The less power you use, the less expensive the home solar system you will need to power your home.   Increasing energy efficiency is a great way to do this.   Recent appliances are more energy-efficient than older ones but the extent of the energy savings varies greatly between different types of appliances.  The two most energy-intensive appliances in most homes are refrigerators and dryers.

Why You Need an Energy Efficient Refrigerator

Refrigerators use a lot of energy.  New refrigerators use a lot less energy than older refrigerators.  There is also a great difference in energy use between different refrigerators.  The standard advice is to buy a new energy efficient refrigerator if your current fridge is more than 10 years old, as the energy savings will pay for the the new refrigerator.

New Energy Star refrigerators use 50% less electricity than the average ten year old refrigerator.   If you live in BC, BC Hydro runs a fridge buy-back program in an effort to reduce electricity use. EnergyStar is a program that certifies energy efficient appliances.   If you live in BC Canada, BC hydro has rebates for buying EnergyStar appliances.   Many other areas probably have similar programs.

Well-maintained appliances are more efficient than poorly maintained ones, as well as doing their jobs better.   If you cannot afford to replace an aging appliance, performing regular maintenance will help minimize its its electricity use.  This will not reduce electricity use to the level of a new appliance, but it will reduce it greatly over a poorly maintained one.

Energy Efficient Dryer or Clothesline?

Dryers use a lot of energy, sometimes as much as the refrigerator despite the fact that they aren’t on all the time. Ideally, one would hang clothes to dry outside, thus using no electricity at all, but in many places this is inconvenient in the winter. Clothes will dry in the cold, but not if it is raining on them.

Drying outside is against bylaws and home owner association regulations in some places. Do be aware that many of these regulations are being challenged and declared illegal, so if you want to dry outside you may be able to do so even if you weren’t a year ago. The movement to make anti-drying regulations illegal is often referred to as the ‘right to dry’ movement, and it is widespread.

Indoor drying racks also work, but do take space while the clothes are drying.  The most inventive indoor drying rack I’ve seen was hung from the ceiling of a kitchen and hauled up and down with a rope and pulley system.  This made extremely efficient use of space and allowed a washer’s worth of clothes to be dried indoors in Britain in the winter.  It worked well enough that the house did not have a dryer.  If you have a small household that does not produce huge amount of laundry this system could well work for you.  It is it is hard to get more electricity efficient than this!

If you do want a dryer, an energy-efficient dryer will save on electricity, although not as much as letting half of each load air-dry.

Energy Efficient Clothes Washers

Front loading washers are more efficient than top loading washers.  If you don’t have large amounts of laundry, a compact washer will save you electricity.  If you do have large amounts of laundry, a full size front loader may be your best bet, as doing one larger wash takes less energy than doing multiple smaller washes.  Some dryers are more efficient than others, so pick an efficient one.

Energy-Efficient Dishwasher or Handwashing?

An energy-efficient dishwasher that is fully loaded uses less hot water than hand washing.  However, this requires that you load it fully.  If you only ever wash small loads at once, hand washing may be more efficient.

There are also energy efficiency improvements to be found with cooking appliances, but they really deserve an article of their own.

Before You Buy Solar: Energy Efficient Appliances

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