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Buying appliances: would you pay more now if you save later?

How much do you consider the long-term running costs of appliances? It doesn’t always pay to go for the cheapest – buy a model that costs less to run and it could work out cheaper in the long run.

When buying your next appliance you’re probably mainly concerned with getting the one that does its job well, isn’t going to break down, and isn’t going to cost you the earth.

Which?’s Best Buy recommendations and a quick check of your available funds will arm you with all the information you need to buy the best product for your needs.

But if upfront cost is one of the most crucial factors for you, have you ever considered that you may be making a short-term saving which could come back to haunt you?

The hidden costs of running your appliances

Our testing shows several examples where low running costs mean that a more expensive model works out cheaper in the long run than a cheaper one. This means that what seems like a bargain could end up costing you hundreds of pounds.

So we’ve introduced new energy cost calculators for everyone to see at a glance how much different models cost to run. They’re crucial reading if you’re about to buy a new telly, dishwasher or laundry or refrigeration appliance as you can see immediately how they compare side-by-side and why it’s sometimes better to shell out a little more at the outset.

Take fridge freezers. Our reliability survey shows that most brands give you years of happy cooling so, once you’ve bought one, you’re unlikely to need to replace it for a long time. But, as they’re always on, the difference between an energy-efficient model and a guzzler means hidden costs could be drastically increasing your electricity bills.

Long-term savings

Our testing reveals a huge gulf between the efficiency of two similarly-sized fridge-freezers from sister-brands Hotpoint and Indesit. The Indesit BAN12NF is slightly cheaper at £250 but what you won’t know in the shop is that its annual running cost is around £53.

If you’d splashed out an extra £50 for the Hotpoint RF175M, you’d have recouped that difference within two years thanks to its impressively moderate £18 annual running costs. And – as the graphic below shows – over seven years, you’ll have saved almost £200.

Energy calculator

We know that running costs aren’t the top priority for everyone and we don’t advocate trading in a functioning old appliance for a new one. But if you are in the market for a new one, then these calculators could stop you from making a choice you’ll live to regret.

How much do you think about running costs when you buy new appliances and do you think these calculators will help you in future?

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These are impressive differences, and with electricity costs rising it is important that we think about running costs when purchasing fridges, freezers and anything else that runs continuously or is in use for extended periods. Some manufacturers deserve congratulation and others need to get their act together.

I am convinced that the way forward is to promote the fact that people can save money by choosing energy-efficient appliances. Mentioning the environmental benefits falls on a lot of deaf ears.

Sophie Gilbert says:
28 February 2012

As long as my appliances work I won’t replace them, but when they finally give up the ghost I will certainly consider these running costs and do the maths. The “trouble” is a lot of them are Which best buys, and they show no sign of failing!

S Finlay says:
16 March 2012

I wonder about the relative merits of some devices that are not reflected in comparable engery ratings. For example, if I have two clothes dryers that technically have the same energy usage, but one is a condenser and the other vented, then the condenser is the obvious low energy choice. Why? because all of the energy used stays your house in the form of heat. While for the vented dryer the heat is expelled to the outside. Given that most drying occurs in colder periods then this heating effect will reduce your heating bills.

There are similar effects with lightbulbs. Having low energy lightbulbs is good, but the savings are not quite as much as you would think, given that old style bulbs contributed heat to you home (which is why they are inefficient as bulbs).

S Finlay says:
21 March 2012


What I think would be interesting is a list of all common household appliances, showing the amount of energy (expressed in £££ per annum) of the best, worst and average product of that type.

For example, what’s the spread in running costs for kettles? If its only a few pence difference between the best and worst, then that tells me not to bother worrying to much about it when I buy a new one. If its many tens of pounds per annum then thats important to me.

Has which produced anything like this in the past?

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In these days of rising fuel prices we certainly need to know about likely running costs.

Kettles are likely to have very similar running costs because the conversion of electricity to heat is nearly 100% efficient.

Perhaps the most useful appliances to look at are appliances that are left on all the time (e.g. fridges and freezers) and those that consume a lot of power and are used fairly frequently (e.g. washing machines and tumble-driers).

Unfortunately, it is difficult to accurately estimate the running cost of a fridge or a freezer because that depends on room temperature and whether or not it is boxed in or has plenty of ventilation. The cost of running a washing machine will depend on whether it uses hot or cold water (and if hot-fill, how the water is heated). Tumble driers are easy to compare but running costs will depend on how damp clothes are and what they are made of.

Kitchen appliances do have an energy rating, though that does not translate to actual running cost. Which? reports tend to have more detail about relative energy use but for reasons I have explained it is difficult to predict costs with any certainty.

1 April 2012

if i could afford to oay more now to save in the future i would, i would have to way it up as a single wage in my house best value is important