Buyers often are skeptical about green products that may add to the cost of a home, but nearly all American consumers are sold on the idea of energy-saving appliances. From washers and dryers to dishwashers and refrigerators, energy-efficient appliances topped buyers’ wish lists in a recent NAHB survey.
In fact, 94 percent of buyers rated appliances certified to the EPA’s Energy Star program as the most coveted feature of a new home, and a new study shows that they have good reason to clamor for these energy- and water-sipping units. New eco-friendly appliances are not only more efficient, they also perform the same or better than their older, resource-guzzling counterparts while costing the same or even less, according to the report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). In other cases, electricity bill savings outweigh price increases.
For example, a household with six products (refrigerator, clothes washer and dryer, dishwasher, central air conditioner, and toilets) that just meet the current efficiency standards will save $360 on annual utility bills compared with a household equipped with the same products purchased 20 years ago, the report found.
In addition, the study points out, newer appliances are loaded with a large number of features that were not offered a decade or two ago. Consumers now have a wide range of options in bottom-freezer refrigerators including French-door models, with improved features such as new types of water dispensers, in-the-door ice makers, and additional compartments. The availability of clothes washers with large tub capacities, electronic controls and displays, steam cycles, and automatic dispensers has increased as well. Dishwashers have seen some of the most improvements, with the introduction of stainless steel tubs, delayed start functions, and a decrease in price of about 30 percent with a 50 percent decrease in energy use.
“Everyone knows that replacing your old appliance with a new, more efficient model will save you money on your utility bills,” said Steven Nadel, ACEEE executive director. “What this report shows is that consumers haven’t had to sacrifice good performance or new features in exchange for improved efficiency.”
South Carolina builder Todd Usher of Addison Homes only specs Energy Star appliances, noting that energy-efficient features add no more than 10 percent to the cost of an appliance, and more important, his buyers expect them. “Very few clients question the investment in energy-efficient appliances once they understand the benefits,” he says. “The Energy Star appliances we use in our homes perform much better than their inefficient alternatives.” (Click here for more about Usher’s experiences with Energy Star appliances and HVAC systems.)
Consumers can even look beyond the ubiquitous Energy Star certification for appliances bearing the EPA’s “Most Efficient” designation, which singles out the top 5 percent of products in several categories including refrigerators and clothes washers. For example, Frigidaire’s Most Efficient washers use up to 82 percent less energy and 60 percent less water than washers from 10 years ago.
Even more technologies are on the horizon. Starting next fall, new EPA standards will require Energy Star refrigerators and freezers to use at least 10 percent less energy than models meeting 2014 federal minimum efficiency standards. The agency also is encouraging manufacturers to incorporate “smart” features into their appliances, including energy-use tracking, remote management, and smart grid-ready connections. Some manufacturers are already offering a limited selection of these connected models. Whirlpool's Smart Side-by-Side Refrigerator, for instance, lets users track energy use or activate certain settings such as "Vacation Assistant" when they're away from home.