Question: Are old appliances green because we are reusing, or not green because they are not Energy Star?
Answer: “It depends.” That’s because there are several factors involved. The primary one is how old the existing appliances are. Another is what appliances you’re talking about. So let’s look at a few specifics.
The appliance that may make the most sense to replace is the biggest energy user: your refrigerator. Bells and whistles aside, two things have changed over the years. One is the type of coolant used and the other is energy efficiency. Refrigerators made since 1996 use non-CFC coolants. CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) that get into the atmosphere through leaks or disposal contribute to ozone depletion, so if you do junk that old fridge, do it properly. In terms of energy efficiency, Energy Star standards have increased since they were established in 1996, which means newer refrigerators cost less to operate and contribute less to greenhouse gas emissions.
New dishwashers and washing machines also are more efficient, and here we have both energy and water consumption to consider. According to Energy Star: “Most Energy Star washers use 35 to 50 percent less water and 50 percent less energy per load.” And most new machines have energy- or water-saving modes.