Which Appliances Bite Off the Most Energy in Our Homes?
Even in saving endeavors, some actions bear more fruit than others. That's why, in response to your feedback, we've compiled a list of the most energy-demanding household appliances. They deserve the most attention when trying to reduce your monthly utility bills. The article, therefore, contains tips and calculations on how to save money with each appliance.
Energy prices remain high and running a household continues to take more and more money out of the pockets of Central Europeans. In recent months, we have written blogs on how to save on gas, electricity, fuel, and unnecessary emotional purchases.
To make our advice more specific, we’ll discuss the group of appliances that "eat up" the most energy in average households this time. Each of these offers the potential to save tens of euros a year. Conversely, the remaining small appliances don't require as much attention, as they contribute smaller amounts to your monthly bill.
In this article, we will discuss several energy sources. It's thus a good idea to start by summarising their current prices. This table shows a summary of electricity and gas prices in the most common tariffs, based on the price list of Stredoslovenská energetika (prices of other suppliers differ minimally).
Note: For the sake of simplicity, the numbers in the English version of this blog are fitted to the Slovak market. If you wish to access the same computations in prices and currency of a specific CEE country, you can always access this blog in that country’s language.
You can find the article’s outline in the following table. Since some appliances are relevant to houses rather than flats, you can skip directly to the ones you are interested in by clicking on them:
- Refrigerator with Freezer
- Circulator Pump
- Washing Machine
- Tumble Dryer
Water heating is one of the highest expenses in every household. First of all, there are a few tips on how to save on it even without a large initial investment. Don't heat the water to unnecessarily high temperatures. 50 to 55 degrees suffice during warm months, 60 in winter.
Take primarily showers instead of a bath. Use cold water for personal hygiene. Beyond this advice, however, it's worth considering replacing your boiler, especially if it's more than 10 years old.
Modern models have significantly lower energy consumption. If you proceed with the replacement, however, you will face another dilemma – what type of energy to use. People most often decide whether to heat water using gas or electricity.
A gas boiler is more expensive in terms of price and installation costs (you need a gas connection, a chimney, etc.). The difference may therefore amount to €1,000 to €2,000. Annual servicing of gas devices is also more expensive, you will pay a few dozen euros extra for it.
In addition, some new properties no longer have access to gas, as the developer simply won't include it. On the contrary, the table in the introduction shows that electricity is several times more expensive than gas. Hence, the energy cost can make an electric boiler quite expensive over its lifetime.
Another option is to install a heat pump. In this case, however, expect high upfront costs. Depending on the type of house, a heat pump costs between 7 and 12 thousand euros.
However, even such a purchase can have a relatively short payback period, as the heat pump uses energy in the air or the ground as a source of heat. It only needs electricity to cover the outages and for air compression. It uses only a third of an electric boiler’s electricity consumption.
Each of these options can be combined with solar panels. As the sun shines less in winter, they cover 60-65% of the annual water heating consumption. The rest has to be covered using one of the appliances mentioned above.
In the coming years, it will be possible to obtain a subsidy of 50% (or even 95% in some cases) of the total installation cost of a heat pump or solar panels. Within the Recovery Plan realization, the state plans to renovate 30 thousand houses. With the subsidy, such investments can have fast paybacks thanks to energy savings.
The table above summarises the modeled costs for different energy sources. The calculations assume that 150 liters of water are heated to 50°C every day (the approximate consumption of a household with two children) and a 20% increase in consumption due to heat losses in the boiler and pipes. We also presume a 60% consumption coverage with solar panels and heat pumps being two-thirds more efficient than a standard electric boiler.
If you have an older boiler, you can compare its consumption costs with these estimates. You may find that utility savings would pay back the purchase price of one of the more modern heating methods within 5-10 years. This would save you money every month for the rest of the device’s life.
Please note that the calculations are approximate, and you should consult a professional when projecting the exact cost applying to your home.
We have described general tips to save on home heating in previous blogs. The furnace which powers the heating system deserves attention itself. First and foremost, regular servicing is important for its energy efficiency. Before each season, have an expert inspect it and clean clogged areas of the heat exchanger.
It costs between 50 and 100 euros. On the flip side, you'll save in three ways: lower utility bills, lower chance of costly breakdowns and longer furnace lifespan. Like boilers, there is the opportunity to replace the boiler if the current one is getting on in years and has high running costs.
You may consider a condensing furnace when taking this step. They capture the water vapor that would normally escape up the chimney and use its energy to heat your home. Hence, they need less fuel and use 10% less gas per year than conventional gas furnaces.
However, the installation costs are a bit higher. With all the necessary modifications, you can pay roughly 2,500 euros. Yet, it saves almost a third of energy compared to a 20-year-old non-condensing furnace. If you live in an insulated house with a floor area of 150 m2, paying €1,600 a year for heating, you will save €533 every year by replacing the device.
That means you’ll get your investment back in 4 and a half years and save hundreds of euros over the rest of its lifespan. Moreover, the installation of a condensing gas boiler is also included in the Recovery Plan's subsidy scheme (but keep checking the news, gas may be phased out due to the uncertainty over the conflict in Ukraine). If the state covered 50% of the cost, you would have the initial investment back in less than 2 and a half years.
Refrigerator with Freezer
This appliance contributes a high figure to the energy bill every year, mainly due to the need to keep it switched on all the time. Nevertheless, there are a few tips to reduce its energy consumption. Check the door gasket and replace it if cold air is leaking out.
Dust the condenser coils at the back every few months. Maintain the recommended internal temperature, every 2°C extra means an increase in consumption of about 15%. If you have an older fridge, again, the biggest potential savings may lie in replacing it.
According to some sources, the average age of fridges in Slovakia is as much as 15 years. These models can have an annual consumption of over 750 kWh. A modern fridge with energy label C can be bought for €600, with an estimated annual consumption of only 170 kWh.
At current electricity prices, this investment would have a payback period of 6 years, saving money over the rest of the fridge’s lifespan. As a bonus, you would get auto-defrost and other modern refrigerator features.
Speaking of replacing appliances, the easiest source of savings is an old circulator pump. This device supplies enough pressure to get water wherever it's needed in the home. In doing so, it must overcome pressure loss from pipe bends and valves.
Old pumps run at a fixed speed all day to provide the maximum possible pressure at any given time. However, this is only needed during a negligible part of the day when we use the most water. That’s why the device wastes a lot of electricity.
Modern circulator pumps regulate their speed according to the real need, saving energy. A new energy class A device saves 60% of the energy consumed by a class D pump. In a family house with a floor area of 120 m2, this saves around 470 kWh per year.
And it is very cheap to buy, energy class A can be found for 110 euros. At current electricity prices, this purchase will pay for itself in just one and a half years. A study by Europump highlighted this opportunity. It found that replacing all Europe’s circulator pumps with energy label D with class A pumps would save the annual output of several nuclear power stations.
Another appliance difficult to use less is the washing machine. It hides the potential to save money if you wash at high temperatures. With modern detergents, 30-40°C is sufficient. Lowering the washing temperature by 30°C can cut energy consumption by a quarter, as it doesn't take as much energy to heat the water.
You can also save money by washing for the night tariff charged in the evening after 10 pm, or earlier in the morning (applies if you live in a house or have tolerant neighbors). Don't use programs like 'pre-wash' unless you have very dirty laundry and turn on the eco mode. When changing the washing machine, also look at the water consumption, as each liter needs extra energy to heat up.
This time, buying a new washing machine doesn’t offer such a short payback period, especially because of the overall lower annual consumption. However, if you have a 20-year-old that will need replacing in a few years anyway, you won't lose anything by doing so. According to some sources, a new appliance will save around €25 per year compared to an old model.
Hence, if you buy a new washing machine for €350, the savings will pay for the investment in 14 years. With a 20-year lifespan, you would save during each of the 6 years after that, putting you in the black by about 150 euros.
Unlike previous appliances, the dryer can be used less frequently. Whenever the sun is shining outside, utilize traditional line drying. At the individual moments of taking wet clothes out of your washing machine, the small savings might not seem to be worth the waiting. However, if you use 550 kWh a year for drying, cutting your use by half will save you over 40 euros each year.
You can also reduce the dryer’s consumption by allowing warm air to flow more easily inside the appliance. This can be achieved by regularly cleaning the filter and untangling your clothes before you load them into the dryer.
When buying a new appliance, it pays to save longer and opt for a more expensive, energy-efficient model. A class B dryer costing €380 has an estimated annual consumption of 560 kWh. For a slightly higher price of €550, you can have an appliance with an annual consumption of 260 kWh. The table below shows the latter would save you more than 500 euros over 15 years (the DD2 electricity tariff was used in the calculation).
In some households, this device can account for as much as 15% of electricity costs. If you are only planning to buy a TV in the future, look for a model with OLED or LED display technology. They have a significantly better power consumption than plasma or LCD TVs.
Check the settings to see if you find a power-saving mode, or manually reduce the backlight and brightness to lower values. Don't leave your TV on in the background when chatting or reading a book.
Stand-by mode, in which the TV's indicator light is on, ready to be switched on with the remote control, eats up electricity as well. For newer TVs, this is not a large amount on its own (62 kWh per year) but combined with the stand-by mode of other appliances (e.g., a printer’s annual 136 kWh) it adds up to a fair amount of consumption. Hence, unplug those devices at least overnight.
You can also adopt a few money-saving habits in the kitchen. A pressure cooker consumes half the energy needed by a normal one. Add your oven to the checklist when performing house cleaning; grease build-up notably reduces its efficiency. Don't open the door while the oven is baking, as the hot air will escape, and the inside of the oven will have to be heated up again.
If you have a kitchen with an inefficient gas cooker or an old electric oven, calculate whether upgrading it would save you money. Buying a modern electric oven can save up to 330 kWh of electricity a year. If you buy it for €320 and bake on a daily tariff, you'll recover your investment in 6 years and 9 months.
When it comes to cookers, people most often choose between induction hobs and an energy-efficient gas model. Both the purchase price and running costs are lower with gas. Equipment such as a gas connection, however, can make the purchase cost significantly more expensive. At the same time, gas cookers are less safe and more difficult to clean.
Do you know other guaranteed ways to save on appliances that consume a lot of energy? Alternatively, do you know of other appliances that add a lot of money to your electricity bill and can be used less? Share with other intelligent investors in the comments.