During an energy audit today*, I was surprised to see the resident’s electricity usage on a recent utility bill. It was about “average” for a household in the area, but seemed high for an elder one-person household. Most bulbs were CFLs or fluorescent, and no teenagers — and their computers and gadgets- nor giant plasma TV in sight. I was puzzled.
That is, until I saw the old freezer in the garage. And then the 2nd even bigger full-sized refrigerator in the enclosed patio. These are definitely culprits in driving up this resident’s electricity bill!
The refrigerator is among the top household energy-using appliances (along with washing machine and clothes dryer, and pool pump). The newer Energy Star appliances are a lot better than the old ones, so this is a good place to think about tackling energy usage.
Here’s what I learned about the resident’s appliances. The freezer was very old — at least 20-25 years? — and the bottom half was filled with ice. She no longer needed to feed six people; she was planning to get a smaller one. “Good idea,” I said.
As for the extra fridge, she said she was planning to remove it, but I didn’t hear a sense of urgency. The temperature in the fridge and freezer was on the warm side, so instead of recommending she lower the temperature (and increase energy usage), I suggested moving the frozen food into the garage freezer — which was at a better temperature and had extra room– and take out the stuff in the refrigerator since most — many cans of soda — didn’t need refrigeration anyway.
Replacing old appliances with energy-efficient ones is often considered an unattractive option for older homeowners who won’t benefit from the long payback period. However, this is a case where it makes a lot of sense.
- This resident’s city, Palo Alto, has a refrigerator recycling program. Not only will they pick up the fridge (or two) for FREE, but they give a $35 rebate (for each appliance)!
According to the Energy Star Refrigerator Retirement Savings Calculator:
- Replacing the freezer with a smaller one will save about $50-$70 in energy, annually
- Removing the extra refrigerator will save about $140 in energy, annually
So let’s say this resident decides to buy a smaller replacement freezer (7.2 or 8.8 cu. ft) that costs $300. With $70 in rebates, and annual energy cost savings of $190-$210, the payback period would be about 1.5 years!
Of course this is just one example, but I suspect it’s not unusual for people to have appliances that are no longer used like they once were; where once there was a need to have enough food for a family of 4 (or 6 in this case) and now there is only one with occasional guests.
Is that extra fridge or freezer in the garage really necessary? Could a smaller one do the job? Do you have a relative or neighbor who might benefit from a recycling/rebate program?
* I have been conducting residential energy audit’s through a local program which serves Palo Alto, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Menlo Park and Redwood City, California: Acterra’s Green@Home.