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Time to replace home appliances?
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Washer and dryer
Clothes dryers are the second-greatest energy consumers in the American home. Although there are no Energy Star-qualified models available on the market, the better and more efficient of today's dryers now possess special moisture sensors within the drum that can switch the unit off earlier when clothes dry. Compared to machines with basic timed-drying cycles, these sensor-outfitted models can, over time, save considerable amounts of electricity or natural gas. If you own a dryer that is close to or past its maximum service life, consider replacing it with a new model that has this energy-saving sensor technology.

Compared to a model manufactured before 1994, a new Energy Star-qualified clothes washer can save a consumer up to $110 per year on utility bills by using 50 percent less energy than a standard washing machine. Most full-sized Energy Star-qualified washers also use 18 to 25 gallons of water per load, compared to the 40 gallons used by a standard machine, saving money on water bills. Plus they can extract more water from clothes during the spin-cycle, reducing drying time. If your existing conventional washing machine is more than 11 years old, it's due for replacement.

The AC
About one-sixth of all the electricity generated in the United States is used to air condition buildings. A conventional 10-year-old air conditioner, unfortunately, is only half as efficient as its present-day counterpart. With the cost of electricity continually rising, it makes sense to consider updating AC equipment that's 10 years old or more, especially if it has lately been prone to expensive breakdowns -- and especially if you live in parts of the country where the summers are hot and long.

Buying a replacement appliance on your own time and terms allows you to shop around for the best deals and take advantage of any seasonal incentive programs and utility-sponsored rebates. But if you wait until a critical appliance like a refrigerator or central air conditioner breaks down -- which usually happens at the worst possible time -- you may miss out on those offers and spend more money on a replacement than you would otherwise.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Updated: Aug. 1, 2006
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