One of the most easily underestimated impacts on the utility bill at home is the difference a new Energy Star refrigerator can make when compared to an older model.
As potentially embarrassing as it is to admit, my current home has a refrigerator that's so old I hesitate to use the modifier "older" because that would make it sound as if it's not quite the ancient thing that it is. I don't know the precise age, since it only came into my world as a used model, but it wouldn't be out of line to say that it was easily in existence around the time Madonna first made it big on MTV in the mid-80's. Yes, as the joke goes, back when MTV actually played music videos.
Although my home is small, at just 1,250 square feet, my monthly utility bills hover in the $200 range. I have been curious how much of this is eaten up by my rickety old refrigerator. It's accepted knowledge that new Energy Star units use up to 65 percent less electricity than pre-1980 models. Even 15- to 20-year old refrigerators suck up electricity at an unbelievable rate.
Luckily, it's not difficult to figure out how much a unit is costing to operate. Energy Star offers an online calculator that determines how much an older refrigerator or freezer costs to operate compared to a new model.
I plugged in the basic info on my refrigerator, and found out that it costs me an astonishing $1,768 a year to run. That's $147 a month. Meanwhile, a comparably sized Energy Star unit would cost only $325 annually. The $1,000-plus annual savings will easily pay for the expense of a new refrigerator.
So when you buy a new refrigerator, think twice before tucking the old one into the basement for extra storage. The cost of operating even a 12-year-old unit is several hundred dollars a year more than a new Energy Star appliance.
As they say, knowledge is power. And now that I'm armed with my new knowledge, I'm outta here. And off to buy a new fridge.
Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.