High Efficiency Washers Aren’t Always a Wise Upgrade Item

By Lee Bellinger / November 4, 2015

In general, replacing older appliances with more energy-efficient models is a good investment. But not always. As we’ve noted in previous issues, newer, more stringent government regulations on energy and water usage have hampered the ability of clothes washers to wash clothes and dishwashers to wash dishes.

If you don’t own a so-called “high efficiency” washing machine, try talking to someone who does. Chances are you’ll hear complaints about how inefficient it is at getting clothes clean. And how it traps slime and odors beneath the gasket if it’s a front loader. Sometimes more energy efficiency just isn’t worth the trade-off.

An Outdated Appliance Can Be Worse Than Just an Eyesore

But when it comes to other appliances such as freezers, there may not be any trade-off in quality when opting for greater energy efficiency. With washing appliances, their effectiveness is a matter of degree. But with freezers, either the ice cream stays frozen or it doesn’t! The government can mandate more energy-efficient refrigerators, but at the end of the day all freezers and refrigerators must be able to keep their contents chilled to a specific temperature.

So the question is whether greater energy efficiency is worth the cost of upgrading. A good refrigerator can be expensive – $2,000 or more. But over time it can pay for itself if you’re replacing an older model. According to Consumer Reports, the latest EnergyStar-certified refrigerators use 50% less energy than refrigerators produced in 2001 (not that long ago).

Major appliance upgrades such as refrigerators, dishwashers, furnaces, and water heaters usually translate into an equity boost to the value of your home. Even if you’re not looking to sell anytime soon, you never know when you might want to have your home re-appraised for a refinance or home-equity loan.

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