Energy Use in the Home, Part 2: Using Appliances
Welcome to the sixth installment of Sterling Ranch's crash course on energy! In this email, we'll be highlighting some key opportunities for using your appliances in an energy-conscious way.
Residential Energy Use
In last month's email, we introduced some information about the scale of impact that you can make by focusing on different areas of energy use in your home. While it's best to prioritize energy actions that address more energy-intensive systems such as space heating and cooling, energy use from appliances does still make up 27% of your home's overall energy expenditure according to the Energy Information Administration's (EIA) most recent 2015 data set represented in the figure to the right.1

Once you've considered the adjustments that you can make to the way you use your heating and cooling systems, there are lots of things that you can do to adjust the way you use your appliances to be more efficient. Read on below to find tips on how to best use specific appliances as well as information on what "phantom loads" are and how you can prevent them!
Energy Efficient Appliance Use
When it comes to appliance use, energy conservation doesn't have to stop at buying energy-efficient models when it comes time to purchase replacements. The way that you use your appliances can also have a real impact in your energy savings.
Laundry Machines
  • Most washing machines use the same amount of energy to run half-loads as they do full-loads. Reduce your energy use by making sure you're always running full loads.
  • Clear out the lint from your dryer after each load to improve air circulation and maintain maximum efficiency.
  • Utilize your machine's Cool-Down cycle to allow your clothes to finish drying using residual heat.2
Stoves and Ovens
  • When cooking on the stove, covering a pot with a lid saves 60% of the energy used in cooking compared to leaving the pot open.3
  • Match the size of the pot or pan that you use with the heating element that it's on to avoid wasting energy on heating a larger surface.
  • Instead of using energy to heat your oven up to cook dinner every day, consider planning your meals to where you can cook multiple items at once and get the most out of the energy used in cooking.
  • As with laundry machines, only run your dishwasher when it's full to reduce the amount of energy you use running multiple loads.
  • Let your dishes air dry. Some machines will have an automatic setting for this, while some need to be turned off after the rinse cycle finishes. Propping open the dishwasher door helps dishes dry faster.
  • Make sure that the seal on your refrigerator is air-tight and get it replaced if it isn't. If cold air is leaking out, your fridge has to work a lot harder to keep your food cold.
  • Make sure that food cools completely before you place in inside your refrigerator or freezer, and that it's covered so that your fridge doesn't have to use energy to correct its humidity and temperature.
  • Keep the temperature in your refrigerator between 35o-38oF. Maintaining the temperature lower doesn't add much benefit in keeping food fresher and uses additional energy.4
  • Take full advantage of your smart home capabilities and program the smart thermostat that comes built into your STEWARD package to cycle off during any routine times when your home is typically empty.
  • The US Department of Energy recommends that thermostats are programmed to keep occupied living spaces at 78oF in the summer and 68oF in the winter.5
Phantom Loads

Did you know that some devices use energy even when they're turned off if they remain plugged into a power outlet? These "phantom" or "vampire" loads are small for individual devices, but when you add up the energy cost of all of your plugged in appliances over a month or whole year, they have the potential to result in a substantial amount of energy use. Watch the following video if you're interested in learning more about how phantom loads can add up!

If you're looking to make your home as energy-efficient as possible, the following are some steps you can take to address phantom loads in your home!

1. Figure out where the largest phantom loads are in your home

Not all appliances draw the same phantom load, and some don't have one at all! Pay special attention to devices that have a "standby" mode such as cable systems and computer monitors, because these devices pull electricity from the grid in order to be able to turn on at a moment's notice.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory studied the size of phantom loads for a host of different appliances on the market to create a table of average standby power use by appliance type. This table is helpful for seeing the scale of phantom loads relative to each other so that you can address the biggest loads in your home. In general, some of the biggest offenders to watch out for are printers, TVs, video game systems, device chargers, and voice-activated devices.6
2. Come up with a plan to avoid these loads

It can be cumbersome to unplug and re-plug every appliance you have every time you use it, so after figuring out which appliances in your home have the greatest phantom loads, focus on those. There are 2 main options for avoiding these loads:

  1. Get in the habit of unplugging these appliances after each use if their outlet connection is accessible.
  2. Concentrate appliances that create notable phantom loads onto one or two power strips so that you can turn off or unplug all of them at once! Look into buying smart power strips to make this even easier. Smart power strips can turn off secondary appliances plugged into the strip when a "control" appliance is turned off, making it possible to turn off entire appliance clusters at once without having to manually switch off the strip.

Tips for Energy Action
  • Read through the above notes on how to use your appliances efficiently. Which can be easily incorporated into your routine appliance use? Consider taking some time to focus on optimizing your use of one or two types of appliances and making slow, sustainable changes in your appliance habits.
  • Consider identifying at least one cluster of small appliances in your home that can be easily consolidated onto a power strip (such as a computer setup with monitors, speakers, a keyboard, and printer) and consolidate the cluster. Focus on building the habit of unplugging or switching off the power strip between uses.
  • Once you strengthen your reflexes for unplugging appliances, identify what other appliances in your home have accessible power connections and assess which ones you'd like to focus on unplugging between uses.
  • Check out Xcel Energy's refrigerator recycling program to learn more about how you can earn a rebate for recycling your old refrigerator when it comes time for it to be replaced.
  • Check out the Xcel Energy Store to find discounts on a wide range of energy-saving appliances!