Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The New Black Refrigerator, and Other Energy-Saving Appliances

The electric company might wonder where I went.

I already had below-average electric consumption three years ago when I decided I wanted to replace my home appliances with newer ones that would consume less electricity. It was a longer process than I imagined, but one I probably finished today, replacing my 1987 refrigerator with a new one made in 2014. The old refrigerator was still working and might have kept going with some auto-style body work on the refrigerator door, but there were other reasons just to rely on duct tape to keep the refrigerator closed in the interim and order a whole new refrigerator. The biggest reason was the electric bill. I estimated I would save $28 per month by replacing my 1980s refrigerator with an ordinary current refrigerator design. The required Energy Guide labels have led manufacturers to find ways to make appliances like refrigerators more efficient. When you look at what refrigerators cost now — actually less in nominal terms than they did in the 1980s — I can expect to break even on the new refrigerator in August 2016. After that I will just be saving money. That’s a very good investment — an ROI around 60 percent, if you’re keeping score that way. The new refrigerator is black, by the way, just because that was the one color that was on sale, but I’ve been telling my friends I got black because “black is the new black.”

A year earlier, on the other side of the kitchen, I replaced the dishwasher. In the basement, it was the well pump, water heater, washer, and dryer. During the same two years I replaced most of my old-style light bulbs with LED light bulbs. The combined effect is that my home electric consumption in an ordinary month will be about what it used to be when I was away on vacation. (Well, I might call it a vacation, but in truth, I was away working somewhere in some capacity.) I spent thousands of dollars in total but may have already recovered a quarter of that in lower electric bills.

There is just one thing that is slightly off about the new refrigerator. It is lit inside by a plain old 40-watt light bulb, a ridiculous waste of energy that surely could be replaced with an equally bright 5.5 watt bulb. That, though, is a problem for another day.