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Spending time in the kitchen can be more energy efficient than ever with these tips. | Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/andresr
When I think energy efficiency in the kitchen my first thought is appliances. But while the stainless steel splendors I lovingly stock with food are a great place to start, energy savings can also come from how you use them.
Cooking, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes I'm making lasagna or roasting a turkey, other times I'm sautéing vegetables, grilling steaks, or even nuking some left-overs. However you use your kitchen, these tips can save you time and money.
The first step to energy efficiency in your kitchen is to consider your appliances, and appliances with the ENERGY STAR® seal of approval are always the most energy efficient.
Convection ovens also make a difference. The heated air is continuously circulated which reduces cook times as well as the temperatures required. On average you'll use 20% less energy a month running your convection oven, as compared to a standard oven.
Self-cleaning ovens are more energy efficient because they have better insulation. If you have a self-cleaning oven, run its self-cleaning cycle only once a month, and always after you've used the oven. You'll use less energy because the oven will start out hotter.
Slow cookers also use significantly less energy than a stovetop for when you're preparing soups or stews that could take hours to cook. And not running that second refrigerator or freezer can save you $300-$700 in the next 5 years. Properly recycling old refrigerators and freezers can also prevent 5,500 to 20,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.
Not All Cookware is Created Equal
Flat bottomed cookware allows for more contact with heating elements, which in turn more effectively heats your pan. A warped-bottom pot could take 50% more energy to boil water than its flat bottomed neighbors.
Conductivity also matters. Copper bottomed pans heat up faster than regular pans, and in the oven glass or ceramic dishes are better than metal. In a glass or ceramic dish, you'll be able to turn your oven down about 25 degrees and your meal will cook just as quickly.
When cooking on the stove top, using the right size pan matters. Say you are using an electric cooktop. If your pan is only 6 inches and you are cooking on an 8 inch burner, over 40% of your heat will be wasted. Using the right pots and pans will not only help food cook more evenly, but can save you $36 annually for an electric range and $18 for gas. Also consider covering your pans as you cook. It makes the food cook faster and keeps the kitchen cooler.
If you're cooking small quantities of food in your oven, think about alternatives, like a toaster oven, microwave oven, or slow cooker. Using a microwave can use as much as 80% less energy when reheating than a standard oven.
Keep it Clean
Be sure to keep any burner pans (the metal pans that catch grease and boiled water when it inevitably runs over) clean. The reflective shine serves a purpose beyond looking good; it also reflects heat up to the cookware. When it is blackened and dirty it will absorb more heat, reducing efficiency.
Preparation is Key
When it comes to saving energy in the kitchen, knowing your cooking rhythm is half the battle. Chopping vegetables, seasoning chicken, or trimming steak should happen before you turn on your appliances. Having everything ready to cook will not only help you save energy at the stove, it will also keep you from burning your onions as you furiously chop to catch up.
Also try defrosting your food in the refrigerator before cooking. But remember to keep food covered while it thaws—uncovered food releases moisture, and can force your refrigerator's compressor to work harder, sucking up energy.
If possible prepare double portions of your meal and cook them together, staggering the dishes for maximum heat flow and circulation. You can then freeze the extra. It takes a lot less energy to reheat food than to cook it twice.
Leaking Away Money
Make sure your faucet isn't leaking. One drip per second can waste up to 1,661 gallons of water annually. A leaky faucet not only wastes a precious resource, but can cost up to $35 in electricity or natural gas.
Your refrigerator can also leak cold air. To be sure your refrigerator doors are sealed tightly, place a piece of paper so it is sticking half way out of your unit. If you are able to pull the paper loose, you may need to repair the latch or seal.
Using these tips will save energy and money, and they just might bring you closer to your kitchen in the process.