The kitchen is the central hub in most homes. It is the place where families gather for everything from meal preparation and craft making, to grabbing a quick bite, to helping kids with homework. So often, we prepare and cook meals without considering whether or not the tools and appliances we use for these tasks cost us more than they need to. By merely observing your habits and understanding the amount of electricity used in these acts, a few simple alterations can help you achieve energy efficiency in the kitchen. This will help you not only save electricity, but also save money on the utility bill and help the environment.

One Room, Many Ways to Save

The stove, refrigerator/freezer, and dishwasher are the most electricity-intensive appliances in the kitchen. On top of that, if these items are used haphazardly or are not regularly maintained, their efficiency levels rapidly decrease. In this post, we present 12 expert tips to help you embrace energy efficiency in the kitchen and enjoy energy savings.

4 Ways to Save with Your Refrigerator

#1 Allow for Air Circulation

The condenser coils in a refrigerator work best with ample air circulation. So, make sure your refrigerator is not pushed into an extra-tight space in the kitchen. If possible, leave at least 2-inches between your fridge and the surrounding walls. 

#2 Clean the Coils

The condenser coils are generally located either on the backside or underneath your refrigerator. In these locations, they can attract dust and debris, which reduce their cooling ability, requiring them to work harder.

Make it a habit to clean the coils every quarter or at least twice a year. A quick sweep with the vacuum hose will capture the accumulated dirt and enable the condenser coils to move air more freely.

#3 Promote Consistent Ambient Temperature

Maintaining consistent temperatures inside and out of your refrigerator will help it work as energy efficiently as possible.  Here’s how to achieve that:

  • Avoid positioning the refrigerator in heat-generating areas, such as near the dishwasher, oven, or where it is exposed to heat from direct sunlight.
  • Avoid leaving the refrigerator door open for extended periods while searching for items. It will have to work harder to keep the temperature down.
  • Before placing hot items inside your fridge, allow them to cool down as much as possible. The moisture produced from hot, or even warm, foods and liquids will lead to the same result as leaving the door open. The compressor will need to work overtime to maintain the interior temperature of the fridge. Feel strongly about refrigerating items immediately to maintain a safe temperature? At the very least, cover them up tightly to prevent releasing warm moisture.
  • Note that these tips also apply to your freezer!

#4 Stay Up To Date

If your refrigerator is 15 years old or older, it could very well use twice as much energy as a new ENERGY STAR refrigerator. A new ENERGY STAR-rated fridge can save you over $250 over the next five years in addition to significantly reducing your carbon footprint. So consider an upgrade. It could be a big boost to your energy efficiency in the kitchen.

WattDoesItUse will provide recommendations and purchase tips when it is re-launched in December—stay tuned! Until then, you can find the energy consumption of your specific refrigerator using WattDoesItUse.

5 Ways to Save with Your Dishwasher

Dishwashers are generally more cost-efficient to use versus washing dishes by hand. On average, households spend about $50 per year on the electricity to run their dishwashers. Implement the tips listed below to ensure you’re using the dishwasher as effectively as possible.

#1 Use Appropriate Settings

Most newer model dishwashers have an “economy” or “energy-saving” setting. This reduces both the temperature and amount of water used, saving you money on not only your electric bill, but also your water bill!

#2 Cycle Duration Matters

Make the most of the dishwashing cycles by running it only when it is full and always choose the shortest cycle possible to reduce energy usage.

#3 Check Temperature Settings

As we mentioned in a previous post, heating water can account for 14-25 percent of the energy consumed in your home. Verify that the temperature setting on both your water heater and dishwasher is no higher than 120-degrees Fahrenheit.

#4 Clean the Drain and Trap

The drain and trap located at the bottom of dishwashers can both accumulate food and debris. By cleaning these areas weekly or monthly, you’ll avoid having to re-wash dishes and help your dishwasher will run more smoothly.

#5 Forego the Drying Cycle

You might be surprised at the amount of electricity (and money) you can save by merely allowing your dishes to air dry, rather than using the drying cycle. Crack the door open and let the residual heat dry them, and your savings on dishwasher-related electricity use could amount to up to 15%.

4 Ways to Save When Preparing Meals

#1 Invest in the right appliances

It’s easy to fall into the habit of comparing only price tags when considering a new appliance. But house—and especially kitchen—appliances are an investment. They add to (or detract from) the value of your home. And they can continue to save (or cost you) money when you operate them. Take, for example, the oven. Should you go with a convection style or traditional style oven? You may not be aware that convection ovens are designed to be much more energy efficient. In fact, they require approximately 20% less energy than a standard oven.

Another major opportunity for energy efficiency in the kitchen—and in the other rooms of your house—is lighting. Of course, everyone prefers a kitchen that has plenty of light. Even if you are taking advantage of the many benefits of natural light in your kitchen, additional lighting is often required. Be sure to use energy-efficient LED bulbs. LED lights may cost a bit more upfront, but they are bright, longer lasting, and use significantly less energy than incandescent bulbs. Opting for these bulbs can help you save even more money and electricity in your kitchen.

Take the time to research the relative power consumption of particular products and/or technologies before making a purchase. It’s also a good rule of thumb to look for the ENERGY STAR logo as an indicator of a product’s energy efficiency.

#2 Use the Right Appliance

Most homes have a variety of cooking appliances, including traditional ovens and stovetops, microwaves, toaster ovens, and crockpots. The energy requirements for each vary. Here are average electrical costs to expect per hour of use:

  • Oven – $0.25 per hour
  • Stovetop – $0.15 per hour
  • Crockpot – $0.03 per hour
  • Microwave Oven – $0.12 per hour
  • Toaster Oven – $0.12 per hour

Whenever possible, opt for a smaller appliance if it can still handle the job and produce the results you want.

#3 Choose Appropriate Cookware

Using high-end cookware will help food cook more evenly and require less energy. Ceramic and glass dishes are not only durable; they are conductive, so they need less heat and reduced time in the oven. The best options for stovetop cooking include glass or copper bottom metal pots and pans. When preparing food on the stovetop, select the right size cookware and use lids, while also choosing the best size burner to get the job done. Even these minor changes can help you make the most of your time in the kitchen and save energy costs.

#4 Cook Less Often

When you are cooking meals, consider cooking in larger batches to make the most of a heated oven or burner. Not only will this cut down on energy costs, but the convenience of preparing additional meals ahead of time will also free you up from cooking over the week and allow you to spend more time with the family—something we’re certainly eager to have! 

Whether it’s replacing your old appliances with new energy-efficient ones, adopting new methods and tools, or simply embracing better habits, there are many ways to improve your energy efficiency in the kitchen. Whether you love cooking or do it out of necessity, the recommendations in this post will help you minimize your electrical (and financial) waste. Think we missed one? Tried one of the tips with great success? Let us know in the comments below!