Even when it's blistering hot outside, sometimes you can crave a good hot meal - even when you finally get tired of grilling but loathe the idea of turning on the oven. Well, there are some simple, practical things you can do to reduce the energy load in your kitchen—as well as some tips that will help make the entire home more comfortable so you don't have to seek refuge in the nearest air-conditioned restaurant.
Limit pre-heating. Pre-heating the oven is absolutely necessary for cooking many dishes. However, some recipes have you turn on the oven far more ahead of time for pre-heating than is needed. Most ovens have a display that counts down the pre-heating time and lets you know when it is ready to use. If your oven doesn't have this display, use an oven thermometer so you can see when it's ready for cooking. Some dishes do not require the oven to be completely pre-heated, but keep in mind that if it's not at the right temperature it may extend your cooking time and make up for whatever time you would save by not pre-heating.
- Keep the oven door closed. Every time you open the oven door, the oven temperature can drop 25 degrees. Avoid wasting energy by using the oven light or a timer. I use a digital timer which is more precise than a wind-up model.
- Use a meat thermometer. Invest in a meat thermometer for roasting meat. These are oven-proof, and usually include a digital meter that tells you what temperature your meat should be when it's done. This will reduce the need to open the oven door while cooking.
- Clean the door seal. Use a kitchen degreaser and gently clean the seal on your oven door so that it retains the maximum amount of heat.
- Cover your food. Your refrigerator's compressor works harder to cool moist air, and covered foods limit moisture evaporation. Of course, your refrigerator will smell better too.
- Clean the coils. Make it an annual thing: clean or dust the coils on the back of your refrigerator. This helps the compressor cool faster and run less frequently, reducing energy use and extending the life of the unit.
- See the Energy Saver pages on purchasing a new refrigerator and on proper refrigerator use and temperature settings .
- Use other appliances. Beyond microwaves, don't forget about toaster and convection ovens, air fryers, slow cookers, pressure cookers and other small cooking appliances. These handy appliances use less energy and generate less heat than a standard oven.
- Use fans. A ceiling fan in the kitchen or adjoining dining area will circulate the air and keep you more comfortable. Better yet, you can install a whole-house fan or attic fan to keep the hot air moving up and out of your home.
- Use energy-efficient lighting. Replace your incandescent bulbs, recessed downlights and undercabinet lighting with LED lighting in your kitchen (not to mention the rest of your home). These energy-efficient lights use far less energy and generate less heat: incandescents release 90% of their energy as heat, while LEDs release almost no heat.
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