Step 7

Step 7
This is the easiest Step in the design of your super-home. There’s
not much doubt about which types of appliances you will want. All the
information you need to select the best models is readily available. And,
the sizes of major kitchen appliances are standardized, which made it
easy to lay out your kitchen in Step 1.
Only in a few cases will you need to ponder whether to have a major
appliance – such as a food freezer. You can defer the selection of your
portable appliances, such television sets, until your home is built. But,
make sure that each appliance has a well planned niche in your home.
If a particular type of appliance can use more than one energy
source – for example, clothes dryers can use electricity or gas – start by
deciding which energy source is best for you, guided by our review of
energy sources at the beginning of Step 4.
Next, narrow your search to models that have the highest
efficiencies. You can do this entirely on the Internet. We explain the
appliance efficiency rating systems and how to use them.
Then, for each type of appliance, we explain the main variations,
features worth considering, and any installation issues that require
special attention. Finally, visit a few large appliance stores to see the
styles and features that are currently available. Check the reliability
and performance of current models by reading objective reviews, such
as Consumer Reports. For more details about available features, visit
manufacturers’ Web sites.
Everything in this Step applies to selecting appliances for an existing
home in the same way as it does for a new home.
Step 7 • Select Your Household Appliances
Appliance Efficiency Ratings
Your Major Appliances
Selecting high-efficiency equipment is one of
the Five Principles of Super-Efficiency. But until
recently, it would have been practically impossible for
a homeowner to do all the research needed to identify
the most efficient appliances that are available. Now,
selecting efficient appliances has become almost
effortless. The hard work is done for you by a system
of energy efficiency ratings that allow you to shop for
appliances on an objective basis.
Well, almost objective. Manufacturers do their own
testing, subject to test procedures that are established
by industry organizations. This invites cheating. Also,
the ratings for certain appliances are misleading, and
we will warn you about those.
The existence of efficiency ratings has been a
powerful stimulus for manufacturers to offer models
with greatly improved efficiency. At the same time,
inefficient models remain for the cheap end of the
market. So, there is now a much greater difference
between the most efficient models and the least efficient.
Efficiency ratings are continually expanding and
evolving. Most appliances are now rated, but some
still remain to be covered adequately. Some equipment
may be covered by two or more rating systems. Some
rating systems are based on others. For appliances, the
following rating systems are the most important at this
The Energy Star Rating System
In the United States, the primary rating system
for household appliances is the federal Energy Star
program. Appliances that fall within the top percentage
of efficiency within each type are allowed to claim
Energy Star certification. The range of eligibility
differs for each type of appliance.
Even more useful, the individual efficiency ratings
of Energy Star certified appliances are listed on the
Energy Star Web site, This
allows you to identify the most efficient models without
setting foot in a store or looking in a catalog. Searching
the Energy Star Web site is now the best way to start
shopping for most appliances.
Each efficiency rating is tailored to the type of
appliance. Water-using equipment, including washing
machines and dishwashers, are now rated for water
saving as well as energy efficiency.
Energy Star is now spreading to other countries
and groups of countries, including the European Union.
Similar efficiency rating systems have been adopted
A refrigerator is an insulated box with built-in
cooling equipment. The cooling equipment is similar
to an air conditioner, except that it cools to a lower
temperature. Refrigerator efficiency has improved
greatly in recent years because of better insulation,
more efficient cooling equipment, and better control of
temperature and defrosting.
The refrigerator is usually the biggest consumer of
energy in the kitchen. That’s because it runs all the time.
You can minimize the energy cost of your refrigerator
by shopping for a high-efficiency model, by installing
it properly, and by using it efficiently.
Select Your Refrigerator for Efficiency
Appliance Efficiency Labeling
Figure 7-1. A typical appliance efficiency label.
Start your shopping on the Energy Star Web site.
All models listed there use at least 15% less energy than
required by current U.S. federal standards. Pick from
the best of this group. (Compact models, with volumes
less than 7.75 cubic feet, are listed if they use at least
20% less energy than required by current federal
The models are grouped by their configuration and
major features. For each model, the Web site lists the
“percent better” than U.S. federal standards. Decide on
the features that you want and narrow your selection to
the most efficient models in that group.
The United States has another program, called
EnergyGuide, that requires manufacturers to attach
large yellow labels to all residential refrigerators,
freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers, water heaters,
boilers, furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, and
pool heaters. The label on each appliance indicates the
annual operating cost and/or the efficiency rating of
that particular model. The label also shows how that
rating compares to the lowest and highest ratings for
that type of appliance. Figure 7‑1 shows a typical label.
This system has a big weakness, which is that the
labels give you efficiency information only for the
models that are displayed in the store. EnergyGuide
labeling has been rendered largely obsolete by Energy
Star and other rating systems that can give you
comprehensive efficiency rankings on the Internet
before you start shopping.
Refrigerator Options
Energy consumption increases with size, other
things being equal. However, don’t get a refrigerator
that is too small. From experience, you will know the
size that you need for your family.
Most refrigerators have a freezer section. Originally,
this section was always on top. That is still the most
popular configuration. Refrigerators with side-by-side
freezers are less efficient, although they provide more
freezer space. Some refrigerators have a freezer at the
bottom, but this location is awkward.
An automatic ice maker that is located inside the
freezer compartment is a desirable option. It requires
a flexible connection to your cold water supply. If you
install a drinking water filter for household use, connect
the water supply to the ice maker from the discharge
side of the water filter.
Refrigerators with chilled water dispensers and
ice makers located in the door have become popular.
However, it is reported that this feature increases
energy use by 14% to 20%. Also, in my experience,
in-door dispensers are prone to trouble.
Figure 7-2. Rust that results from condensation
around the opening of a refrigerator door.
Automatic defrosting has become a standard feature.
Previously, the freezer compartment would accumulate
a thick layer of ice, which greatly reduced efficiency.
To get rid of the ice, you had to turn off the refrigerator
periodically, empty the freezer compartment, and
sweep out the ice as it melted. It is a chore that you
won’t miss.
However, automatic defrosting approximately
doubles the energy consumption of a refrigerator,
compared to one that is manually defrosted on a regular
basis. Especially if your climate is very dry, you might
consider a manual defrost model if you want to push
energy efficiency to the limit. However, if you fail to
defrost regularly, you will lose your energy saving.
Sweat tends to form around the door gaskets,
especially when the weather is humid. This can cause
mildew and rust. (See Figure 7‑2.) To avoid this
sweating, some refrigerators have heating strips around
the door edges. This feature consumes additional
energy, but it will make your refrigerator last longer in
a humid climate.
Get a refrigerator that has rollers to allow you to
pull it out easily for cleaning the heat rejecting surfaces
and the space behind the refrigerator.
How to Install the Refrigerator
The machinery of a refrigerator moves heat from the
inside of the refrigerator into the kitchen environment.
To minimize your energy cost, keep the environment
around the refrigerator as cool as possible.
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