Thursday, April 26, 2007

Energy Star: Save Money & Reduce Emissions

A couple of days ago I ran a post about how driving a Hybrid vehicle is not the most cost effective way to help the environment. In honor of Earth Day which was celebrated earlier this week, this is another post about the interface between personal finance and the environment.

A very effective way to help reduce carbon emissions while also saving some money, is to purchase Energy Star rated appliances. The Energy Star program is a voluntary program run by the EPA, which awards the Energy Star certification to appliances and other products that meet certain EPA criteria for energy efficiency. Here is a quote taken directly from the Energy Star website:

"Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved enough energy in 2006 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 25 million cars — all while saving $14 billion on their utility bills."
Now that's what I call major environmental impact, with a healthy dose of "save yer money". To take advantage of this excellent program all you need to do is check the Energy Star website before you purchase your next appliance, renovate your home, or install a new traffic light... seriously, they have Energy Star certifications for those as well.

One more word of advice: when you do get that Energy Star rated appliance, be sure to use it at off peak hours (such as late evening). For one thing, some utility companies charge their customers variable rates for using electricity depending on the time of day when the power is used. However, if you want to help reduce carbon emissions, the real reason to use appliances at off-peak hours is that the energy you use is cleaner...

How can that be? Very simple. Newer, less polluting power sources are typically also cheaper to operate. At off-peak hours, those are typically enough to address all the demand for power. However, at peak demand those cleaner power sources are not sufficient, and more polluting and expensive power plants are brought online to supplement power production. This means that running your washing machine or air conditioner during peak demand hours causes more pollution than running them during off-peak times.

The Energy Star program gives consumers an excellent opportunity to do the right thing, while also making money. How can you go wrong?


Joel Rotem said...

How about cost/performance? When I bought my washer/dryer I paid $500 total while the Energy Star models cost $1200.

Shadox said...

Cost effectiveness is certainly an issue and should be considered when making buying decisions. I am not suggesting that in every case one should buy an Energy Star rated appliance, only that you should look at the available options before making a decision.

In many cases, the price of an Energy Star rated product will not significantly exceed the price of an uncertified product, or if there is a price difference it will be acceptable given the ongoing energy savings you can expect.

As always, common sense is the best tool for the job.

Willster said...

Just to give a typical example, looking off an appliance retailer's website you can get the following two equivalent 8,000 BTU window A/C units:

X-Brand 8000, non-energy star
820 watts
9.8 EER (energy efficiency rating)

X-Brand 8001, energy star compliant
720 watts
10.8 EER

100 watts difference, $.08/kWh (+/-) for energy costs. It would take 5000 hours (208 days) usage for the energy star device to make up it's price difference.

Obviously, for a home unit or central air system, the savings are going to be substantially more. But, given you use the product for years to come (energy prices will undoubtedly just keep rising as well) you'll definitely be making both a good investment for your pocket book and the enviroment.