"But when it comes to actual savings, it doesn’t even crack the top 10. Like most conventional wisdom about how to reduce household energy and emissions, much of what we believe about our homes and appliances is wrong."
Writes WaPo's climate advice columnist Michael J. Coren, in "We still use appliances like it’s 1970. There’s a better way."
I formed the habit, back in the 1970s, of turning off lights as I exited any room and only keeping lights on in rooms that were occupied. I grew up in the 50s and 60s, when it was the norm to have the lights on all over the house in the evening. We didn't think about the pros and cons of leaving them on, but I imagine that we'd have thought it would deprive us of a feeling of coziness and optimism if the house were not lit up at night. From the outside, our house and our neighbors' houses looked warm and happy and alive.
Then the environmentalist movement hit, the meaning of light changed, and I aligned myself morally. I have maximized interior darkness for half a century. Is the climate advisor going to tell me my efforts are misdirected?
Coren's #1 piece of energy-saving advice is not to rinse off your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Present-day dishwashers don't need that pre-rinse — just scrape — and they're so efficient that you should go ahead and run them even if they're only half full (or less!). It doesn't save energy to switch to washing them by hand.
The second piece of advice is to get rid of your old refrigerator. It's less efficient, so don't succumb to the American tradition of "second refrigerator" (i.e., the soda and beer refrigerator in the garage)(I've blogged the topic of second refrigerators twice, here and here).
Third, Coren recommends a "smart" thermostat, but oddly enough, he doesn't tell us to set it as low as possible in cold whether and as high as possible in hot weather. It seems to me, that's where you can get the biggest savings.
Finally, wash clothes in cold water and replace old appliances. The new appliances are more efficient, so Coren would have you throw out a 15-year-old washing machine. Personally, I'm attached to my 30-year-old washing machine. And my hot baths. Thanks for not telling me I should be taking cold showers instead.
ADDED: In the comments at WaPo, there is a lot of resistance to replacing appliances:
"What is not taken into account is the energy required to manufacture a new appliance and the cost of disposing the old one. Replacing an old working appliance is not as environmentally sound as you might think."
"So my fridge is 25 years old. Never had a problem with it. I plan to replace it when the ice maker stops working. All I hear from friends with Samsungs and LGs is problems after 5 years. It’s the computer chips. Mine is a Maytag, it’s white, it has no computer chips. I’m keeping it."
My refrigerator — should I say "our refrigerator" (Meade has only lived here for 13 years)? — is 32 years old. It would cost over $10,000 to replace it with the same brand, so I'm incapable of thinking of replacing it unless it's irreparable or we redo the entire kitchen.