30% of all U.S. electricity goes to powering homes, which is more electricity than either the commercial or the industrial sector uses.
The huge energy consumption in houses is in part due to the huge amount of energy that home appliances use. And while we’ve come a long way since the 70s when refrigerators consumed at least 4 times as much energy as they do now, home appliances still take up a lot of energy.
In 2019, U.S. homes used an average of 887 kWh* per month.
Appliances that are left on for hours, days, or even months, such as refrigerators and freezers, tend to be the biggest culprits. Other appliances, such as toasters and coffee makers, less so because of the short and quick outburst of energy that they need.
It’s important to realize where your energy is being used, as it informs choices you make in your day to day life.
So, in that spirit, let’s take a look at the top 5 offending home appliances.
Fridges (and separate freezers) have come a long way in the last few decades, but they’re by no means off the list. These household appliances are left on for months on end, or even years.
In fact, refrigerators are the top-consuming kitchen appliance in U.S. using approximately 30-200 kWh/month.
I know, that’s a huge range.
The reason is because a lot of people have older appliances that aren’t energy efficient. The newer your appliances, the more likely that they’re energy efficient. There are also other factors such as brand, product size, temperature settings, etc. that can factor into the energy they use.
However, there are ways to make your fridge more energy efficient, regardless of what make or model you have.
- Defrost your fridge regularly. More than 0.25 inches of frost build-up effects the appliance’s efficiency.
- Check the thermostat to ensure that it’s between 36 to 38 degrees F (or for freezers, it’s 0 to 5 degrees F) (-17.8 to -15 degrees C)
- Check the door seals by closing the door on a piece of paper. The paper should remain held firmly in place. If not, replace the seal.
- Get into good habits by labeling food so you can find it quickly, cooling hot food before putting it in the fridge and knowing what you want before you open the fridge.
Certain humid basements need dehumidifiers to ensure that mold and mildew don’t begin to grow, but people often keep them at a much higher setting than what is necessary.
Dehumidifiers are commonly used in humid, wet areas like South Florida or the U.S. Northwest, where too much water vapor in the air causes mold to grow, which in turn encourages the growth of dust mites. It also destroys personal belongings.
Many people leave dehumidifiers on 24/7, making them a huge energy fiend and using 160 kWh/month, which is probably more than your refrigerator uses.
Of course, it all depends on how you use the appliance. To reduce your dehumidifier’s energy consumption, try these steps:
- Close off the room (shut doors and windows) where the dehumidifier is working.
- Set the humidistat at a reasonable number. 50% humidity is considered average for basements, but any lower and you’ll likely have to keep your machine on for longer.
- Check the humidistat regularly and turn it off when you see it’s at a reasonable number.
3. Water Heaters
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating water is responsible for 12% of U.S. home energy use. On average 400 kWh/month is used heating water.
And no wonder!
We use hot water in showers, washing hands, cleaning dishes and clothes.
The good news is, how much energy you actually use on heating water is all up to how you use it – so the power is in your hands!
Pun definitely intended.
Here are a few ways to keep your heating of water in check:
- Water doesn’t need to be hotter than about 120 F.
- Take shorter showers
- Avoid taking too many baths
- Wash clothes in cold or cool water
- Turn off the “water heat” feature on the dishwasher
- If you haven’t already, don’t forget to insulate the hot-water storage tank and first 6 feet (1.8 meters) of pipes connected to the tank, so you’re not losing heat during storage and transport.
- Remove a quart of water from the tank every three months to limit sediment build-up that can lower the appliances efficiency.
- Install a drain-water heat recovery system to capture the energy in used water.
2. Air Conditioning
In 1980, 27% of homes in the United States had central air conditioning; in 2001, that number jumped to over 70%.
Because air conditioners vary wildly from home to home, the amount of energy that each one uses varies wildly between 200 to 1,800 kWh/month.
To improve your air conditioners energy usage, try these steps:
- Have a professional check the air conditioner every year. Proper fluid levels, coolant charge and insulation are crucial to keep the device working efficiently.
- Upgrade to a timed thermostat that will automatically switch off the AC as the temperature outside gets cooler.
- Make sure you have at least 16 inches of insulation in your attic. This will keep more of the sun’s heat out of your living space so the air conditioning doesn’t have to work as hard.
1. Home Heating System
A huge energy consumer, albeit an extremely necessary one, your typical home heating system uses between 5,000kWh and 30,000 kWh/year.
How much you use depends on your heating system, and is somewhat out of your hands unless you can afford an expensive upgrade.
Here are a few tips and tricks in the meantime:
- Upgrade to a programmable thermostat (not as expensive).
- Set the thermostat to the lowest temperature that you’re comfortable at.
- Replace your filters on a regular basis.
- Seal and insulate your home’s ducts.
- Make sure nothing is blocking your vents.
- If you’re feeling a bit cold, put on a sweatshirt before turning on the heat.
*1kWh = 1,000 kilowatts per hour. See this article for further information.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for freshness and consistency.