Energy savings alone can justify replacing a refrigerator or dishwasher. Swapping out a refrigerator built before 2001 for a new Energy Star
model, for instance, could cut your annual energy usage by 40 percent. And a new dishwasher with the eco-friendly seal will use 41 percent less energy to operate than an unrated unit because it has less water to heat. Next year's models may prove even more efficient; Energy Star will unveil tighter standards for dishwashers on January 1 and is reviewing its refrigerator qualifications. If your appliances are reasonably efficient but look dowdy, consider a DIY makeover. Panel kits from Frigo Design
, which come in stainless steel, wood to match your cabinets, and even magnetic chalkboard, start at $399 for the fridge and $99 for the dishwasher. You can trim fridge energy costs yourself by installing a new door gasket (order one from the manufacturer) to give you a tighter seal so that cooled air won't escape. You can also save by cranking up its temperature to a safe 38 degrees F and the freezer to 0 degrees F.