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How to use your appliances more efficiently

By Rachel England Wednesday 15 May 2013

It’s no secret that upgrading to newer, more energy-efficient appliances can save you a tidy sum on your energy bills, not to mention drastically reduce your carbon footprint. But time, space and financial constraints often mean that simply refitting and replacing isn’t practical. Instead, take steps to do the best with what you already have. Here are our top tips for using your appliances more efficiently, whether they’re brand new or on their last legs.

Fridges and freezers

Fridges and freezers

  • Set your fridge to 3-4°c and your freezer to between -15°c and -18°c. Every degree lower than this uses up to 5% more energy
  • Keep your fridge away from direct sunlight and other sources of heat, such as ovens and radiators
  • Allow food to cool before putting it in the fridge. This stops the appliance from having to work harder to keep the interior cool (but don’t let food sit at room temperature for too long!)
  • Make sure there’s at least 7.5cm of space around your fridge. Restricting ventilation can jack up running costs by as much as 15%
  • Keep your freezer well-stocked. Food and packages catch and store cold air, reducing the workload of the freezer

Dishwashers

Dishwashers

Dishwashers already consume less energy than washing the same number of items by hand, but there are additional ways to keep costs and energy use down:

  • Avoid pre-rinsing dishes in hot water – scrape leftovers into the bin instead, or use the rinse cycle until it’s time to properly clean a full load
  • Use the shortest, coolest cycle if there’s no ‘eco option’ available
  • Only run your dishwasher once it’s full, but be careful not to overload the machine, as this may mean dishes aren’t cleaned thoroughly and you’ll just have to use more energy to get them sparkling!

Washing machines

Washing machines

  • Wash clothes at the lowest temperature possible – most good quality detergents will clean thoroughly at 30°c
  • That said, some claim that dissolving powder detergent before you add it to the washing machine will help improve its performance in cold water
  • Try to wash full loads where possible, but make sure to adjust the water level if you do have to run a smaller load

Tumble dryers

Tumble dryers

  • Spin clothes well before drying them. An extra spin in the washing machine will use less power than the additional time a dryer would require to get clothes dry
  • Don’t mix heavy clothes with lighter items, as this will increase the time needed to get everything dry
  • Don’t overload! More clothes mean longer drying cycles, which means way more energy consumption
  • Clean the dryer’s lint after each cycle and keep the area around it well-ventilated for optimum running efficiency
  • If your dryer has an auto sensor function – to detect when clothes really are dry – then use it! Otherwise, try setting the timer for 10 minutes less than usual to see if you’ve been overrunning your machine

Cookers and ovens

Cookers and ovens

  • Cook with a toaster oven or microwave where possible, as these appliances use less energy than an oven
  • Turn down stove heat after food reaches a boil – a faster boil won’t cook food any quicker!
  • Plan meals so that several items can cook at the same time – this might mean a bit of time/temperature mathematics, though!
  • If your oven has a self-cleaning cycle, only use it for major cleaning jobs when the oven is already hot. Otherwise, elbow grease will do the job nicely
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