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Save Money With Energy-Saving Appliances

You may think the only way to reduce your utility bills is to adjust the thermostat. But your home may be filled with old appliances that are energy guzzlers. Appliances and water heaters together account for about half of the average home's energy bills.

So, if it's time to get a new washing machine, refrigerator or other appliance, look for an energy-efficient model. It will save you money on your utility bills. For example, a new energy-efficient refrigerator can cost $35 to $70 less a year to run than a 10-year-old one. Plus, you don't have to pay Maryland sales tax on certain energy-efficient appliances (details below).

What makes an appliance energy-efficient? Energy-efficient refrigerators have better insulation so the compressor runs less, and they have precise temperature and defrost mechanisms. They have heavy door hinges to create a good seal. Energy-efficient washing machines use less water, and remove more water from clothes so your clothes dryer doesn't have to run so long. Energy-efficient TVs and VCRs use less power when they are switched off than standard models. (Did you know that home electronics use energy even when turned off, to maintain channel memory or remote control functions?) Home computers that have a "sleep mode" also save energy.

How to Find Energy-Efficient Appliances
The best way to find an energy-efficient appliance is to look for the ENERGY STAR® label. Energy Star is the label given by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to appliances that exceed federal energy efficiency standards. Energy Star-labeled appliances can be as much as 75 percent more energy-efficient than other appliances.

Manufacturers and retailers put the Energy Star label on the appliances, on the appliance packaging, or sometimes in advertising. But not all stores display the labels on eligible models. If you don't see any labels, ask a salesperson if the store carries Energy Star qualified models. Or get a list of Energy Star qualified models and stores near you that carry them by visiting the Energy Star website at www.energystar.gov/products, or by calling the toll-free Energy Star Hotline at 1-888-STAR-YES (1-888-882-7937).

Another way to check a new appliance's efficiency is to look at its bright yellow "EnergyGuide" label. Federal law requires EnergyGuide labels on all new refrigerators, freezers, water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines, room air conditioners, central air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces and boilers. The label will help you compare the operating costs of the appliance with similar models. The label gives an estimate of how much electricity (kilowatt-hours) or gas (therms) the model will use in a year, and how much in dollars that will cost you. It also shows how the model stacks up against similar models.

Save on Sales Taxes
The Maryland Clean Energy Incentive Act provides that consumers will not be charged sales tax when they purchase:

• Energy Star qualified washing machines (in effect July 1, 2000 through July 1, 2003)
• Energy Star qualified room air conditioners (in effect January 1, 2001 through July 1, 2004)
• Energy Star qualified standard-size refrigerators (in effect July 1, 2001 through July 1, 2004)

Also, through July 1, 2004, Maryland sales tax will not be assessed on:
• Advanced natural gas hot water heaters with an Energy Factor of at least 0.65
• Electric heat pump hot water heaters with an Energy Factor of at least 1.7
• Central heating and cooling equipment with a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration (SEER) of 13.5 or above for heat pumps and central air conditioners; the heating component must have a Heating System Performance Factor (HSPF) of 7.5 or higher.

If you are considering replacing your heat pump, central air conditioning system or gas hot water heater, let your contractor know that you are interested in a system which meets the guidelines for the sales tax exemption. Under Maryland law, sales tax for many heating, ventilation and air conditioning items is charged at the wholesale level and not to the consumer directly. Therefore, the contractor who installs your heating or cooling system is the one who would pay the sales tax and would receive the tax exemption. Although it is not required by law, you should negotiate with your contractor that this savings be passed on to you.

For more information on the sales tax exemption, call the Maryland Energy Administration at 1-800-723-6374 or see its website at www.energy.state.md.us/incentive.htm.

Other Tips for Saving Energy at Home

• Adust your thermostat. Using a programmable thermostat can help by having different settings for different times of the day, for example during the day when you're not home, or at night when you're asleep.

• Change the filters in your home's cooling and heating system.

• Consider replacing your central air conditioning system if it is more than seven years old.

• Consider replacing your refrigerator if it is more than ten years old. Refrigerators use more energy than any other appliance in your home. Test your refrigerator and freezer door gaskets by closing the doors on a dollar bill. If the bill pulls out easily, you may need a new gasket.

• Enable "power down" or "sleep" features on your home office equipment. You'll save by not using as much power when not using the equipment, and the equipment will give off less heat, which can help save on air conditioning costs.

• Set your hot water heater temperature at no more than 120 degrees F. Also, buy a hot water insulation kit at the hardware store to wrap your water heater.

• Use cooler water temperature to wash clothes.

• Run your washing machine, dryer and dishwasher only with full loads.

For more information about energy-efficient products, check out these websites:

Energy Savers: Tips on Saving Energy and Money at Home


Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division
Consumer hotline: (410) 528-8662 or 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free


Attorney General of Maryland 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free / TDD: (410) 576-6372
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