Appliance Guide for Home Owners


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How Much does Your Appliances Cost to Operate?

Only when our kids become adults will they appreciate why we want them to turn off the lights—it costs hard-earned money to pay the bills. The following formula will help you figure out how much each appliance is costing to operate. Being aware of these costs will bring about a greater appreciation for conservation and will save you more than a few dollars in the process.

The cost to operate appliances is based on the following:

  1. The cost of fuel
  2. The time the appliance is operating
  3. The fuel type and quantity required

The cost of fuels varies depending on your geographic location and utility company. Electricity may cost consumers approximately 4¢ per kilowatt hour (kwh) in Spokane or Seattle, Wash. to approximately 17¢ per kwh in Long Island, NY. One kwh of electricity produces 3412 British Thermal Units (BTUs) of heat/energy.

To determine the monthly cost to operate electric appliances or lighting, you need to multiply the wattage of the appliances or lighting by the number of hours each is used per day. Then multiply this by the number of days in the month times the cost of the fuel.

Here's an example:
4,500 watts (water heater) divided by 1,000 X approximately 6 hours per day X 30 days X .11¢ per kwh of electricity. Multiply this times 12 for the annual cost.

  • 4,500 watts divided by 1,000 = 4.5 kilowatts.
  • 4.5 kilowatts X 4 hours per day = 18 kilowatts per day.
  • 18 kilowatts per day X 30 days = 540 kilowatts per month.
  • 540 kilowatts per month X .11¢ kwh = $59.40 per month.
  • $59.40 per month X 12 months = $712.80

Here is a list of appliances and their approximate cost to operate.
These figures are based on rates of 11.4¢/kwh (electric) and 63¢ therm (natural gas):

Appliance Cost
Air Cleaner less than 1/2 ¢ per month
Air Conditioner (3-ton, central, SEER 15) 27¢ per hour
Air Conditioner (3-ton, central, SEER 12) 34¢ per hour
Air Conditioner (3-ton, central, SEER 7) 58¢ per hour
Air Conditioner (electric room air, /2 ton SEER) 8¢ per hour
Blender 1¢ per 15 minutes
Can Opener less than 1/4¢ per use
Clock 16¢ per month
Coffee Maker 2¢ per pot
Dishwasher (w/out heated dry & gas water heater) 13¢per load
Dishwasher (w/ heated dry & gas water heater) 19¢ per load
Dishwasher (w/out heated dry & elec. water heater) 37¢ per load
Dishwasher (w/ heated dry & elec. water heater) 43¢ per load
Drill (electric) 1¢ per 15 minutes
Dryer (electric, 30-minute load) 35 1/2¢ per load
Dryer (gas, 30-minute load) 13¢ per load
Electric Blanket 1¢ per hour
Fans (ceilings) 1¢ per hour
Fans (portable) 1¢ per hour
Fax Machine (in use) 1¢ per half hour
Fax Machine (on standby) 66¢ per month
Food Processor 4 ¢ per hour
Furnace Pilot Light (gas) $5.04 per month
Garage Door Opener (2 times per day) 8¢per month
Hair Dryer (electric) 14¢ per hour
Home Computer 2¢ per hour
Iron 6 1/2¢ per hour
Knife (electric) 1/4¢per 15 minutes
Lightbulbs (compact flourescent, 20 watts) less than 1/4¢ per hour
Lightbulbs (incandescent, 60 watts) slightly more than 1/2 per hour
Lightbulbs (incandescent, 100 watts) slightly more than 1 c per hour
Microwave Oven (standard size, 600-700 watt output) 17 c per hour
Microwave Oven (compact, 400-500 watt output) 11 1/2¢ per hour
Night Light (5-7 watts) 1¢ per night
Refrigerator (22 cu. ft., 10 yrs old, frost-free) $24 per month
Refrigerator (17 cu. ft., 10 yrs. or older, frost-free) $17 per month
Refrigerator (17 cu. ft., new, standard efficiency) $9 per month
Refrigerator (17 cu. ft., new, high efficiency) $7.50 per month
Security Light (exterior floodlight, 150 watts) 1 1/2¢ per hour
Stereo 1¢ per hour
Sewing Machine 1¢ per hour
Spa (electric) 1¢ per hour
Spa (after warm-up, electric) 6¢ per hour to maintain
Spa (gas) $1.12 per warm up
Spa (after warm-up, gas) 2¢ per hour to maintain
Swimming Pool Cleaner (elec., auto., 3/4 HP) 11¢ per hour
Swimming Pool Heater (400,000 BTU, gas) $2.52 per hour
Swimming Pool Pump Motor (2 HP, elec.) 22¢ per hour
Table Saw 16¢ per hour
Television (color) 1 1/2¢ per hour
Television (black & white) 1/2¢ per hour
Toaster less than 1/4¢ per hour
Toothbrush (electric) less than 1/4¢ per day
Track lighting (interior w/ three lights, 300 watts) 3¢ per hour
Vacuum Cleaner (standard hand-push) 11¢ per hour
Vacuum Cleaner (portable hand-held, rechargeable) 1/4¢ per hour of use
Videocassette Recorder 1/2¢ per hour while in use
Video Game 2¢ per hour
Washer (elec. water heater, warm wash, cold rinse) 21¢ per load
Washer (gas water heater, warm wash, cold rinse) 7¢ per load

So when your kids complain about having to run back upstairs to turn off the lights, tell them the exact amount they’re saving the family. If they are smart, they’ll probably ask to use that saved money to buy something valuable, like a carton of ice cream.

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Ventless Dryers: Are they a Viable Option?

Because of occasional difficulty in installation and the lack of aesthetic quality, some homeowners are interested in ventless dryers. Ventless dryers are somewhat of a European phenomenon. As far as can be determined, no major American appliance manufacturer makes such a device. Their function is most likely similar to some European dishwashers that collect humidity from the washing process and condense it in a bladder. The condensate then flows to a drain.

This is the only way I could see a "ventless" dryer working. If the vent was allowed to discharge freely into the house air with, perhaps, a lint filter screen in the vent pipe somewhere, the moisture in the exhaust air would quickly cause problems throughout the house.

A large load of laundry can contain several gallons of water. Releasing that much moisture and more into a house on a daily basis would mean you’d have water running down the inner plane of every window during the winter as the moisture condensed on the cold glass surface. The moisture would also condense on cold walls as well, and would provide a growing medium for molds and mildews. It would also seep into the attic and walls, soaking the insulation.

These conditions are common in homes with basement water penetration, or that have dryers with disconnected vents or vents that do not discharge to the outside. Most houses are simply not built to handle such excessive amounts of moisture. And we haven’t even discussed the potential of adding to the house pollution level, both from lint and the byproducts of combustion from gas-burning appliances. Dryers, at least American dryers, should be vented to the outside.

So, homeowners should either dedicate considerable time to finding a foreign dryer or they can deal with the venting of an American model. In making the decision, be sure to explore the availability of parts and service for the appliance that is chosen.

Well, American dryer it is? Let’s go venting.

There has to be a way to vent a dryer in just about any home situation. If the laundry room is on a second floor, the vent could be run in the joists space between floors and out a side wall. Admittedly, this should be a secondary choice. Unless the pipe was carefully insulated, you may hear the dryer running in the rooms below or above where the vent passes through the floor.

One might also consider passing the vent pipe through the attic and out the roof. Although this, too, is not ideal, it can work if the pipe is insulated well. Insulation will cut down on condensation inside the pipe as it passes through the cold attic. But don’t terminate the vent into the attic. The moisture in the exhaust air may condense on some of the attic components. Deterioration, bacteria, and fungus are concerns.

Ideally, a dryer vent should have a short, straight run, directly out a side wall. The dryer you buy will have specifications concerning the length of pipe allowed. Keep in mind that each 90 degree elbow creates friction and reduces the allowable pipe length by eight feet. You should use 30 degree and 45 degree elbows.

Using either rigid sheet metal duct pipe (ideal) or flexible metal duct (less ideal) is also recommended. Stay away from plastic vent duct. It sags, and the interior walls have a lot of ridges where lint can collect. This lint is very fine, dry, and flammable. A spark can cause it to ignite. Dryer vent fires are somewhat common in this country, about 13,000 occur each year.

Be sure to slope the vent pipe back toward the dryer, and, if you need to run the pipe through an unheated area, consider adding a tee fitting with a short leg beneath the main pipe. This will allow you to inspect the pipe for condensation, and possibly drain it if that becomes necessary.

Finally, seal both the longitudinal and transverse seams in the duct with a good quality duct tape. Don’t use sheet metal screws to hold the pipe together, the points on the screws will collect lint and impede air flow.

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How Long Will It Last?

How nice it would be if we had a crystal ball to tell us how long the systems, appliances, and building materials in our home would last! Unfortunately, this is the "real world" and

no such item exists. The next best bet is to consult the following list of "Life Expectancies for Residential Equipment and Materials." It will give a good idea of how long these items typically last.

The ranges below may vary a little based on a number of factors, including:

  1. Quality of the equipment and/or materials.
  2. Proper application and/or use of the equipment and materials.
  3. The proper capacities of the equipment and/or materials.
  4. Varying amounts and type of usage.
  5. Exposure to different weather and geographical conditions.
  6. Quality of fuels, water, and air to which the equipment is exposed.
  7. Future high-tech equipment, materials, and applications (that may increase or decrease life expectancies).
  8. Quality of workmanship used in the installation.
Cast iron 30 to 60
Steel 20 to 35
Heating Exchangers (steel)
Gas-fired 25 to 40
Oil-fired 20 to 35
Heat Pump Compressor 7 to 12
Heating Pipes
Steel 80 to 120
Copper 60 to ?
Oil 20 to 30
Gas 30 to 40
Misc. Heating Components
Circulators 20 to 30
Fans 12 to 40
Oil Tanks (inside) 25 to 50
Expansion Tanks 35 to 50
Zone Valves 7 to 10
Note: Heaters need complete replacement when the boiler (water) or heat exchanger (air) fails.
Compressors 10 to 14
Coils 20 to 30
Fans 12 to 40
Water Service (Public)
Lead 50 to 90
Steel 40 to 75
Copper 70 to ?
Plastic (Should be dependable) Unknown Interior Water Pipe
Steel 1/2" 40 to 60
Copper 1/2" 70 to 100
Plastic (Should be dependable) Unknown Drainage Lines
Galvanized Steel 40 to 60
Copper 60 to 100
Cast Iron 50 to 90
Plastic (P.V.C.) 35 to ?
Lead 50 to 90
Well Equipment
(On-site Water Supply)
Pump-Submersible 15 to 22
Pump-Above Ground 13 to 20
Pressure Tank-Steel 15 to 25
Pressure Tank - Fiberglass 25 to 50
Septic System
(On-Site Drainage System)
Steel Tank 15 to 30
Concrete Tank 25 to 40
NOTE: Life expectancy of leaching fields is determined by porosity of soil and maintenance (10 to 60 years)
Miscellaneous Plumbing Items
Water Heater
Gas 8 to 14
Electric 12 to 18
Oil Burner 20 to 40
Builders line faucets, etc. 20 to 35
Builders line tub, toilets & sinks 40 to 60
Better quality faucets, etc. 30 to 60
Better quality tubs, toilets & sinks 50 to 90
Service cables (depends on exposure to sun) 20 to 40
Wiring (interior)
Knob & tube (cloth insulation, copper conductor) 60 to 90
Armored Cable (copper conductor-BX) 50 to 80
Plastic sheathed (copper conductor-Romex) 70 to Unknown
(It should be 80+.)
Panel Boxes
Fuses or Circuit Breakers 20 to 50
Note: Life expectancy is directly related to moisture in the area of the box (rust & oxidation of contacts).
Roof Covering
Fiberglass Reinforced Asphalt Shingles 18 to 25
Note: Roofs wear out sooner on the south side of the house.
Built-Up Roofing, 3- or 4-ply 10 to 15
Note: Installation procedures and regular recoating can extend the life of these roofs 2, 3 or more times.
Slate (depends on the quarry from which it came) 35 to 200
(Maintenance is required.)
Metal Standing or Welded Seams 50 to 90
Note: Metal roofs are mostly tin and will remain functional as long as you keep them from rusting -- recoat every 4 to 5 years.
Cedar (depends on quality of wood, workmanship, and maintenance) 20 to 40
Gutters and Downspouts
Note: Life expectancies of gutters and spouts depend to some extent on the slope of the gutters and how clean they are.
Aluminum (gauge of metal is important) 18 to 20
Galvanized (the new painted steel should last longer) 15 to 22
Copper (do not use steel brackets) 35 to 50
Plastic (P.V.C.) 25 to ?
Sidings and Veneers
Aluminum (you may repaint aluminum siding at about 20-23 years to extend life) 18-25
Vinyl 25 to ?
Aluminum with Tedlar coating 35 to 50
Hardboard or composition (depends on finish, exposure to sun and maintenance) 20 to 40
T1-11 Plywood Siding (must receive regular coatings or will not last more than 8 years) 20 to 40
Stucco (70 years without paint, 200+ years with regular painting) 70 to 200+
Asbestos (needs normal maintenance, recommended painting) 40 to 100
Brick. Veneers or complete masonry units. As long as the brick is an exterior brick, it will only need periodic pointing. 100+
Masonry Walls
Concrete. Brick (see sidings above)
block and stone
Note: Masonry walls are very durable and as long as they are designed properly and receive periodic maintenance, they should last 100+ years. Exceptions would be salmon brick, cinder block (instead of concrete block) and Serpentine stone.
Wood. Usually very dependable and have long life expectancies with regular painting and storm windows to help protect them. 35 to 100
Aluminum. Usually are marginal in design and functionability. An advantage is their low cost. 10 to 25
Vinyl. Reasonable window, moderate cost, not enough history to project life expectancy. 15 to ?
Aluminum storm windows 30 to 40
Ceramic Tile (in tub or shower wall areas)
Wed Bed (cement) or Wonder Board Backing 40 to 90
Mastic System (adhesive) 14 to 20
Walls 70 to 120
Ceilings 60 to 90
Note: Life expectancy of plaster is altered by the carpentry framing and the type of plaster lath used.
Drywall (also called sheetrock)
Walls 50 to ?
Ceilings 30 to ?
Note: Not enough history to project the life expectancies.
Refrigerators 10 to 20
Dishwashers 13 to 18
Gas Ranges 20 to 35
Electric Ranges 15 to 25
Garbage Disposal 10 to 15
Humidifiers (Note: 2 years without maintenance.) 5 to 20
Dehumidifiers 8 to 12
Washers 10 to 20
Dryers 10 to 20

Other Information
The interior wood structural system is dependent on conditions inside the house which could be created by design or human living situations. In most situations, you will see few wood or masonry structural concerns before a house reaches 30 to 40 years old and real problems begin to develop.


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