U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

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Major Appliance Shopping Guide

ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide labels

This easy-to-read guide may help you understand how appliances are rated for efficiency, what the ratings mean, and what to look for while shopping for new appliances.

Appliances Rating Special Considerations
Natural Gas and Oil Systems
ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide labels
Look for the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) EnergyGuide label with an AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating for natural gas- and oil-fired furnaces and boilers. The AFUE measures the seasonal or annual efficiency. ENERGY STAR® furnaces have a 90 AFUE or higher. Bigger is not always better! Too large a system costs more and operates inefficiently. Have a professional assess your needs and recommend the type and size of system you should purchase.
Air-Source Heat Pumps
ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide labels
Look for the EnergyGuide label that lists the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) and HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) for heat pumps. The SEER measures the energy efficiency during the cooling season and HSPF measures the efficiency during the heating season. The ENERGY STAR minimum efficiency level is 13 SEER or higher. If you live in a cool climate, look for a heat pump with a high HSPF. ENERGY STAR heat pumps are about 20% more efficient than standard models. Contact a professional for advice on purchasing a heat pump.
Central Air Conditioners
ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide labels
Look for the EnergyGuide label with a SEER for central air conditioners. The ENERGY STAR minimum efficiency level is 13 SEER. Air conditioners that bear the ENERGY STAR label may be 25% more efficient than standard models. Contact a professional for advice on sizing a central air system.
Room Air Conditioners
ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide labels
Look for the EnergyGuide label with an EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) for room air conditioners. The higher the EER, the more efficient the unit is. ENERGY STAR units are among the most energy-efficient products. What size to buy?
Area in square feet Btu/hour Two major factors should guide your purchase: correct size and energy efficiency. If the room is very sunny, increase capacity by 10%. If the unit is for a kitchen, increase the capacity by 4,000 Btu per hour.
100 to 150 5,000
150 to 250 6,000
250 to 350 7,000
350 to 450 9,000
400 to 450 10,000
450 to 550 12,000
550 to 700 14,000
700 to 1,000 18,000
Programmable Thermostats
ENERGY STAR label
For minimum ENERGY STAR efficiency, thermostats should have at least two programs, four temperature settings each, a hold feature that allows users to temporarily override settings, and the ability to maintain room temperature within 2°F of desired temperature. Look for a the ENERGY STAR label and a thermostat that allows you to easily use two separate programs, one that can be programmed to reach the desired temperature at a specific time, and a hold feature that temporarily overrides the setting without deleting the preset programs.
Water Heaters
ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide labels
Look for the EnergyGuide label that tells how much energy the water heater uses in one year. Also, look for the FHR (first hour rating) of the water heater, which measures the maximum hot water the heater will deliver in the first hour of use. ENERGY STAR labeled water heaters available January 2009. If you typically need a lot of hot water at once, the FHR will be important to you. Sizing is important—call your local utility for advice.
Windows
ENERGY STAR label
Look for the NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council) label that provides U-values and SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient) values. The lower the U-value, the better the insulation. Look at the Climate Region Map on the ENERGY STAR label to be sure that the window, door, or skylight you have selected is appropriate for where you live.
Refrigerators and Freezers
ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide labels
Look for the EnergyGuide label that tells how much electricity, in kWh, the refrigerator will use in one year. The smaller the number, the less energy it uses. ENERGY STAR refrigerators use at least 15% less energy than required by federal standards. Look for energy-efficient refrigerators and freezers. Refrigerators with freezers on top are more efficient than those with freezers on the side. Also look for heavy door hinges that create a good door seal.
Dishwashers
ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide labels
Look for the EnergyGuide label that tells how much electricity, in kWh, the dishwasher will use in one year. The smaller the number, the less energy it uses. ENERGY STAR dishwashers use at least 25% less energy than required by federal standards. Look for features that will reduce water use, such as booster heaters and smart controls. Ask how many gallons of water the dishwasher uses during different cycles. Dishwashers that use the least amount of water will cost the least to operate.
Clothes Washers
ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide labels
Look for the EnergyGuide label that tells how much electricity, in kWh, the clothes washer will use in one year. The smaller the number, the less energy is uses. ENERGY STAR clothes washers use less than 50% of the energy used by standard washers. Look for the following design features that help clothes washers cut water usage: water level controls, "suds-saver" features, spin cycle adjustments, and large capacity. For double the efficiency, buy an ENERGY STAR unit.
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Content Last Updated: 1/22/2009