition, chlorofluorocarbons/Freon coolant has been phased out and replaced by other ozone-friendly options like R134a and R-410A.

Clothes washer: Save $50 a year

Energy Star-qualified clothes washers use 40 to 50 percent less energy and approximately 55 percent less water than standard washers.  Expert to save up to $50 a year from this upgrade.  The front-loading or horizantal-axis clothes washer is currently the most popular high-end option for homeowners.  These washers are extremely efficient when it comes to water usage because clothes do not need to sit in a large tub of water like top loaders.  Only enough water is needed to moisten the materials.  Once you load the washer, the clothes are lifted and agitated so they absorb water and detergent.  Because less water is needed, less detergent is as well-the agitation of the clothes creates plenty of suds from a very small amount of detergent.

Dish washer: Save $25 a year

New dish washers are not only energy efficent, they clean your dishes better, too.  Energy Star-rated dishwashers are 25 percent more efficient than the minimum federal standards.  Replace your pre-1994 dishwasher with an Energy Star model and you can save $25 a year on utility costs.  One of the main aspects of modern dishwashers that make them more energy efficient is booster heaters.  All modern dishwashers have these heating elements which increase the temperature of the water entering the system so it can properly sanitize the dishes.  Because the dishwasher water is heated internaly, it is not pulling from a home's water heating system.  Computer sensors also help the system use the water efficiently, eliminating unnecesary waste of H2O.