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FIGHT BACK\Energy-efficient new appliances a plus.

Byline: David Horowitz

As winter deepens, homeowners are naturally concerned about controlling energy costs, especially on heating. And it's certainly something to bear in mind when shopping for major appliances.

In the past few years, appliance manufacturers have made tremendous improvements in energy efficiency. In the long run, savings in operating costs make high quality, better engineered appliances cheaper to own than ordinary, less expensive ones.

Refrigerators are the third largest users of household energy after space and water heating. Twenty years ago, a typical refrigerator used 1,500 to 1,800 kilowatt hours of electricity a year. In most areas, that's about $120 to $145 a year at today's utility rates. And because refrigerators and freezers are so reliable, many old units are still in use.

But thanks to advances in compressors, motor designs and insulation, modern freezer-top refrigerators use only about half as much electric power. Side-by-side refrigerator-freezers are slightly less efficient than freezer-top models because the large doors let in more warm air each time they're opened. Optional features like automatic ice makers and door-front water dispensers also use more electricity. But even the fanciest new models cost less to operate than an old refrigerator.

Similar improvements have made dishwashers more energy-efficient. The best ones have dual pumps, sound-dampening insulation and internal heaters to bring the wash water up to sterilizing temperatures. Several models feature internal computers that monitors washing cycles for optimum efficiency. These units save both electricity and gas by reducing demand on the hot-water heater.

Washing clothes uses a huge amount of hot water every year. But a new Swedish-designed washing machine claims to cut water use from an average of 50 gallons per load to as little as 11 gallons. Asko washing machines also reduce water heating costs by heating the wash water internally to more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is far hotter than you want your water heater set.

Water heaters themselves are undergoing significant design changes. New tankless models provide a constant source of hot water and usually cut energy use by around 15 percent. These units heat the water as it passes through a heat exchanger - there's no tank to keep hot at all times. And since there's no tank to rust out, these heaters can last a lifetime. Tankless heaters are available in gas, propane and fully electric models.

There are all kinds of ways to cut space heating (and cooling) costs - good insulation, weatherstripping, double-pane windows and "intelligent" thermostats that reduce heating automatically at night or when the family is away from home during the day.

By constantly circulating air throughout the house, ceiling fans can help eliminate hot and cold spots, especially in homes with high ceilings and open lofts. That means the thermostat can more accurately sense the temperature inside the house as a whole. But beware of cheaply made fans. They're often unreliable, and if the blades aren't carefully balanced, they'll develop a wobble and the motors will begin to hum or grind.

When shopping for any new appliance, check the federal energy guide sticker. That will let you compare the average annual cost of operating various models, and you can choose the ones that will pay you back in energy savings.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 3, 1996
Words:538
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