Want to boost those holiday deals? Read the energy label.

Looking to score on a few Black Friday deals? You may have a shopping list a mile long. But let’s be honest, the real bargain shopper in you is really looking out for No. 1.

If you’re like a lot of folks, you’ll barely finish your turkey and dressing before checking out the ads and drawing up a plan of attack. Nothing says “happy holidays” like scoring a flat screen TV or a new refrigerator for a fraction of the regular price. But remember what your daddy, King Thriftmeister, always said – don’t forget to read the fine print before you make a big purchase. Make sure what you’re saving now won’t cost you more later. An Energy Guide label might be your secret to successful saving.

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Electronics and appliances really have two prices – the “off the shelf” advertised price and the real cost associated with operating that device over time. For example, the true cost of a refrigerator includes the electricity and water needed to keep the unit cold and the ice bucket full. That’s the cost that shows up in your utility bill each month, and could have you saying “bah humbug” by spring.

So how can you get the most bang for your buck when you’re shopping for appliances this year? Start with the big yellow Energy Guide label. It offers valuable details on what the real cost of that shiny new fridge may be over time.

Today, most major home appliances are required to meet minimum federal energy efficiency standards. To meet this requirement, manufacturers must test their products. The Energy Guide label outlines the results of those tests, including how much energy that appliance consumes, its energy use compared to others, and the approximate annual operating cost of that model (which varies depending on local utility rates and the amount of use per consumer).

Most appliances have an Energy Guide label, with the exception of TVs, ovens, ranges, clothes dryers and humidifiers — the amount of energy these products use varies minimally from model to model.

There are a lot of things to consider when you shop for an appliance. Take refrigerators – stainless steel or a textured finish? The high-end or the economy brand?

Important choices, but consider the model’s operating cost, as well. For example, on Black Friday, Refrigerator A may be priced $100 more than Refrigerator B. However, if, according to the label, Refrigerator A’s annual operating cost is $15 less per year than its counterpart, and you expect to keep that unit for 10 years or more, then Refrigerator A may be the better buy in the long run.

You can take it one step further. Look for a blue ENERGY STAR® logo on the appliance or on the packaging.

ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances and products are built with improved quality and durability as well as advanced technologies – all can lower your utility bills, outperform standard models, and save on repair costs over the life of that appliance. For example, ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerators use at least 15 percent less energy than standard models. Over time, those dollars can add up. Not all appliances have this label, so keep an eye out for it.

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If a new appliance or electronic is on your shopping list, do your homework. You should be able to find Energy Guide, ENERGY STAR and product information for any item online.

Doing so could make that holiday deal even better.

Tracy Idell Hamilton

Tracy Idell Hamilton was part of the Corporate Communications team at CPS Energy.

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