When my wife and I bought our home, it came with some older appliances. They were all in good condition, and quite functional, so there was no immediate need to replace them. However, it quickly came to light that we would be replacing them shortly after we moved in, and for a few reasons. First of all, in an effort to make our home livable, we wanted to make sure that it was visually pleasing. Various green and yellow tones from the 70s were not quite fitting that bill, so we knew we'd need something more modern. The other main reason is that we wanted to save money.
Spending Money to Save Money
Saving money by buying new things is not something that is normally recommended. One of the primary ways that frugal people save money is by making due with older equipment, technology, materials, and clothing. As long as it is still functional, it should still be kept and used until it is no longer practical to use it. At that point you would begin to repurpose it for something else altogether.
Appliances, however, often do not fit that bill. Once they are old, even if they are still functional, it can make sense to replace them because of advances in technology. With energy costs continually climbing upwards, new appliances can make the difference between a $200 and $400 electricity bill, for example. In our case, our stove had lost its seal, allowing far more heat than necessary to escape the oven, forcing the oven to work harder than necessary. The washer and dryer were of the top loading variety, which as I've mentioned before are far less energy efficient than the new kind. Our dishwasher is a portable one that due to its portable design takes much more water and energy to complete its cycle than a new built in dishwasher. So we've begun to replace those appliances.
Check The Energy Star Ratings
While shopping for new appliances we've been looking at the energy star ratings. Each appliance is rated for how efficiently it uses electricity. If it is within a certain range it is given the energy star logo and advertised as such. In our case, anything that even comes close to that rating will start making us see an impact on our energy bill, but for others you may want to consider even small differences in the ratings as it can make a big difference. For example, if you're looking for a washing machine and you're a family of 6 with two kids still in diapers, then you're probably going to use your washing machine more often than the single retired widow. If you only use your washing machine once every two weeks, you need not care about energy efficiency. The energy star ratings make an assumption about “typical usage”, so scale your search based on usage.
Here's some examples of how this might work out.
The fridge that we ended up purchasing is rated at 454 kWh/year. That means that in typical conditions it'll cost about $30/year to keep up and running. Other fridges of the same size are rated at 312 kWh/year and 580 kWh/year. The more energy efficient fridge would save about $10 a year, and the less efficient one would cost about $10 more a year. $10 isn't very much for a single year, but over the life span of the fridge (10-20 years) it can definitely add up.
For washing machines the change can be even more drastic. The most energy efficient ones are rated at slightly over 100kWh/year, while the non-energy star ones rate around 500kWh/year. Even so, those are better than the machines made in the 90s, which can pull over 1000kWh/year. For dishwashers, the federal standard is 355kWh/year, but new energy star dishwashers can reach as low as 180kWh/year, about half the regulated requirement.
Investing in new appliances solely to save money can be foolish. If, however, you know that you are going to be using the appliance often, and that the old appliance is a nightmare on your energy bill, then perhaps find the most energy efficient appliance that still meets your needs and consider the cost upgrade. You can even use a online appliance savings calculator to determine just how much you might save.