How upgrading old household appliances could save you money

man loading a washing machine


Posted October 23, 2023

Advances in energy efficiency and the availability of government rebates mean upgrading your household appliances could actually save you money.

When you consider that whitegoods, heating and cooling, and water heating account for the bulk of the average household’s energy bills, the extra cost of running ageing appliances can quickly mount up.

In some cases, it might be more cost effective to upgrade to a more energy-efficient model that could help reduce montly energy bills, especially when you consider that electricity costs are predicted to continue rising.

RACV Head of New Energy Projects, Tanya Schulze, says common household appliances have come a long way in terms of energy efficiency over the past decade. Factor in government rebates that reward upgrading to new energy-efficient models, and it might be time to take a long hard look at those trusty old appliances and consider whether it’s worth upgrading to something new.

Along with new appliances, shop around to find an energy provider with a simple, affordable energy plan that best suits the needs of your household.

Six common household appliances worth upgrading

Heating and cooling

The average Victorian household can spend up to $800 a year (a third of their energy bill) on heating, according to the Victorian Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA).

"The most cost-effective way to keep your home at a comfortable temperature is with an energy-efficient split-system heating and cooling air conditioner," Tanya says. "Remember to choose a system with the highest number of energy-rating stars that is within your budget."

Selecting a new model with smart-app zoning will allow you to save money by heating and cooling only those rooms you're using. These smart systems also allow you to turn on and off the heat when you're out, so you arrive home to a comfortable temperature. This will use less energy than trying to cool a room that is already hot, or heat a room that is already freezing cold.

To maximise your savings, set the thermostat to between 18°C to 20°C in winter; in summer, keep the temperature between 25°C and 27°C. Every one degree higher or lower than these recommended ranges can add 10 per cent to your heating and cooling bill. Keeping your air conditioner regularly serviced will also improve its efficiency and longevity.

Rebate: The Victorian Energy (VEU) program offers rebates of $70 to $10,290 for upgrading to an energy-efficient reverse-cycle air conditioner, depending on size and what you’re replacing.

electrician performing maintenance on an air conditioning system

Regularly clean your air conditioner's filters to maximise performance. Image: Matt Harvey

Hot water systems

Water heating can account for 16 to 18 per cent of your energy bill, according to DEECA and Sustainability Victoria. Choosing the right hot water system can therefore save you a good chunk of money on your energy bill.

"The most cost-effective way to heat your water is with a heat pump hot water system," says Tanya. "They work by transferring the heat outside the unit to the water inside the heater. These systems use up to 75 per cent less electricity compared to other hot water systems." Plus, if you have rooftop solar connected to your pump, you can heat your water using renewable energy.

To maximise your hot water bill savings, install low-flow shower heads, wash clothes in cold water, and have your hot water system regularly serviced by a licensed tradesperson.

Rebate: The VEU program offers rebates of $490 to $1,540 for installing a heat pump hot water system or electric boosted solar hot water system, depending on which system you install and what type of inefficient system you are replacing. Solar Victoria is also offering a rebate up to $1,000 on eligible hot water systems. The federal government’s Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) program may provide additional financial benefits.

Reclaim hot water heat pump system

Heat pump hot water systems are the most energy-efficient. Image: Supplied

Fridges and freezers

"Fridges and freezers are notorious energy guzzlers because they need to remain on 24/7 to preserve your food," Tanya says.

Sustainability Victoria reports that fridges use 13 per cent of the average Victorian household's energy bill. Choosing a new energy-efficient model can save you money in the long term as a result: running costs over 10 years could stretch anywhere between $600 and $2,000.

Compared to similar sizes and types, the fridge model with the most stars on its Energy Rating Label will be the least costly to run. Models with a freezer on top rather than below or side-by-side generally consume less energy. Consider carefully whether you really need a built-in cold-water dispenser or ice-maker, as these use more energy and cost more to run than the average fridge-freezer.

"Avoid getting a second fridge unless you really need one," Tanya recommends. "It's more efficient to run one large fridge instead. That said, avoid purchasing a larger fridge than you require."

To maximise your savings make sure your thermostat is set correctly. Fridges should be set to 3°C, while freezers should be set to around -18°C. You should also avoid keeping fridges in hot spaces like next to the oven or in direct sunlight, since they will consume more energy to keep their contents cool.

Rebate: The VEU program provides a $70 discount on an eligible high-efficiency fridge or freezer.

woman placing food in her fridge

Fridges and freezers are notorious energy guzzlers. Image: Matt Harvey


Since most Victorian households use their dishwasher between 4 and 7 times a week according to Sustainability Victoria, there's a lot of washing cycles over the year that you could be saving money on.

When upgrading to a new dishwasher, you need to check its Energy Rating Label as well as its Water Rating Label. Choose the highest amount of stars on both labels that you can get within your budget to ensure you pick the most energy-efficient model. Every extra energy star could save you more on running costs.

"Check that your new dishwasher has both a cold and hot-water connection. This allows the machine to import hot water from your hot water system, which is more cost-effective than heating water in the dishwater," Tanya advises.

To save some extra water and energy, don’t buy a bigger dishwasher than you need, and consider a model with half-wash and economy (eco) options if you have a smaller household. A delay start function will also allow you to take advantage of cheaper off-peak or solar power.

woman loading dishwasher

Don't buy a bigger dishwasher than you need. Image: Getty

Clothes dryers

DEECA cites clothes dryers as a major contributor to energy use, while Sustainability Victoria reports that running an average load of washing through a clothes dryer costs around 44 cents.

"There are two main types of clothes dryers on the market: heat pump clothes dryers and conventional (condenser) clothes dryers," Tanya says. "Heat pump clothes dryers are much more energy efficient and will cost less to run over its lifetime."

For example, Sustainability Victoria estimates that a six-star heat pump clothes dryer would cost $49 a year to run. In comparison, 1.5-star conventional clothes dryer would cost $119 a year to run.*

To maximise your savings, get a model with auto-sensors that turn off the dryer as soon as your clothes are dry. Thoroughly spin-dry your clothes in the washing machine before popping them in the dryer: spinning water out of your clothes uses a lot less energy than heating it out. You can also aim to dry your clothes on a clothesline or drying rack when weather permits.

Rebate: The VEU program offers a $70 discount rebate on a high-efficiency clothes dryer.

loading a clothes dryer

Heat pump dryers are more energy efficient than conventional clothes dryers. Image: Pexels

Washing machines

Aim for a washing machine model that has at least a four-star energy rating and a five-star water rating. Sustainability Victoria advises that every extra energy star can save you 25 per cent of your washing machine's energy on a warm cycle.

"Pay careful attention to whether the Energy Rating Label is displaying consumption for both hot and cold wash cycles, or whether the consumption is listed for a warm wash only," Tanya says.

Front loaders use around 50 per cent less water than top loaders, making them a great choice for your new washing machine. As with dishwashers, choose a model with both hot and cold water connections. It's cheaper to import hot water from your hot water system than heating it in the washing machine. Smart features such as load sensing technology, which adjusts the water used depending on the load size, and a programmable timer or delay start function to take advantage of off-peak tariffs or solar power, will also help keep costs down.

Only put on a wash once you have a full load to make the most of the required energy to run a washing machine. Wash on cold as often as possible: it can reduce energy usage by up to 80 per cent, according to Sustainability Victoria.

woman loading a washing machine

Washing machines can guzzle a lot of power if they aren't energy-efficient. Image: Getty

How to save extra money on energy 

Many new household appliances come equipped with smart technology that can help deliver further savings, especially if you have rooftop solar. For example, you can use your smartphone to turn on the dishwasher remotely during the day to run it off solar power, or turn on the air conditioner to pre-cool the house before you get home.

When choosing a new appliance, always check the Energy Rating Label and choose the model with the highest number of stars within your budget. If you want to estimate how much an appliance will cost to run, multiply the energy consumption figure on its Energy Rating Label by your electricity tariff (cents/kWh).

Read about hidden energy users in your home for more tips on how to conserve energy. For example, standby mode on your computer or games console still consumes electricity, so turn these energy hogs off at the wall.

In addition, one of the best ways to save extra money on your energy bill is to shop around for an energy supplier that best suits your household.


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*6kg load capacity dryer run an average of three times per week. Source: Sustainability Victoria