One way homeowners can live better and save money on energy costs is to purchase new, energy-efficient appliances. A new refrigerator, dishwasher, washer and dryer to replace inefficient, older models that waste water, natural gas or electricity can be a smart investment.

About 13 percent of your monthly utility bill goes to the use of your refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer and other household appliances. If you typically pay about $500 a month for your water, gas and electricity, operating your household appliances accounts for about $65 of that total.

You can cut that cost in half with energy-efficient appliances, you’d save $390 a year or $3,900 over 10 years – and your food would stay fresh longer, your dishes would be cleaner and your clothes would be treated more gently thanks to new technologies that make appliances better.

Energy Stars

To find energy-efficient appliances, look for the Energy Star logo that appears on those that meet federal government standards for energy efficiency.

Also look for the Energy Star Energy Guide, a black-and-yellow notice that discloses the appliance’s manufacturer, size and model number, estimated annual operating cost based on the national average of electricity costs, and a range of operating costs for similar models. The guide is intended to help consumers compare various makes and models. Appliances with similar features and prices can have different operating costs, so it might make sense to buy the model that will save you the most money when you use it.

Dirty dishes

Newer dishwashers feature soil sensors, improved water filtration systems, more efficient water-spraying jets and better-designed dish racks to improve their performance. Energy Star dishwashers use less than 4.25 gallons of water each time they’re run. Dishwashers sold before 1994 typically use 10 or more gallons of water per cycle. Most of the energy is used to heat the water, so better efficiency reduces both the cost of the water and the cost of heating it. The typical savings is $35 per year.

Cold storage

Refrigerator that have earned Energy Star status use 15 percent less energy than similar models that aren't Energy Star-qualified. To get the most savings, buy a refrigerator that has the freezer compartment on the top. Those models use less energy than side-by-side models or those that have the freezer on the bottom.

Laundry day

Energy Star-qualified clothes washers are about 25 percent more efficient than washers that don't have Energy Star status. Rather than fill up and agitate, today’s washers run laundry through a stream of water while sensors monitor the flow, level and temperature. Rinsing is accomplished with a high-pressure spray instead of a tub. These advances save up to 10 gallons of water per load laundry. An Energy Star washer can save $40 per year compared with a non-Energy Star model. Washers manufactured before 2003 cost an extra $230 to operate each year, on average.

Energy Star clothes dryers are more efficient, too, thanks to moisture sensors that adjust the heat to match the challenge of drying each load of laundry.