Two goals most of us share are to save the planet and save money. Luckily, these are not antithetical objectives. Going green can be cost effective — good news all around.
The kitchen gulps energy more ferociously than any other room in the house. Large appliances demand a lot of energy, whether it’s electricity or gas. We need good light in the kitchen to illuminate our every task. We use water by the gallon for cooking and cleaning needs, too.
We have assembled five ways to save energy in the kitchen. None is expensive or takes a lot of extra effort. All are practical and once you implement them, you will see a drop in your energy bills and know that you are doing your small part to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Refrigerators and freezers are major energy drains. Help yours run efficiently by keeping both well stocked. Do not pack them so tight you can’t move things around — this is particularly true of the freezer — but cooling empty space is wasteful. The chilled or frozen foods keep those items close to them cold and so the compressor cycles less frequently.
Do not stand with the refrigerator door open. Take out all you need for a dish at one time. Repeated openings and closings only raise the temperature of the refrigerator and freezer. Educate your kids about this, too.
Vacuum the condenser coils at the back of the refrigerator box six or seven times a year. This will help it run more efficiently. If the rubber gasket that holds the door closed seems loose, replace it. (A dollar bill should not be able to slide up or down when held by the gasket.)
- Your dishwasher uses less water than hand washing. Make sure it’s always full before turning it on. It’s effective to put as much in the dishwasher as you can — pots, pans, bowls, cutting boards, and so forth. If your dishwasher has an energy saving cycle, use it. This means the dishes dry without the benefit of blasted heat. If you don’t have this option, try to catch the cycle before it comes on and let the dishes air dry by opening the door of the dishwasher.
When you wipe down the counters or clean the stove, don’t leave the water running in the sink. Turn it off when it’s not needed. This saves gallons.
- Put an oven thermometer in your oven to determine how long the oven takes to preheat and then remember it so that your oven is not standing, fully heated, before it’s needed. Many of the newer ovens heat up so quickly, preheating is almost a quaint idea. Plan meals so you can put two or more dishes in the oven at the same time. Make every effort not to open the oven door more than absolutely necessary.
For small heating jobs, use the toaster oven or the microwave. Either one saves a lot of energy compared to the oven.
- Unplug appliances when they are not in use. These include the toaster, the microwave, food processor, blender, and coffee machine. No one expects you to unplug the refrigerator or dishwasher, but by some estimates, we use 75 percent of our household power when appliances are turned off. An easy way to manage this is to plug a number of appliances into a power strip and then turn the strip on and off.
- Replace incandescent kitchen light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones. This cuts down on a lot of kilowatt use. Rely on natural light whenever possible. Remove kitchen curtains, houseplants, and other items that obstruct the sunshine from entering the room.
Just a few commonsense behavior changes work wonders. And when it’s time to replace a large appliance, buy one with an EnergyStar rating.