Fact:

Contrary to common belief, only about 45% of households in Australia own an air conditioner.

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Buying Appliances Tips

Choosing an efficient air conditioner
The most important thing to look for with an air conditioner is the star rating. You need to work out what size you require for the task and then choose the most efficient model that will perform the task.
 
There are three kinds of Energy Rating labels for air conditioners. The one for cooling-only models has a blue band of stars and a blue box for the energy consumption figure. As the name implies, these air conditioners only have a cooling mode. The label for reverse-cycle models has two bands of stars. The blue band shows the efficiency when cooling, and the red band shows the efficiency when heating. There are also two energy consumption figures - blue for cooling and red for heating. As the name implies, the term reverse cycle means that the operation of the air conditioner can be internally reversed to provide indoor heating or cooling as required - the principle used for both modes is the same. There is also a label for heating only models (with no cooling function) but these are unusual in Australia.
 
The two main types of air conditioners for household use are window-wall systems and split systems. While both can be equally efficient, split systems tend to be more efficient for a particular size range as their components are generally less constrained by size (although this is not always true). Split systems have the advantage of being quieter indoors during operation but they are also more expensive. Some larger houses may choose ducted or packaged units. Be sure to check the stars before you buy.

Find out more at: Energy Rating
Buying a Dishwasher
About 30% of households in Australia own a dishwasher. Dishwashers are generally used between 4 and 7 times per week, although this varies by household.
 
The water efficiency of dishwashers is shown in the form of a star rating on the water rating label (WELS scheme) which is now mandatory for display in store showrooms. The WELS website contains a database of water star ratings for all dishwashers.
 
Water connection mode is important for a dishwasher:
  • Cold water connection will use the least energy - the dishwasher heats its own water only for the parts of the cycle where hot water is needed, but the energy (in the form of electricity) generally costs more (unless you are on a time of use tariff, which is still unusual for households, and run the machine overnight).
  • If you have a gas or solar hot water system, models that can be connected to both hot and cold water will save carbon dioxide and operating costs, but models with dual connection are now rare. You will also save energy costs if you have an off peak electric hot water system.
  • A dishwasher connected only to hot water will use the most energy, although it may be marginally more economical if you have off peak electric, solar or mains gas hot water.
 
Find out more at: Energy Rating
Buying a Clothes Washer
More than 95% of households in Australia own a clothes washer. Clothes washers are used on average about 7 times per week, although this varies considerably by household.

When purchasing a new clothes washer, consider the following:
  • Select the size you need. A larger machine than necessary will cost more and will probably use more energy than is necessary. Look for a model that has automatic load sensing and water level adjustment - this will ensure that the minimum amount of water and energy is used for each load, even when you need to wash a small load. At least make sure that there is a variable water level so that you can wash small loads efficiently.
  • Select a model that can wash in cold water. Although the washing performance is generally reduced when you use cold water, you typically save 80% to 90% of the energy. Even if you only use cold water washing half of the time, you will be saving nearly half the energy. Ensuring that there is a cold rinse option for all of the common programs is also important.
  • Spin performance is important, especially if you dry some or all of your loads in a clothes dryer. There are good and bad spin performers in both top and front loading models, so check the spin performance on the web site for those models you are considering.
  • Look for a machine that has both a hot and cold water connection - if you use solar, gas or off peak electric hot water, the total cost of energy will be greatly reduced for those loads which you do wash on a warm setting. Internal water heating is generally more expensive, although front loading machines use less water and less energy overall, so the cost differential is not that great.
  • Suds saver options are important for those areas where water supplies are limited and there can be energy savings as well.

Find out more at: Energy Rating
Buying a Refrigerator and Freezer
The refrigerator is the single biggest power consumer in many households. A typical refrigerator uses between 600 and 900 kilowatt hours per year, although an efficient one will use somewhat less (depending on the size). Refrigerators and freezers typically make up over 20% of total residential electricity consumption. Nearly all households have at least one refrigerator and about 30% own two. Nearly 60% of households own a separate freezer.

When buying a new refrigerator, consider the following:
  • Make sure you check the energy label before you buy.
  • Generally, the larger the refrigerator, the greater the energy consumption. A model that is too large will waste space and energy; too small could mean extra trips to the supermarket and inconvenience.
  • It is usually less costly to run one larger refrigerator than two smaller ones, but check the energy consumption on the label when assessing the options.
  • Two door refrigerators with a top or bottom freezer are generally more efficient than side by side models - check the stars and the energy consumption before you buy.
  • Automatic ice-makers and through-the-door dispensers will increase both the energy use (typically 100 to 150 kilowatt hours/year) and the purchase price.
  • Manual defrost models have tended to use less energy than frost free models (automatic defrost), but these must be defrosted periodically to remain energy efficient. However, the best frost free models on the market are now as good as manual defrost models - check the energy label!
  • If two different sized refrigerators use the same amount of energy, the larger model can be considered more efficient because it keeps more space cold with same amount of electricity. 

Find out more at: Energy Rating
Buying a Dryer
About 55% of households in Australia own a clothes dryer. You can save a significant amount of energy by buying a model that senses dryness and automatically shuts off.
 
Clothes dryer uses varies widely, with some households using them as little as once per month while others use them to dry every load that they wash. If you are a moderate to heavy user of a dryer, it is important to pay particular attention to the star rating when you buy, but you may also want to consider a gas fired dryer which, although more expensive to buy and install, will be cheaper to run, dry faster and have lower greenhouse gas emissions. (Gas dryers do not have star rating labels in Australia). Another option is a heat pump dryer which is extremely efficient, but is also substantially more expensive to buy.
 
Find out more at: Energy Rating
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