Page 6 of 9

Chapter 6

Laundry, Refrigeration, Lighting & Other Appliances


In addition to space conditioning and water heating (discussed in sections 4 and 5), there are countless other smaller appliances and devices in the home that can contribute to your energy consumption. Across this range of items, there are many opportunities to reduce energy waste by changing your shopping and usage habits.

This section provides a rough guide to energy efficiency for other appliances in the home, including laundry, refrigeration and lighting.


The laundry is an essential part of any household – it also happens to be an easy place to start when it comes to saving energy. Knowing how to manage your laundry properly can help you significantly reduce your electricity consumption, improve your savings and cut your greenhouse gas emissions in the long run..

In the shop…

Washing machines can last more than a decade, so it’s useful to think of them as a long-term investment. As such, it is vital that you make the right decision at the purchase stage, choosing a machine that is well-suited to your needs. Here are some tips on how to choose the washer that will benefit you most:

Choose a front loader

In general, front loaders are more energy efficient and require fewer resources than a top loader due to their design. They use less water, less detergent and less electricity for hot washes.

Although the initial cost is more, the savings from a front-loader vs a a top-loader will make up for it in the long run.

Choose the right connections

It’s better to wash with cold water, but if you must have a warm water wash, choose a machine with both hot and cold water connections. This allows you to use hot water from the home hot water system to heat up the water, which is generally more efficient than using the heating element in the washer itself.

It also allows you to connect the solar thermal hot water system for warm washes, if you have one at home.

Choose the right features

Manufacturers have introduced a number of new technologies and functions into their washing machines. It can be confusing to know which one will benefit you, so we’ve narrowed the list down to a few key things to look for:

  • Cold wash function: Cold washes can save more than 80% on energy consumption versus hot or warm washes, since most of the energy used in a load is used in water heating.
  • Load sensing technology: Washers with load sensing technology can adjust the amount of water to your load size, enabling you to save on water consumption without effort.
  • Eco mode: Many machines also come with an eco-friendly setting for more efficient energy and water use.
  • Delay or programmable timer: Having a machine with a timer lets you set your wash to run when your electricity tariff is cheaper or when your solar panels are producing energy. You can also use it to soak clothes before washing them. (More on this later.)
A woman carries a washing basket in the background of a Laundromat. Silver and white washing machines line the wall.

A family home’s wardrobe with a gentleman’s shirts hang in varied earthy and blue tones.
At home…

Wash with a cold cycle

This is the easiest way to reduce electricity use, regardless of the kind of washing machine you have. Washing with a cold cycle can save you more than 80% of your energy consumption and running costs. This is because most of the energy is used just to heat up the water in warm washes.

The table below compares energy consumption and running costs for an example washing machine over the course of a year. 1

  Electricity usage (kWh - annual) Electricity costs (kWh - annual)
Cold wash 66 kWh $18.15
Hot wash 400 kWh $110

Cold washes are just as clean as warm washes in most situations. Just remember to choose the right detergent when using cold washes, because some detergents don’t work well in cold water.

Wash with a full load

Your washing machine will use the same amount of energy whether you wash a single pair of boxers or a full load of laundry.

Wash with eco-friendly settings

Many washing machines come with an eco-mode that uses less energy and water than a regular mode. This is best for clothes that aren’t too dirty or stained.

Wash during the right time of day

This is where the timer function comes in handy. Some households are charged more for electricity during ‘peak hours’ (see section 2 of this guide). If you are on a time of use billing arrangement, find out what your peak hours are and time your washes to run on ‘off peak’ or ‘shoulder’ times.

This also gives your clothes a chance to soak and be treated before the wash which means you don’t have to do a second wash because stains are still there.

Air dry your clothes

If possible, choose to air dry your clothes rather than drying with a machine to save on electricity consumption. Front loaders have an advantage because of their faster spin cycle. This means much of the water is already spun off by the time the cycle finishes.


Refrigerators can run for up to two decades. This means having a refrigeration setup that accommodates the needs of your home as well as being energy efficient can save immense amount of energy and consequently operational costs in the long run.

Things you can do now:

  • Don’t put hot foods in the fridge
  • Defrost items in the fridge
  • Check your fridge seal

Make sure air doesn’t leak out of your fridge. Your fridge must work harder to maintain a cool temperature if the cool air leaks. Inspect the seal for these signs:

  • Fridge keeps popping open
  • Water leakage
  • Fridge is not maintaining temperature
  • Ice buildup in freezer
  • Seal has lost integrity (cracked, torn, unglued, mouldy, discoloured, hard, brittle)

Make sure your fridge is full, but not overfilled

Having a packed fridge means there is less volume of air to cool down. This means your fridge doesn’t have to work as often to maintain the temperature. However, if your fridge is overfilled, there will not be enough air to circulate around the inside.

A household fridge is open and its shelves are full with food and drink.
A diagram depicts a fridge with the fridge section outlined to be most energy efficient at 5 degrees and the freezer section to be most energy efficient at -15 degrees.

Set the right temperature (Fridge at 5°C and freezer at -15°C)

Setting the fridge to the right temperature means you don’t have an unnecessarily cold fridge that wastes energy, nor an unnecessarily warm one that could lead to early spoiling of food and be potentially harmful for your health.

Regular check for frost or ice build up

Make sure you regularly clean the frost and ice from the refrigerator to make sure it can run properly. Frost often builds up because of a leaky seal that allows humidity to enter.

Clean the condenser coil (especially if the fridge cycles too often)

If your home is dusty or you have pets, your condenser coils are more likely to have dust buildup. This makes it harder for the fridge to get rid of the heat from its interior.

Opt for an energy efficient fridge

When choosing a new fridge, take a look at the star rating and consider opting for the more energy efficient fridge to reduce your carbon footprint.


Use sunlight when possible

Natural lighting is the best source of light during the day. Try opening blinds and letting sunlight illuminate the home whenever practical.

Turn off lights when not in use

Turning off your lights when you leave a room is just about as simple a task as it comes for saving energy. Consistently remind yourself to do it, so it becomes an automatic thing you do as you leave a room.


Lighting in the home generally falls into three categories (listed from most to least efficient): Light-emitting diodes (LEDs), fluorescent/compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and incandescent bulbs. LEDs and CFLs are economically and environmentally more sound as they are much more efficient, and have much greater lifespan than incandescent lights.

A diagram of an incandescent light globe.


700 – 1,000 Hrs

Incandescent lights are a common type of light bulb in the home. They work by passing electricity through a filament, which then heats up and glows. These bulbs give off pleasant and warm lights.

Although these are generally the cheapest up-front alternative, they only last 700-1000 hours. If the light is on for 8 hours a day, that is a lifespan of around 100 days, meaning that you’ll have to replace them more often than CFL or LED bulbs. Additionally, incandescent bulbs are the least energy efficient of the three.

A diagram that depicts a fluorescent light globe.

Fluorescent/Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CLFs),

5,000 – 15,000 Hrs
3 – 4x more efficient than incandescent

Fluorescent lighting works by exciting mercury and other gases inside a bulb; the energy is converted into visible light as it passes through the bulb’s coating. Some models produce white light with bluish tint, but others can produce warmer tones and imitate incandescent light.

CFLs are essentially a smaller, bulb-shaped version of the long fluorescent tubes. These bulbs can last 5,000 to 15,000 hours, and are 3 to 5 times more efficient compared to incandescent lights of similar brightness.

Over their lifetime, thanks to their longevity and energy efficiency they can help their users save 4 to 5 times the purchasing price. Because of the mercury content of fluorescent lights, many countries require them to be thrown away at special disposals, not with household rubbish.

A diagram that depicts an energy efficient LED light globe.

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

50,000 Hrs
4 – 7x more efficient than incandescent

Historically, LED bulbs were used for specialised purposes (e.g. electronics, cabinet lighting and Christmas lights) and not for general use in homes. They produce light that is directional and not spread out like incandescent. Newer LED technology combines multiple diodes in a single bulb, using reflective material and diffuser lenses to scatter and diffuse the light. These developments have helped to broaden the application range of LED bulbs, including their use in home lighting.

LEDs have the longest life of the three types of bulbs discussed here, with a lifespan of around 50,000 hours. To put this in perspective, even if a bulb stays on for 8 hours a day, it will last around 11 years - compared to 100 days for an incandescent bulb. They are also 4 to 7 times more efficient than comparable incandescent bulbs, and because they do not have filaments they don’t break easily, making them the most durable of all the lighting options.

The upfront cost of LEDs was relatively very high in the past due to expensive production costs, but newer production methods mean that their costs are now comparable to CFL alternatives.

General Appliance Efficiency & ‘Vampire Appliances’

When purchasing any new appliances such as entertainment systems, dishwashers or microwaves, be sure to look for the most energy efficient appliances. Many new appliances offer an ‘eco-mode’ which consumes less electricity for similar functions. Refer to Chapter 3 on ‘Understanding Energy Efficiency’ to see how to compare energy use between appliances.

Appliances will still continue to draw on electricity when in ‘standby’ mode, or even when switched off. Although seemingly small, the consumption of appliances add up. On average, Australian homes lose 3% of their electricity to standby consumption, but this number can be as high as 5% or even 10% if not careful.

Some of the worst offenders include:

  • Flat screen TVs
  • Kitchen appliances (ovens, microwaves, toasters)
  • Gaming consoles
  • Printers

The most obvious strategy is to turn off the device at the electrical outlet after every use. This can become tedious, and there are technologies such as smart plugs that can switch off wirelessly or with a schedule so you don’t have to pull the plug out.

1Based on 27.5c electricity tariff, with 3 washes per week

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In the next chapter, we’ll learn about solar PV systems and how to determine the right system for you.

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