“Too. Much. POWER!” This quote from comic book super villain The Parasite could also be attributed to me every time I open my monthly electric bill. How does so much power get used in one month? My heat is gas, I haven’t run my AC since last September, and I always remember to turn off the TV when I leave the house. I even recently switched all my light bulbs to LEDs. So, how does all the power get consumed?
What you may not be accounting for is that your kitchen is actually one of the most energy-hungry rooms in your house. It’s not like you can simply stop cooking though, so what can you do to clean up inefficiencies? Why is your kitchen eating up so much of your energy?
The culprit is all those appliances dedicated to heating and cooling food—like your microwave. You’ve probably already used it a couple of times today, right? At 1200 watts for 10 minutes a day, if your power rate is $.12 per kWh, that will add up to over $5 on your electric bill. It may not seem like a big expense, until you start to take into account all your other kitchen appliances that is.
Let’s take a closer look at “The Big Three,” your fridge, stovetop, and oven, as well as your cleaning habits, to spot unnecessarily used kilowatts in the kitchen.
Your worst offender is probably your refrigerator. It uses about the same amount of energy per hour as a burner on your stove, roughly 1000 watts. The difference is, you probably don’t use that stovetop burner for more than an hour or so a day, while your refrigerator is always working to maintain a consistent temperature setting for your perishable foods. You can’t just unplug it when it’s not in use like some other appliances. There are several ways to up its efficiency though:
- Don’t leave your freezer empty: Your freezer should be roughly three-quarters full in order to maintain the proper temperature, which will help reduce the amount of time the unit is actively running. When it’s empty and you open it, there’s much more room for warm air to rush in and, afterward, more energy is needed to cool down the air that’s been trapped inside.
- Ditch the automatic ice maker: Use ice trays instead. That built-in ice maker may be more convenient, but it can also increase your refrigerator’s energy consumption by 14-20%.
- Don’t put hot food in the fridge: This is an easy one. Let food cool outside the fridge before storing your leftovers. Warm or hot food will raise the temperature in your ice box, making it harder for it to maintain the set temperature.
Speaking of the temperature inside your refrigerator, you likely have a little dial that controls the thermostat, but doesn’t actually tell you what temperature you’ve set the appliance to. Most fridges top out at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, because that’s when bacteria starts to grow. 35 to 38 degrees is optimal, with 32 typically being the lowest setting.
Armed with this knowledge, you can see that choosing a mid-range setting is ideal. If you want to avoid the guessing game though, you can place a thermometer in a glass of water, and leave it in the center of your fridge for at least two hours to get an exact reading.
Stovetop Energy Savings
Did you know that boiling water is likely one of your most wasteful kitchen activities? Heating water on the stove is an energy-intensive task, and if you heat up double the amount of water you actually need, you’re pouring energy down the drain. Most of us stick the kettle or pot under the faucet and just kind of eyeball it, which leads to wasting water in the end. Instead, evenly measure out the amount of water you’re going to need for a cup of tea before pouring it into the kettle.
It takes about .026 kWh to heat a cup of water to boiling. Double that if you slightly overfill your kettle. Triple or quadruple it if you have the habit of filling it to the brim before setting it on the stove to heat up. Do this 2 or 3 times a day to satisfy your tea habit, then toss in a pasta dinner or two every week and you could be unnecessarily adding to your monthly kilowatt usage.
Not much of a tea drinker? All you bakers and casserole makers out there can also throw energy down the drain.
If you can’t resist cracking open the oven door and taking a peek at your food, then you know how much heat comes blasting out each time you do. There’s more to baking efficiently than just switching on an oven light to satisfy your curiosity though:
- Use the right dish: Use ceramic or glass dishes in the oven, rather than metal cookware. They conduct heat more efficiently, allowing you to turn the temperature down by about 25 degrees.
- Check for leaks: Does the seal on your oven door show signs of gaps or tears? If the seal isn’t in perfect working condition, you’re losing heat and costing yourself money.
- No foil necessary: Many cooks like to put foil on their oven racks in an attempt to reflect the heat and cook their food faster, but in a convection oven, the movement of air is critical to cooking times. This practice will actually make convection ovens less efficient.
Even the most energy savvy cook is going to end up with a sink full of dishes after dinner, which brings up an interesting debate that’s been raging in kitchens across the country for years— hand wash, or fill up your dishwasher?
Saving Money on Stacks of Dirty Dishes
The “Great Dish Debate” has been around as long as there have been dishwashers to load and sinks to fill. Is it more efficient to hand wash your dishes or use the dishwasher? The rather ambiguous answer is: it depends. How old is your dishwasher? How full do you cram it? How long do you take to hand wash dishes? And how do these factors work together?
- Energy-efficient dishwashers: Using an Energy Star certified dishwasher could save you more than $40 a year on your utility bills compared to hand washing. Of course, that assumes that you’re completely filling the appliance for each use. Just think, that old dinosaur of a machine that’s been in the kitchen for twenty years might not give you the same benefits.
- Water considerations: Energy Star also states that by installing a new energy-efficient dishwasher, you use half as much energy as an older model, and save almost 5,000 gallons of water a year. To put that in perspective, the average American uses 17.2 gallons of water every time they shower, so along with the energy benefits you’re saving the equivalent of nearly 300 showers a year.
- Opt out of heat: Much of the energy that your dishwasher uses comes from the heated drying cycle at the end. You can save that energy by simply switching off the heated dry option.
Each of these small changes alone may not add up to significant savings, but keep the big picture in perspective. Just like each ingredient adds something to your favorite cake or casserole recipe, each energy saving change you make in the kitchen can add up to savings on your next energy bill.
Learning a few new energy saving habits can help free yourself from the “same old, same old” on your monthly power costs. Another way to break from the status quo is to change the way you pay for your energy altogether. Third party energy suppliers, like Liberty Power, offer fixed rate energy options that give you stability and budget control. They also offer renewable energy products, so while you can’t cut your kitchen power supply altogether, you can help ensure your green tea is, well, green! Contact Liberty Power today to learn more—and experience their unbeatable customer service.