If you’re buying new, choose an Energy Star fridge and washer and the most efficient stove and dryer you can afford. An Energy Star label, by the way, doesn’t mean an appliance is the most efficient, period. It simply means it’s better than others of the same size and with similar features.
For fridges, top-mounted freezers are most efficient, followed by bottom-mount and, the worst, side-by-side. Ice makers and other add-ons increase energy consumption.
Clothes washers can be front- or top-loading. Top-loaders use more water and energy, but they don’t rattle around as much and are less likely to need repairs. Since up to 90 per cent of the energy use comes from heating the water, the biggest potential saving comes from using cold water for the wash and rinse.
Dryers are pretty much what they are. Natural gas versions are more efficient than electric.
The best stoves operate by induction — using magnetism instead of heating up an element to cook food. They apply 90 per cent of the energy consumption to cooking, compared with 65 per cent for a regular electric stove and up to 75 per cent for smooth-top models. But induction stoves typically cost more than $4,000. It might seem counterintuitive, but self-cleaning ovens use less electricity, mainly because they’re built with better insulation to contain the high heat of the cleaning cycle. Natural gas is less efficient than electricity right at the stovetop, but it’s better overall because of the massive energy consumption involved in producing and transmitting electricity.