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The true costs of major appliances
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The true price of a major appliance is what it costs to take out of the store, plus what it costs to run it once you get it home. Since appliances can account for a hefty portion of your monthly power bill, the lower price of an appliance on sale might not be much of a bargain if you end up paying higher electric bills for the next 10 years.
Before you buy a new major appliance, look at the energy-rating info. Laws require that manufacturers put Energy Guide labels on all major appliances. The labels must include the results of independent laboratory tests and information such as the capacity and estimated annual electrical consumption for a particular model, as well as for comparable models. EnergyStar appliances must additionally be much more efficient than other average models. (For more information, see
The U.S. Department of Energy has a Web site loaded with energy-saving information. At, click on appliances and electronics, and look for estimating appliance and home electronic energy use. Apply the formula to calculate the energy used by your current appliances and electronics, as well as any you intend to buy.
Remember to add in your “phantom” loads: appliances that use electricity even when they’re turned off. Examples of this are televisions and computers. To turn them completely off, cut the power via a power strip.
A big question among computer users is whether to turn the computer off during the day or to leave it on. A rule of thumb is to turn off the monitor if you won’t use it for 20 minutes, and both the monitor and computer if you won’t use them for two hours.
At, you can download a PDF booklet that covers saving energy, your home’s energy use, heating and cooling, windows, lighting, appliances, major appliances shopping guide and more.
Before you buy a major appliance, look online for ratings. If you subscribe to Consumer Reports, you can purchase yearly access to its online database of test results and recommendations. (It’s a few dollars less if you already subscribe to the magazine.) You can also buy a one-month subscription if you’re not likely to use the service for a whole year.

Uffington does not personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Write to him in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to
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