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    Next to the HVAC unit, large appliances are the biggest energy users in your house. If your stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, washer and/or dryer are more than 20 years old, replace them. Newer models are much more energy efficientas much as 90 percent more efficientand will pay for themselves in a short time through savings on electric bills.

    Whether you are replacing old units or simply shopping for new appliances, here are some tips to keep in mind to maximize energy efficiency:

    When considering refrigerators and/or freezers:

    • Bigger is not necessarily better. Purchase the size that fits your needs. For a freezer, allow between four and five cubic feet in capacity for each person in the household.
    • A refrigerator with an upper or lower freezer compartment is more energy efficient than one with side-by-side configuration.
    • Upright freezers are not as energy efficient as chest freezers even though they may be more convenient. A chest freezer will retain much more cold air than an upright model when the door is opened.

    Looking for a new oven? Self-cleaning models have more insulation than conventional units, so they save electricity with every use.

    When shopping for a clothes washer, look for front loading models. These use half the electricity and significantly less water than more traditional top loading units.

    Consider going without a clothes dryer altogether and line drying your clothes. If you don't want to go quite that far, look at dryer models equipped with moisture sensors. These units turn off automatically when the load is dry.

    Check to see if there are any financial incentives for large appliance purchases. There may be state or federal tax credit or rebate programs in force that will spell up front savings in addition to the reductions on electric bills.

    Once you have your new appliance in place, using them most efficiently will help keep electricity costs down. For example:

    • Use a microwave or counter top oven whenever possible instead of using power to heat up the large oven.
    • Allow dishes to air dry by opening the dishwasher door and turning the unit off before it gets to the "heat dry" part of the cycle.
    • Arrange refrigerator and freezer shelves as well as the food so that there is plenty of air flow around everything.
    • Test your freezer and/or refrigerator seal by closing the door on a sheet of paper; if the sheet slides out easily, get the seal replaced.
    • Clean the lint trap on your clothes dryer every time you use it.
    • Wash clothes in cold water as much as possible. As much as 90 percent of electricity used running a washer is for heating the water!
    • Avoid overdrying your clothes. If you don't have a dryer with a moisture sensor, set the timer for the minimum time you think it will take to dry, then reset if needed. And rememberconsider line drying some if not all of your clothes!

    It is worth making the time and effort to make the most efficient use of your large appliances. You will definitely see a return in the form of lower electric bills.