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Your refrigerator is the fifth most energy-consuming appliance in your home.

At some point, all of us have randomly stared at an appliance in the home — say your TV or refrigerator — and thought, “Dang, that thing must use a ton of electricity….” or perhaps even, “I wonder how much energy that thing uses…” This especially happens to us when we get a larger electricity bill that we’d expected. 

Such thoughts prompted us to do a bit of research on the subject of which appliances use the most energy in our homes. And after some serious consideration, we’re ready to announce the winner.

*drum roll*

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It’s your HVAC! What a shocker…

As Texans, this is insultingly obvious. We didn’t need a report from the U.S. government to tell us that our air conditioner uses the most energy in our homes. However, you should know that several other household appliances use a larger chunk of energy than you might realize. For example, your water heater and lighting account for nearly a quarter of your energy bill! 

So, rather than just telling you the obvious, we compiled a list of the 10 most energy-consuming appliances in your home and matched them with tips on how you can maximize your energy savings by reducing their consumption. We’ve even added insights for those pesky “miscellaneous” appliances. 

Top 10 Appliances that Use the Most Energy in Your Home (In Order)

  1. Air conditioner
  2. Space heating
  3. Water heater
  4. Lighting
  5. Refrigerator
  6. TVs and electronics
  7. Dryer
  8. Ceiling fans
  9. Cooking
  10. Microwave

To be clear, this situation isn’t the same for everyone, though. Many factors can influence how much electricity a home uses, including: 

  • Geography 
  • Climate
  • Type of home 
  • Number of appliances
  • Family size

Such variables can alter the amount of energy each appliance in your home uses. For example, a family of four living in a single-family home in Georgia will use power much differently than a person living alone in a tiny apartment in New York City. 

So, it’s important to remember that the percentages you see below are approximations reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. They represent an average of how much the energy usage of a typical home goes toward these appliances. While these numbers are backed by data, we recommend taking them with a grain of salt when it comes to estimating the actual energy usage in your home. 

1. Air Conditioner ~17% of Your Total Energy Usage

The “AC” part of HVAC, your air conditioner is most likely the lifeblood of your home, so there’s a reason why it eats the largest chunk of your energy bill! As Texans, we can’t help but love this monster of a device, but it’s time to tame the air conditioning beast. We have two tips to reduce your AC’s energy load in the summer:

  • Use 75 °F as your base temperature. We get it. For some people, this setting makes them feel like they’re in a furnace, so we understand if you need to set it lower. But the more you turn down your thermostat, the more energy you will use and the higher your electric bill will be. 
  • When you’re not home, always set your thermostat to 78 °F. If no one’s home, you shouldn’t waste electricity keeping your home cool. The closer your home’s temperature is to the outside, the more savings you’ll see on your electric bill. 

2. Space Heating ~15% of Your Total Energy Usage

The same basic concept used for your air conditioner in summer applies for when it’s cold outside, but instead of turning your thermostat up, you should turn it as low as it can go where you’re still comfortable. We have two specific recommendations for changing how you use your heater so you save the most on your electric bills: 

  • Use 68 °F as your base temperature. This has proven to be the temperature with the maximum energy efficiency, savings, and comfort. However, if you can stand even lower temperatures, feel free to turn your thermostat down further! 
  • When you’re not home, set it to 58 – 60 °F. Per the Department of Energy, you can save up to 10% of your heating and cooling costs by turning your thermostat back 7°-10 °F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.1

3. Water Heater ~14% of Your Total Energy Usage

In terms of energy usage, heating water is not far behind from heating and cooling. This one definitely surprised us. Luckily, though this is the third most energy-consuming appliance in your home, our three tips will help you shave a little off your energy bill, and they require little to NO effort:

  • Insulate your water tank. If your water heater feels warm to the touch, then it’s not insulated properly. Buy an insulation blanket for your tank. It’s not that expensive and can save you 7-16% on water heating costs.2 
  • Change the factory settings. Your water heater probably is still set at the factory setting of 140 °F. The EPA suggests you turn it down by 20 degrees for safety and savings.3 You won’t even notice it in the shower, but you’ll definitely see it on your bill.
  • Use less hot water. We realize this is the most obvious tip ever, but the amount of hot water you use is directly proportional to how much energy your water heater uses. Reduce your water usage in every possible format: handwashing, rinsing vegetables, showering, dishwashing and laundry.

4. Lighting ~10% of Your Total Energy Usage

Let’s go beyond the typical “turn off the lights” tip. Instead, we recommend that you replace your archaic incandescent light bulbs with modern LED ones. This improved light bulb technology uses much less energy and can last for years. 

Just by replacing FIVE of the most frequently used bulbs in your home, you can save up to $75 per year in electricity costs.4 Now, imagine how much you could save if you replaced ALL of your light bulbs.

5. Refrigerator(s) ~7% of Your Total Energy Usage

If there’s one really interesting tidbit we learned throughout our research, it’s that Americans love refrigerators. In fact, nearly 1 out of every 4 Americans have a second fridge, which doubles their consumption percentage. So, to save money on refrigeration in your home, follow these three tips:

  • Clean the condenser coils. If your fridge is constantly humming and has trouble staying cool, the condenser coils likely need to be wiped free of dust and debris. 
  • Buy an ENERGY STAR fridge. This is not a recommendation that you go out and buy a new fridge for the fun of it. But when your current fridge finally gives out and you need a new one, you should look for the blue ENERGY STAR logo. These are the most energy-efficient models on the market and could save you hundreds.
  • Get rid of the extra refrigerator. Unless you really need that second refrigerator (like really need it because you have a large family and need the extra storage), you should probably say goodbye and recycle it. It can cost an additional $125 on your electricity bill each year just by having it plugged in your garage.6

6. TVs & Electronics ~7% of Your Total Energy Usage

Many of your electronics still use power when you’re not using them — even if they’re technically “turned off.” That means you’re just wasting energy. Examples include TVs, computers, clock radios, printers and DVD players. Here are two ways you can reduce the amount of energy your consumer electronics consume:

  • Buy power strips. Plug all electronics into a power strip and flip off the switch when not in use.
  • Lower your TV’s brightness. Set your television to the “home” or “standard” setting to reduce its brightness. This one-time step reduces your TV’s energy use by 18%-30%.7

7. Dryer ~5% of Your Total Energy Usage

We’re finally getting into the appliances that don’t use a lot of energy on the surface, but whose energy consumption could still be reduced. We have two tips for helping your dryer use less energy:

  • Air-dry your clothes. Since your more delicate clothing items should be air-dried anyway, why not air-dry most or all of them? While this isn’t ideal for people living in an apartment or townhome, it’s easy to hang them on a clothesline if you have a backyard.
  • Utilize the “cool down” setting. If you don’t want to air-dry your clothes, you can always use the “cool-down” cycle available on most modern dryers. This option lets the remaining heat finish drying your clothes.

8. Ceiling Fans ~2% of Your Total Energy Usage

This tip might sound counterintuitive to the overall tone of this blog post, but we want your ceiling fans to consume MORE energy. Hear us out.

The reason is simple: Ceiling fans can make a room feel cooler and warmer without excessive use of the HVAC. The fan pushes the air across your skin, helping cool or warm you so you don’t need to keep your HVAC cranked all the time So, even though you’re technically using more energy to operate your ceiling fans, you’re comparably using way less energy than you would have if you turned the AC down or turned the heat up. 

9. Cooking ~1.5% of Your Total Energy Usage

“Cooking” in and of itself doesn’t use that much energy in terms of the actual appliances. However, the heat produced warms up your home quickly, which causes the AC to kick in. It then becomes a battle between your AC and your oven, each constantly offsetting the other. This becomes a problem in the summer, especially when you’re trying to NOT overtax your HVAC. We’ve assembled three tips to address this issue:

  • Use your microwave. Your microwave is much more energy-efficient than your oven. This option isn’t ideal for cooking meat, but you should use the microwave for nearly anything else! 
  • Skip preheating the oven. Just pop that casserole in as soon as you turn on the oven. You don’t even need to adjust the cooking time.
  • Cook outside. This one is great for the summer months when it’s nice out.

10. Microwave ~1.1% of Your Total Energy Usage

This is another appliance that we recommend you use more frequently than you might normally. As we just mentioned, microwaves are a huge energy saver, especially because they don’t add heat to your home like your oven and stove. So, even though you’ll be increasing its energy usage, it can save you more money in the long run. 

Other Ways to Reduce Your Electricity Consumption at Home

You thought we were finished, didn’t you? Think again! At Chariot, we have an endless number of tips to help you save money by reducing your residential electricity usage so you receive a smaller electricity bill. To read 29 more tips on how you can conserve energy, click here.


Sources:

  1. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/thermostats
  2. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/services/do-it-yourself-energy-savings-projects/savings-project-insulate-your-water
  3. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/services/do-it-yourself-energy-savings-projects/savings-project-lower-water-heating
  4. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/save-electricity-and-fuel/lighting-choices-save-you-money/how-energy-efficient-light 
  5. https://money.cnn.com/2016/05/27/news/economy/23-percent-of-american-homes-have-2-fridges/index.html
  6. https://www.energystar.gov/products/appliances/refrigerators 
  7. https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2017/10/f37/Energy_Saver_Guide-2017-en.pdf