If you’re looking for a new large appliance, then you have likely come across the term “ENERGY STAR®” and you may be wondering what it actually means. Although it’s seen as a label on many appliances, it isn’t often actually explained.


ENERGY STAR® is a long-standing government program that sets standards for energy efficiency. Standards are set not just for appliances, but for commercial and residential buildings. The program also helps standardize efficiency programs across different providers.

It started in 1992, and when it comes to appliances and electronics, it sets performance requirements across the board, for appliances ranging from washing machines to computers. The requirements are constantly being reviewed and updated as technology improves.

Why Buy an ENERGY STAR Appliance?

There are several reasons why you should make sure every appliance you buy carries the ENERGY STAR® label

  1. It saves money. In 2018, certified products saved about 200 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, reducing collective energy costs by $20 billion. This is particularly important with large appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators.
  2. It helps the environment. In the same year, certified products reduced greenhouse gas emissions from household appliances by about 150 million metric tons.
  3. If you get an appliance that passes ENERGY STAR Most Efficient, then you can be sure that you are not sacrificing significant performance in order to get these savings. In fact, they are actually more efficient in terms of performance and time. For example, if you buy an ENERGY STAR washer and dryer you will be able to wash and dry more clothes in a single load, saving time.

If you have an older appliance, you can easily recoup the cost of replacing it in reduced operating costs. (Also, replacing an older appliance before it breaks altogether can save money and inconvenience and allow you to shop for a replacement with a lot less stress).

Do ENERGY STAR Appliances Cost More?

But what about the up front cost? ENERGY STAR® appliances cost between $50 and $200 more than less efficient models. However, the operating cost savings are such that you can recoup that difference in as little as two years. So, it’s a relatively small price premium and the ROI on it is sufficient.

How to Choose the Most Efficient Appliance

In addition to looking for the ENERGY STAR® label, there are a few other things you can do to help make sure you are choosing the best option. The first is to buy as big as you need, but no bigger. Unless you are planning on expanding your family, buy a refrigerator that is no bigger than what you need to store food. Also avoid side-by-side refrigerators; while they may be more convenient, they use considerably more energy.

Also look for the EnergyGuide label, which is a big yellow sticker that compares how much energy a model uses in its category. It’s not always one hundred percent reliable, but it’s a useful tool.

Again, it’s best to shop a bit before the estimated end of life of your current appliance so you aren’t wandering around an appliance store in a panic. At the very least, make some decisions about what to replace it with so that if you do need to, you can do so quickly.

You will also need to get your large appliance installed. This is generally not something the average person can do themselves when it comes to the required electrical upgrades. You should hire a licensed electrician, who can safely install your new appliance. If you’re about to buy a new refrigerator, washing machine, or other new appliance, contact Penny Electric to talk about getting it properly installed.