Can you get rich off your appliance choices?

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We fill our homes with appliances to help us live our lives more efficiently. Some of these machines we take for granted -- refrigerators, washers and dryers, microwaves and dishwashers. We can live without some of them, probably most of them, but why would we want to? They save us time and labor.

But do they save us money? The short answer is sometimes. It really depends on the appliance, its age, how often you use it and -- more importantly -- how you use it. Many newer appliances come with energy- and money-saving features, but you have to know how to use them in order to reap the monetary benefits.

First, though, let's talk a bit about appliances in general and how much they typically cost to operate. When you purchase a new appliance, think of it as having two price tags -- the actual purchase price and the price of operation. You might find a washing machine at a rock bottom price, then bring it home and realize it's an energy hog that increases your power bill. Alternatively, you may purchase a relatively expensive machine that's more energy-efficient than your old one -- and your power bill will drop. See what we mean?

In order to understand how an appliance can save you money, you need to understand an appliance's energy use. We'll talk about that on the next page.