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What’s cookin’ with old kitchen appliances?

Most new appliances use much less energy than they did in the past, thanks to a combination of technological improvements by manufacturers and tighter federal appliance standards. 

It may seem like the oldest appliance should be the first to go, which may make sense if you want the looks and features of a newer oven or dishwasher. But with most appliances, the energy savings you get from a new model will take years to pay for itself with the energy saved. 

The appliance replacement most likely to produce the greatest energy savings is your refrigerator. An older fridge can cost about $20 per month to run. Replacing an old fridge with a new ENERGY STAR-rated model can cut that down to less than $5 a month. The ENERGY STAR label certifies that the appliance saves energy. A new refrigerator will include an additional label, the Energy Guide label, which shows how much energy it uses annually and compares that with the most and least efficient models. 

You also can measure how much energy your fridge is using with a kilowatt-hour (kWh) meter. Energy auditors use these meters to measure energy use for common household appliances. Sometimes the energy use of an older fridge can be reduced simply by replacing the seal around the door. 

When you’re looking to replace an old fridge, style counts. A top-freezer setup is the most efficient, while a bottom-freezer unit offers medium savings; a side-by-side style is the least energy efficient. 

The runners-up 

If your current fridge is in good condition, you may want to consider upgrading the dishwasher. With most of us spending more time at home these days, chances are you’re using your dishwasher more than you used to. 

If you just need more freezer space, simply get the most efficient freezer you can find—look for recommendations at

As with any major purchase, be sure to read customer reviews for brands and models you’re considering, and look for additional opportunities to save money, like a Presidents Day appliance sale.

PAT KEEGAN and BRAD THIESSEN write on energy efficiency for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. 

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