Giving Compass' Take:

• In this story from The Conversations, the authors discuss what makes an energy efficient appliance worth the cost for different individuals.

• How can clean, renewable, and efficient energy advocates use this information going forward? Can new products focus on cost efficiency? Can organizations encourage public behavior change so that more people will benefit from efficient appliances?

• To learn about the need for more efficient buildings, click here.

Have you ever seen one of those big yellow cards on refrigerators, washing machines and other new appliances? These government-mandated notices indicate about how much energy the average U.S. consumer will save by replacing their older model at home with one of these shiny new things.

Trouble is, different people use their appliances very differently – so most of us aren’t average consumers.

The biggest driver of how much money consumers can save by using more efficient appliances is their behavior. For example, 14 percent of the population either watches TV or leaves their television on for an average of 7.7 hours per day, while half of Americans watch only an hour a day.

And while 45 percent of U.S. households do laundry between two and four times every week, 10 percent of us are running between 10 and 15 loads. Another 8 percent use their washers and dryers once a week or less.

If you don’t use an efficient appliance very often, it’s harder to get the savings needed to compensate for the cost of buying it. For example, a standard top-loading washing machine that is about US$200 cheaper than an efficient model that uses up to 50 percent less energy. To justify the more efficient model, a consumer wants to save more than the extra $200 sticker price in their utility bills before replacing the appliance, typically about 11 years later.

We found that a household’s bottom line for buying a high-efficiency washing machine versus a standard one ranged from a $100 loss to saving $1,560. Where you might land on this spectrum depends on how many loads of laundry you and yours do every week and to a lesser extent, where you live.

Read the full article about efficient appliances by Eric Hittinger, Eric Williams, and Ashok Sekar at The Conversation.