The kitchen is one of the largest consumers of energy in the home. If you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint, the room where you cook is a great place to start. Of course you've probably already read all about buying Energy Star appliances and the money and energy savings those offer, but there many other simple ways to save energy in the kitchen.
Switching out your kitchen light bulbs to LED bulbs will save a significant amount of electricity. A standard BR30 LED bulb costs about $1.50 a year to run, versus $7.80 for an incandescent equivalent. When you factor in the longevity of the LED bulb, estimated to last 23 years versus one year for the incandescent, the savings for both you and the planet are clear.
The top source of wasted energy in a kitchen is from cooking. Avoiding these bad habits will quickly add up to big energy savings:
• Opening and closing heated oven doors too frequently
• Not putting lids on pots while boiling
• Using incorrectly sized pans (cooking with a 6-inch diameter pan on an 8-inch burner wastes over 40% of the heat produced)
Additionally, cooking in a convection oven is 25 percent more efficient than a conventional oven because of shorter cooking times, and using a microwave or a toaster oven reduces electricity use for smaller meals. Even though these appliances use more energy than conventional ovens, the shorter cooking time saves energy overall. Energy Star estimates savings of as much as 80 percent when using the microwave instead of the oven.
Refrigerators and freezers work by sucking the warm air and moisture out of the space and leaving cool air in its place. The less warm air and moisture there is in the space, the less energy used. Keep the door shut as much as possible, the shelves full so that there is less air to cool, and liquid items covered to reduce moisture in the air.
Most appliances now feature energy saving settings. For example, new dishwashers have an "economy" setting to reduce water and energy use. Also, look for the option to disable the heated dry on your machine. The heated dry setting is responsible for a good portion of energy used by the dishwasher, so consider switching it off and leaving the door open overnight to let the dishes air dry.
Just as you shouldn't leave a cell phone charger plugged in with no cellphone attached, don't leave small appliances like toasters and coffeemakers plugged in when they're not being used.
Keep your hood clean so it works properly. If it's not ventilating, it's creating a hotter kitchen environment and requiring your HVAC to work harder. Make sure your hood vents to the outside, but turn it off as soon as you're done cooking, because it will be sucking cool air outside in the summer and warm air in the winter, again causing your heating and cooling system to work harder and draw more energy.
Until replicators are invented, we're stuck with gas and electricity to cook our food (indoors at least). Many chefs espouse the benefits of gas over electricity because of its responsiveness and smaller carbon footprint, however it contributes significant indoor air pollution, and while more energy-efficient than a basic coil-top electric range, electricity actually offers the best energy savings in the form of induction cooktops.
Currently, cooktops are not Energy Star rated, but the Department of Energy has singled out induction cooking as the most energy efficient method. Induction cooking works by transferring energy straight to the metal of the pan through an electromagnetic field, rather than using heat transfer, as gas and electric do. Induction uses 2.8kw to deliver 2.52kw of power, making it 90 percent efficient. Gas uses 3.5kw to generate 1.75kw, a 50 percent efficiency rate (Best Induction Cooktop Guide). The result is almost instantaneous temperature control and a cooktop that remains cool to the touch (only the pot gets hot).
As with most energy saving solutions, the rule of thumb in the kitchen is "act wisely not wastefully," and you'll save plenty. With constant advances in cooking technology, from the microwave to the induction cooktop, there are many tools to help us do that, but it's still down to you to make sure you are using them correctly in order to get the most benefit for the planet.
Jennifer Tuohy writes for Home Depot about energy efficiency and appliances including microwaves and induction cooktops. Jennifer provides advice to homeowners on options available to make their home green. Home Depot's selection of microwave ovens and their line of induction stoves can be found on the company's website.
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