When is it officially time to lay to rest that CRT television and spring for the slimmer LCD? Or drop that old dishwasher in favor of a newer model? Repair is always an option, but saving money in the long run is even better. Here’s when you know it’s time to unplug and upgrade.
The older your refrigerator is, the more energy it’s using. That’s because over time, energy regulations have increased, and technology has simply become more sophisticated, according to Kristen Taddonio, spokesperson for the U.S. EPA’s Climate Protection Partnerships Division.
What you’re spending: Your fridge’s energy consumption widely depends on its birthdate. A refrigerator made in 1992 uses more than 1,020 kilowatt hours, costing more than $100 a year to run. The average 1980s model uses more than 1,480 kilowatt hours annually and comes with an energy price tag of about $160. As for those 1970s models, you’re racking up more than $250 a year in electricity bills with a usage of about 2,400 kilowatt hours.
What you’re saving: According to Taddino, if you upgrade to an Energy Star refrigerator, you can expect to save $65 and 940 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions a year for a 1992 model; $100 and 1,600 pounds of emissions a year for one from the 1980s and more than $200 and a whopping 3,000 pounds of CO2 emissions annually for a fridge from the 1970s.
If you were to upgrade only one appliance in your home, start with the refrigerator. You’ll see the most benefits because, unlike most other devices, the fridge runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It’s just natural: tech lovers are more attracted to the skinnier LCD flat screen television over its bulky older sibling, the cathode ray tube (CRT). But making the upgrade could mean shelling out more than $1,000 to replace a big screen. Will you see the difference in your energy bill? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, probably not.
“Overall, in active mode, many of the large screen flat-panel TVs will consume double the energy of smaller CRT TVs they are replacing due to increased screen size and high-definition capabilities,” reads the 2006 report.
However, newer televisions are regulated for energy usage by the Department of Energy. Energy Star 4.0 went into effect in May 2010, meaning that any TV sold after that date must meet the new standards mandating that TVs consume 40 percent less power overall.
What you’re spending: In the state of New York, an LCD TV costs about $56 to run annually, while a CRT model comes in at about $40.
What you’re saving: Believe it or not, you’re actually saving by not upgrading. Aside from money, you’re saving energy and resources in a whole other area: recycling. According to Kyle Wiens of iFixit, a website that hosts free repair manuals for electronics, while it’s less tangible, considering improper disposal of hard-to-recycle CRT televisions is a huge factor when deciding to upgrade.
“I think the real trick is to compare the captured energy in a device against the ongoing energy savings,” he says. “There are also externalities like environmental pollution from incorrectly recycled CRTs to factor in.”
Recommendation: Stick with it
Even if you’re dying for HD, hang on to your CRT television until it’s exhausted its usage. You’ll save energy, resources and money. When you’re finally ready to throw it out, remember its components are hazardous, so it has to be recycled.
The dishwasher is one of the top five most energy-consuming devices in your home. This appliance consumes 1,800 watts of power and uses about 54 gallons of gas each year. But aside from energy usage, older dishwashers use more water as well.
What you’re spending: A dishwasher built before 1994 wastes more than 10 gallons of water per cycle compared to owning an Energy Star model. Plus, you’re paying an extra $40 a year on your utility bills to run it.
As much as 80 percent of the energy your dishwasher uses goes to heat water, including pumping, treating, heating and cleaning the water that goes into your home. Up to 50 percent of a typical city’s energy bill goes to supplying water and cleaning it after use.
What you’re saving: A newer Energy Star dishwasher can save enough water each week to wash three loads of laundry in an energy-efficient clothes washer. Upgrading to a newer model could also mean free soap for a year (well, kind of). You’ll save enough money on your utility bill to pay for dishwashing detergent for 12 months, according to the DOE.
Recommendation: Upgrade if older than 10 years
The average lifespan of a dishwasher is about 11 years. While it’s better to invest in better air conditioning, refrigerator or heating unit first, your dishwasher will have to be replaced at some point. Until then, make the most out of the one you’ve got by only washing full loads, avoiding the “rinse hold” setting on your dishwasher and by choosing short cycles and air-drying options if availa0ble.
Incandescent, to CFL, to LED
For incandescent light bulbs, you won’t have any other choice than to upgrade in the future. In 2012, a federal mandate will phase out the sale of incandescent light bulbs in the U.S. [Editor's Note: Read more about what you need to know about this mandate.]
CFL bulbs are no doubt more costly than those cheaper, energy-sucking incandescents, and LED models will run you even more. So, in this case, it’s OK to start with baby steps.
What you’re spending: A 60-watt incandescent bulb uses about five gallons of gas and costs $11.82 annually. But if you’re talking upfront price tags, CFL bulbs can cost 10 times more than traditional incandescent bulbs, while more energy-efficient LEDs can cost up to $50 for a single bulb.
What’s you’re saving: CFLs use 75 percent less energy to run and last 10 times as long as traditional incandescents. Over its lifetime, each CFL bulb actually costs $30 less than an incandescent. While LEDs are significantly more money, the savings are incredible. In fact, if every American switched to Energy Star LEDs, it would save 700 million kWh of electricity each year, achieving a greenhouse gas emission reduction equivalent to taking 100,000 cars off the road.
Recommendation: Upgrade to a CFL or LED
Choose the bulb that’s right for you by assessing your lighting usage in each area of your home.
A CFL bulb’s life is better spent when it’s actually used during longer time spans. That’s because a CFL’s ballast helps “kick start” the light and then regulates the current once the electricity starts flowing. So, if you’re constantly turning the CFL on and off and on again, that energy has to kick up once again to power the bulb. The most important thing to remember about CFLs is that they contain mercury, therefore, recycling is mandated by law.
LED lights work just like incandescent bulbs, but still save a ton of energy and money in the long run. These lights can be dimmed and switched on and off without a second thought.
“Most new LEDs dim well, though not quite 100 percent smooth like incandescents. They are quite good, biggest drawback being initial cost [...] they will pay for themselves over time, however,” says Brian Clark Howard, co-author of Green Lighting. “LEDs are more durable and better for places that have vibrations than CFLs, but they don’t like very high heat.”
Amanda Wills is the Managing Editor of Earth911. You can follow her on Twitter @AmandaWills.