Design & DIY

Appliance upgrades that unlock your cottage’s energy-saving potential

old kitchen with older appliances and wood cabinets Photo by Cynthia Farmer/Shutterstock

For a lot of cottagers, the home away from home is the last thing on their minds when it comes to updating. Granny’s old orange-and-brown velour chesterfield? Still comfortable, even if it is a little ugly. That collection of mismatched coffee mugs? As long as they hold hot coffee on a chilly cottage morning, no one really cares that they’re older than you. That moaning, clunky old avocado-green fridge? It adds a vintage atmosphere to the kitchen, doesn’t it?

Well, maybe. But while those gently worn coffee mugs and chesterfield are just a matter of personal taste, that elderly fridge and ancient dishwasher are actually costing money. That’s because old appliances are far less energy efficient than newer ones. A pre-1993 fridge sucks up twice the power of a high-efficiency, energy STAR-rated model—and with electricity rates being what they are, replacing a clunker can result in real savings.

For a pleasant surprise next time you open your cottage energy bill, consider the following appliance upgrades.

Replace your pre-1993 fridge with a high-efficiency model

Energy STAR-rated appliances exceed federal energy efficiency standards by at least 20 per cent—meaning you’ll be saving money as soon as your new fridge starts humming. If you only use your cottage seasonally, consider buying a compact fridge—they cost less to run than a full-size model. As well, side-by-side fridges use 10 to 30 per cent more electricity than a top-freezer type, which also generally tend to cost less. And forego the beer fridge in the shed—you’ll be increasing your energy expenditure and putting a greater burden on the planet.

Consider getting a convection range

A gas stove with an electric pilot may cost less to run than an electric range, but for many cottagers, natural gas hook-ups aren’t realistic or possible. Whatever model you decide to buy, consider getting a convection range. It may cost slightly more up-front, but, because convection cooking requires less time, you’ll be saving money by running your range less.

Look at energy-efficient washers and dryers

Not all cottages have washers and dryers, but if you do, an energy STAR-rated washer uses 30 to 55 per cent less water than a standard model. And while dryers aren’t rated for efficiency, picking one with a moisture sensor means you won’t be drying clothes once they’re already dry—saving you energy and money. Before you go out and buy a washer, though, check and make sure your septic system can handle the extra water. Also, you may need to filter the water you use to wash your clothes if it comes straight from your lake or river.

Invest in a dishwasher

No, really. Washing dishes by hand several times a day—a fine tradition in many cottages—is less efficient than running a dishwasher. If you only run full loads, you’ll be saving a significant amount of water—not to mention time that could be better spent sitting on the dock, listening to the loons. Choose a compact model for a seasonal cottage, and, as always, make sure to pick up a model that’s energy STAR-rated.

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