Sylvia's home has a new roof, storm windows, and good insulation, so Michelle Madden, CEO of GreenYour.com, says her first eco-investment should be updating her 30- to 50-year-old appliances with Energy Star–qualified models. She'll benefit from the new federal stimulus program that allocates money to reimburse consumers for energy-saving appliances. The refunds vary by product but will likely run from $50 to $250.
Refrigerator: Annual energy savings of about $176 would mean Silvia will recoup the $630 purchase price in three and a half years. Assuming she keeps the appliance for ten years, she'll save $1,760 on her electric bills. And that's without the government rebate.
Dishwasher: With energy savings of about $35 a year, it would pay for itself in seven years. Washing a full load of dishes by hand can use ten times as much water as washing them in a new Energy Star–compliant dishwasher (some models use as little as 3 gallons for a full cycle). To be most efficient, run the dishwasher only when it's full, and don't use the dry cycle. The newest machines use about 1 kilowatt-hour per load—30 to 80 percent less than older machines.
Air Conditioner: With savings of about $30 a year, the machine would pay for itself in seven years and produce $300 in energy savings over ten years. (Double these numbers if she buys two.)
Washing Machine: A new front-loading model will cost about $16 a year to operate, and annual savings will be about $100 a year (new models use about half the water of older machines).