Household appliances and equipment account for
about one-third of energy consumption and about
45% of greenhouse gas emissions in the average
Projected average home energy use in 2012 — actual energy
use varies from state to state (particularly with climate)
and from home to home depending on the appliances
in the home and how they are used.
Household energy use
Heating and cooling
Water heating
Appliances and equipment including
refrigeration and cooking
Appliances and equipment
energy use data
% (of the
33% above)
Fridge freezer
Home entertainment
Home office
Pool and spa
Common considerations
Purchase and selection
If you are thinking of buying an appliance, ask yourself:
Do I really need it? The sun and a clothesline, and an
indoor drying rack for wet weather, have almost no
cost. A second fridge or third TV may be unnecessary.
Without that extra appliance, think of the savings in
buying and running costs, and its environmental impact
from manufacture, use and disposal.
Clothes dryer
Clothes washer
If you do need it, choose the right appliance size for
your needs. A large model with the same star rating as
a smaller model uses more energy and generates more
greenhouse gas. Ensure the retailer considers the best
size appliance for your needs.
Source: DEWHA 2008
Purchase the most efficient appliance available by
choosing the highest rating product — many have
appliance rating schemes to help. For detailed reviews
of product performance, seek advice from consumer
groups, such as Choice (
They make up one of the four main areas of energy
usage in your home. The others are covered in:
Heating and cooling; Hot water service; Lighting.
Careful selection of appliances and equipment can
save money and reduce environmental impact without
compromising lifestyle.
Operation and running costs
Locate appliances that require hot water as close to the hot
water service as possible to reduce heat losses in pipes.
Operate appliances efficiently by closely following
the instructions.
Where possible choose appliances that are not only
energy efficient but also have a high rating for water
efficiency. (see Reducing water demand)
Turn appliances off when not in use, preferably at the
power outlet. Many appliances continue to draw stand-by
power when switched off, which can contribute up to
10% of household electricity use (the estimated average
stand-by draw on household energy is 4%).
Choose appliances that have high ratings
for both energy and water efficiency.
Key sources of information
Consider the full lifetime cost — including ongoing
costs of maintenance and operation — when choosing
an appliance. Ongoing running costs can easily exceed
the appliance’s original purchase price.
Energy Rating Labelling Scheme
The Energy Rating Labelling Scheme is a mandatory
scheme for a range of appliances including:
▪▪ refrigerators
▪▪ freezers
▪▪ clothes washers
▪▪ clothes dryers
▪▪ dishwashers
▪▪ air conditioners
▪▪ televisions
▪▪ swimming pool pumps (voluntary only at this stage).
Energy efficient appliances can save hundreds
of dollars each year in running costs.
Energy efficient appliances cost less to run and have
less environmental impact than similar appliances with
poorer energy efficiency. And they can save hundreds
of dollars each year in running costs.
Maintain appliances carefully. Poor maintenance can
lead to higher energy use. A poor (leaky) seal on a
refrigerator door or a clogged filter in a dishwasher
can significantly increase running costs and reduce
the appliance’s performance (more icing up in the
refrigerator, more deposits remaining on dishes).
When your appliance or equipment comes to the end
of its life carefully consider its disposal. Most appliances
are full of valuable materials and some parts can be
recycled. Talk to your local council about recycling
programs in your area.
Dispose of old fridges and air conditioners properly
to avoid release of ozone damaging CFCs. Your local
council should be able to offer advice, or visit the ozone
depleting substances and synthetic greenhouse gases
Whenever possible purchase products that are
specifically designed to be recycled.
Choose an appliance with a high star rating.
Building design
Layout and placement of appliances can be used to
maximise efficiency in a new kitchen or laundry.
The Energy Rating Label on new appliances shows the
star rating and other useful information about energy
consumption. Choose an appliance with a high star rating.
Locate refrigerators and freezers out of direct sunlight and
away from other sources of heat such as ovens and stoves.
This is an important consideration in kitchen design.
For comparable products, appliances with a higher star
rating generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
For comparable products, appliances
with a higher star rating generate fewer
greenhouse gas emissions.
The Energy Rating Label must be displayed on the listed
appliances when offered for sale. The label’s star rating
shows 1–10 stars for refrigerators, freezers and TVs; and
1–6 stars for the remaining whitegoods. The more stars
the higher the efficiency. Total energy consumption in
kilowatt hours (kWh) per year under test conditions is
also shown (in the red box). If two suitable appliances
have the same star rating, choose the one with the lower
energy consumption.
The Energy Rating website (
details additional information such as the energy rating and
approximate annual energy costs for all appliances on
sale in Australia. Add the purchase cost and the lifetime
running cost to get a more accurate picture of the total
cost of an appliance.
The WELS label shows water use efficiency and total water
consumption for the appliance.
Use the website to search for an appliance that best
meets your needs. And read the tips on appliance
selection and background information on how appliance
ratings are determined.
Choice, the public face of the Australian Consumers’
Association, frequently benchmark tests products,
including a full range of appliances. It publishes the
results of these tests in its magazine Choice and online
at for a fee. Most public libraries
subscribe to Choice.
Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme
The Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (WELS) is a
mandatory national labelling scheme for a range of
products (see Reducing water demand).
The WELS label must be displayed on clothes washers
and dishwashers when offered for sale. The label’s star
rating has 1–6 stars, and the greater the number of stars
the higher the water efficiency. Total water consumption
per wash cycle under test conditions is also shown
(in the blue box). If two suitable appliances have the
same star rating, choose the one with the lower water
The tests often provide information on energy
efficiency, water efficiency and environmental impact.
They also cover features such as price, safety, warranty
details and performance. Use all the information to help
choose the best appliance for your needs.
Saving water also saves money, reduces greenhouse
gas emissions and puts less strain on waterways.
Refrigerators and freezers
Since 1 November 2012 all new clothes washers must
meet a new minimum water efficiency standard.
Machines with a capacity of 5kg or more must have
a water efficiency star rating of at least 3 stars;
and machines with a capacity of less than 5kg must have
a water efficiency star rating of at least 2.5 stars.
Refrigerators and freezers have been energy labelled
since the late 1980s and subject to strict Minimum
Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) since 1999.
The refrigerator or freezer you can buy today is far
more energy efficient and cheaper to run than those
manufactured before 1999. By 2009 refrigerators were
on average using approximately 40% less energy than
equivalent refrigerators built in the first half of the 1990s.
The Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme website at has additional information
on the scheme.
Choosing a fridge or freezer
Chest freezers are usually more efficient than upright
models as cold air does not escape every time you
open the door. Upright freezers with enclosed drawers
(not baskets) are a good compromise.
Running costs can be significant for refrigerators and
freezers so it’s worth purchasing the most energy
efficient (highest star rated) refrigerator or freezer
you can. A 2 star rated 400L to 500L refrigerator uses
approximately 520kWh/year whereas a 4 star rated
refrigerator of the same size uses only 336kWh/year,
a saving of 184kWh/year or 35%. That’s approximately
$53 in electricity costs a year or $530 over a 10 year life
(calculated using an electricity tariff of $0.2855/kWh). A
higher rated refrigerator costing a few hundred dollars
more is worth the added investment in efficiency over
its life.
Through-the-door features such as cold water
dispensers and ice-makers use more energy and cost
more to buy. Upright units with one door above the
other are generally more efficient than units with side
by side doors.
A cool cupboard keeps many fruits and vegetables well
in most climates, allowing you to choose a smaller
fridge. Locate the cool cupboard in the coolest part of
the house and have good airflow in at floor level and out
at the ceiling but be careful to ensure that the cupboard
has a well sealed door to prevent loss of heated air from
your home in the cooler months.
Keep fruit and vegetables in a cool cupboard
and buy a smaller fridge.
Using your fridge or freezer
▪▪ Place the fridge or freezer in a cool spot out of
direct sunlight and away from cookers, heaters
and dishwashers.
▪▪ Leave an adequate air space — 75mm is desirable —
around all sides of the cabinet (see your user guide).
In an alcove make sure the top is also ventilated
(again, 75mm clear space above). Many modern
‘clean back’ refrigerators without visible coils need to
lose heat from their sides as well as backs. Adequate
clearance between the fridge and surrounding
cupboards is even more important.
▪▪ Make sure the door seal is clean and in good
condition. It should hold a piece of paper tightly
in place when shut.
▪▪ Set the fridge thermostat to between 3°C and 5°C,
and the freezer to between -15°C and -18°C. Every
degree lower requires 5% more energy. A fridge
thermometer is a good investment.
▪▪ Avoid overloading the fridge or freezer. Try to leave
about 20% free space for air circulation.
▪▪ Defrost manual models frequently or when ice
is more than 5mm thick. Ice build up significantly
increases energy use.
▪▪ Empty and turn off a second fridge when not needed.
An older refrigerator could easily be costing $200
or more a year to run. Do not locate it in a hot garage
or veranda.
▪▪ Avoid placing hot food in the fridge — it just makes
your fridge work harder. Let it cool first.
Today’s refrigerators and freezers use about 40% less
energy than those of 15 years ago.
Buy appliances no larger than the size
you need.
Buy appliances that are the right size, especially freezers
as their energy demand is high. A larger model uses
more energy than a smaller one with the same energy
star rating. A single large fridge is usually more efficient
than two smaller ones.
Look for features such as easily adjustable shelving,
easy access to the thermostat, simple thermostat
controls, separate thermostats for fridge and freezer
compartments, a door-open alarm and rollers or castors
that make cleaning and operating the fridge easier.
Clothes washers
Using your washing machine
Choosing a washing machine
Wash a full load rather than several smaller loads
and use the suds saver if available. Don’t use too
much detergent. Making detergent produces a lot of
greenhouse gases and using too much pollutes our
waterways. If your machine has an economy cycle
option use that to save energy and water.
Choose a washing machine that’s the right size for your
needs. An oversized model is often filled with partial loads.
Select the most energy and water efficient model within
your budget.
Washing in warm or hot water uses approximately
7 times more energy than washing in cold water. Use
cold wash programs whenever possible. Most wash
loads are relatively clean and a cold wash gives a
perfectly satisfactory result. The average 2 star rated top
loader washing machine used daily on a warm or hot
wash program uses approximately 601kWh of electricity
a year but as little as 87kWh a year when using a cold
wash program – a difference of 514kWh. This amounts
to a saving of $147 on your energy bill over 12 months
(calculated using a tariff of $0.2855/kWh).
Front loaders are usually more water and energy
efficient. They are gentler on clothes, use less detergent
and save space as they can be installed under a bench.
They usually have a higher spin speed so clothes come
out drier. However, some front loaders have only a cold
water connection and some take a very long time to
complete a wash. Check these details before buying.
Front loaders are usually more water
and energy efficient, and gentler on
clothes. They use less detergent,
save space and produce drier clothes
after a high-speed spin.
Washer dryers
Some clothes washers can also dry your clothes.
These combination washer dryers are always front
loading machines. They can save considerable space
(i.e. one appliance instead of two), so are particularly
useful in an apartment.
Look for models with dual water connections (cold and
hot). Washing machines with a cold water connection
only use an internal heater to heat the water. Your
gas, solar or heat pump type water heater, if you have
one, heats water less expensively and produce fewer
greenhouse gas emissions (typically more than 50%
less) than a washing machine.
Watch out for washer dryers that use water during the
drying phase (to cool the drum of the machine and
condense water evaporated from the clothes). In some
cases the water consumed during the drying phase
can exceed that used to wash the clothes. For more
information go to:
Make sure the washing machine you buy includes cold
wash program options. Some clothes washing machines
may heat the water to a moderate temperature
during the ‘cold’ wash program — to ensure detergent
dissolves and cleans properly in cold climates such as
Europe. Ask the retailer or product supplier whether
the machine heats the water internally for a cold wash
program. A warm or hot wash can generate up to 4kg of
greenhouse gas per wash, a cold wash less than 0.5kg
Clothes washing machines that include manual load size
selection or auto load sensing features are preferable.
Such features allow the machine to use less energy and
water when washing less than a full load.
Models with a high spin speed are also desirable,
especially if you use a clothes dryer. Top of the range
models with spin speeds of 1800 rpm or more can
extract twice as much moisture than models with only
low spin speeds (less than 800 rpm).
Look for machines that offer an ‘economy’ cycle, which
often washes perfectly adequately (particularly for lightly
soiled clothes) while saving both energy and water.
Dry clothes on a line or rack whenever possible.
Clothes dryers
Choosing a clothes dryer
Look for the most efficient dryer you can afford. A dryer
with a 6 star Energy Rating Label (www.energyrating. is more expensive to buy but is much cheaper to
run. This is particularly relevant if you are unable to dry
clothes outside and must use your dryer frequently.
A 6 star dryer uses approximately half the electricity of a
2 star dryer.
Look for an ‘auto-sensing’ feature on your dryer,
which automatically stops the dryer as soon as clothes
are dry. Also look for easily accessible lint filters and
other features such as reverse tumbling and special
fabric cycles.
Using your clothes dryer
Drying a load of washing in an electric dryer
generates more than 3kg of greenhouse gas (www. Whenever possible, dry
clothes on a clothes line or rack instead of in a dryer.
▪▪ Avoid overloading or over-drying, which wastes energy.
▪▪ Don’t put wet clothes in the dryer. Part dry or spin
dry them first, using the maximum spin speed of
the washer.
▪▪ Clean the lint filter after each load.
▪▪ Externally vent the dryer to remove moist air from
the room (does not apply to condenser type dryers).
▪▪ Run the dryer on medium instead of high: it takes
a little longer but uses less energy and is less
damaging to your clothes.
Modern dishwashers typically use significantly less water
than handwashing dishes.
Older dishwashers use significantly more energy and
water than newer models (typically the more water used
the more energy used by a dishwasher). On average a
dishwasher manufactured in the early 1990s uses twice
as much water and 40% more energy to wash the same
sized load as a current day model (Energy Efficient
Strategies 2010).
Look for models with hot and cold connections or cold
connection only. Hot connection only models use much
more energy as the whole cycle uses hot water, not just
the wash phase.
Choosing a dishwasher
A modern dishwasher can wash a full 12-place setting
with less than 14L of water, typically significantly less
than the amount used when handwashing dishes.
Before buying your new dishwasher, research
performance well. Apart from referring to the energy
label, check sources such as Choice magazine for more
detailed information on such things as washing and
drying performance, noise, ease of use and so on. Also
check that the basket and rack design suit your dishes.
Choose the right size for your needs so you won’t always
be washing partial loads. Two-drawer and benchtop
models are available and can be more efficient in
households where frequent small loads are washed.
Select the most energy and water efficient model.
Look for models with an economy cycle. Some models
also offer a ‘half wash’ mode that washes the lower
A modern dishwasher typically
uses significantly less water than
handwashing dishes.
Some newer models now store the water from the last
rinse to use for washing the next load. These models
have very low water consumption.
Using a dishwasher
The keys to minimising energy use from this range
of equipment are:
▪▪ Avoid buying equipment you don’t need.
▪▪ Choose equipment that is the right size for your needs.
▪▪ Use efficiency data when available
(e.g. to select the most
efficient products. In many cases the cost of running
equipment can exceed the original purchase price.
▪▪ Turn appliances off when not in use, preferably at the
power outlet (or use a stand-by power controller).
Many appliances continue to draw stand-by power
when switched off at the unit.
▪▪ Scrape plates well before packing the dishwasher
and keep pre-rinsing to a minimum. Most modern
dishwashers can easily deal with the remaining soil
following scraping alone, so be smart, save water
and time, and minimise rinsing.
▪▪ If you do pre-rinse, don’t use the hot water tap,
which is very wasteful of energy.
▪▪ Do not over-pack your dishwasher — it gives poorer
wash performance.
▪▪ Always clean the filter between washes.
▪▪ Run the dishwasher only when fully loaded.
▪▪ Use cold water cycles as much as possible in
dishwashers. Select the cycle with the lowest
temperature and minimum time to get the job done.
▪▪ Avoid using drying cycles — open the door instead.
▪▪ Use the economy cycle. Using a high quality
detergent and eco-wash (and cleaning the filter
after every load) can often give better cleaning
results than a normal wash with a cheaper detergent.
The energy and water savings offset the cost of the
more expensive detergent.
These products are covered in more detail in
Home entertainment and home office equipment.
Swimming pools and spas
About one in six Australian homes has a pool, and about
16% of electricity used in those homes is consumed by
pools and spas.
Australian households with a pool,
particularly a heated pool or a spa,
spend up to one-third of their total
energy bill on the pool.
Home entertainment and home
office equipment
Ownership and hours of use of home entertainment
and computer equipment is increasing. A large screen
(110cm to 130cm) 3 star rated TV on for 10 hours a day
uses around 471kWh a year (generating around half a
tonne of greenhouse gases) — more than an average
sized (400L to 500L) 4 star family fridge, which uses
about 336kWh/year. The ubiquity of computers, with
associated scanners, printers, additional displays and
24-hour internet access, makes them a significant part
of energy use in the home.
A large screen (110cm to 130cm) 3 star rated TV on for 10
hours a day generates more greenhouse gas than an average
sized (400L to 500L) 4 star family fridge.
The label scheme for pool pumps is voluntary.
All swimming pools and spas use energy for pumping
and filtration. An average sized in-ground swimming
pool uses approximately 1250kWh of electrical energy
per year for pumping and filtration (that’s $357 at
$0.2855/kWh); spas use on average about 330kWh/
year ($94). A salt chlorinator used in your pool adds
approximately 290kWh/year ($83).
References and additional reading
Contact your state, territory or local government for further
information on energy efficiency:
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
(DEWHA). 2008. Energy use in the Australian residential sector
1986–2020. Canberra.
If you are setting up a new pool or spa or need to
replace an existing pump, choose high efficiency
pumps, which are typically ‘multi or variable speed
drive’ pumps. Many pumps now come with an
Energy Rating Label (the labelling scheme is voluntary
at present), so choose a pump with a high star rating.
Some pump models now have ratings of up to 8 stars.
Energy Efficient Strategies. 2010. Greening whitegoods: a report
into the energy efficiency trends of whitegoods in Australia
from 1993 to 2009. Report 2010/08 for the Equipment Energy
Efficiency Committee (E3).
Energy Rating.
Your Energy Savings.
The most significant energy use in pools comes from
heating. If you must heat your pool, choose solar
heating in combination with a pool blanket that traps
heat to help keep your pool warm. Solar heating
requires only a moderate amount of energy for pumping
(1000kWh/year on average) and is relatively inexpensive
to operate (approximately $286/year). Gas heating uses
10–20 times more energy than a solar heater.
Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme.
Principal author: Chris Riedy
Contributing author: Geoff Milne
Updated by Robert Foster, 2013
If you currently use gas or electric heating for your pool
consider switching to solar.
Using your pool and spa
Gas or electric pool heaters use a huge amount of
energy, so keep your pool only as warm as you need it.
Try reducing your pool or spa temperature by 1oC or 2oC,
which can easily save 10–15% of your heating costs.
Cutting back on pump running time can also save energy,
dollars and greenhouse gas emissions. But be careful
to ensure water quality is not significantly affected.
If you are not sure how to reset the temperature or
pump running times you might want to schedule a
service appointment with your pool service company.
Ask them to set your temperature and pump running
times and show you how to do it.
Clean the pool and pool filters frequently.
If you are heating your pool and or spa, pull a cover
over it whenever it’s not in use.
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