We all want to save on our monthly energy bills, especially during the holiday season. The good news is that conserving electricity and saving money is easier than you think. Taking a comprehensive look at your energy use is a good approach, and the kitchen is a great place to start. When you consider that cooking accounts for nearly 15% of electricity demand and storing food accounts for another 17%, it makes sense that there it may yield opportunities to save money on your utility costs. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, let’s look at a few ways you can save energy while cooking the holiday dinner.
1. Use Energy-Efficient Appliances
First, establish a solid foundation by using appliances and devices designed to use electricity efficiently. An Energy Star-rated refrigerator, for example, uses 9% less electricity than a non-certified counterpart. While stoves, ovens, and refrigerators aren’t available with specific Energy Star certification, they will include information about their yearly energy use and costs. Remember that energy-efficient also means using the right-sized appliance for your needs. Bigger machines cost more to operate than smaller ones, so get the appliance that best fit your needs.
2. Defrost Food Before Cooking
Defrosting food (in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions) before cooking is a good way to shave off cooking time and use less energy. When you defrost food in the refrigerator instead of the microwave, it uses less electricity.
3. Use the Right Cookware the Right Way
Pots and pans can drastically optimize your cooking efficiency. For instance, cookware made from highly conductive material uses 25% less heat. Pans with a copper bottom heat faster and are ideal on the stovetop. Cooking in a glass or ceramic dish allows you to reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.
When cooking on the stove, match the burner and pot size to help reduce heat loss and maximize energy-efficient cooking. If your pan is six inches, cooking on an eight-inch burner wastes 40% of the heat. Keep lids on the pans while cooking to prevent heat loss, cook faster, and use up to 66% less energy. You can even turn off the pan a few minutes early — the residual heat will finish the cooking.
Finally, the Department of Energy advises that a warped-bottom pot could take 50 percent more energy to boil water than a flat-bottomed pan. So replace old cookware when it’s time.
4. Cook Efficiently
Most of the electricity used in the kitchen is to generate heat, so finding the right balance when using an oven, stove, microwave, and other ways to cook is essential. That doesn’t mean you always have to use the microwave, but other smaller appliances like the toaster, slow cooker, and pressure cooker use less energy and are an easier way to save on small meals. The Department of Energy advises that reheating food in a microwave can use up to 80% less energy than in an oven. If you have the space for it, cooking over an open fire or charcoal grill won’t add to your energy bills!
5. Cool Efficiently, Too.
Cooling is just as energy intensive as heating. Fortunately, the EPA offers several valuable tips and guidelines for ensuring your refrigerator uses electricity efficiently. First and foremost, set the temperature between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit. If possible, place your refrigerator in a location away from any sources of direct heat, like the oven, dishwasher, or direct sunlight from a window. Avoid standing with the door open longer than necessary. Try to take out everything you need from the refrigerator at once.
If you have an older model with condenser coils on the back, leave a few inches between the wall and the back of the refrigerator to allow air circulation. Also, clean the coils regularly. Check your refrigerator door seals a few times a year to ensure they’re tight; replace them if they’re not. When it comes time to invest in a new refrigerator, refer to what we discussed in the first item on this list and look at Energy Star models.
6. No Peeking!
Remember how we just said that generating heat uses a lot of energy? Well, when you open the oven door to check on the turkey, all that heat escapes and the oven’s temperature drops about 25 degrees. Save energy and oven heating time by resisting the urge to repeatedly open the oven door. Unless you need to check the internal temperature or consistency of what you’re making, just check how it’s doing by looking through the glass.
7. Love Leftovers & Cook In Batches
If you already have the oven on, you may as well make life easier by cooking a few extra portions that you can quickly reheat later. Doing this saves time as well as energy since you only need to reheat, instead of cooking from scratch. Not to mention that frozen home-cooked meals can be an equally convenient, but much healthier alternative to fast food. Save your leftovers from the night before in single-serving portions for a quick and easy lunch.
8. Clean Your Stovetop
To lower cooking times and keep utility bills low, clean your stove top burners and oven after every use. Burner efficiency is reduced drastically when the burner pans become blackened due to use. Keeping them clean and shiny is an effective way to ensure you do not waste energy with a dirty stove top.
9. Use Energy-Efficient Lighting
Lighting can account for 15% of the electricity use in a home, so it’s worth your time to swap out old incandescent bulbs for new, energy-efficient LED light bulbs. Don’t forget to turn off the kitchen lights when you shut down for the night!
10. Cut the Vampire Electricity
Did you know that up to 20% of the electricity used in your home happens when you’re not even using your devices? Vampire electricity — the slow, silent electricity draw that occurs when devices are on standby mode — causes appliances to use more energy than they need. In some cases, a lot more. If you have any kitchen devices with a standby mode, you can save electricity by unplugging them when not in use. The microwave, coffee machine, and anything else with a red standby light or that operates via remote is a candidate.
Saving Money In the Kitchen Is Easy
You might be surprised at how easy going green is, especially in the kitchen. You also might be surprised to learn that saving energy while cooking can save time and make your Thanksgiving easier. Having a plan and finding ways to cook meals efficiently can save time while providing healthy meals.
Taking steps to save energy when cooking will add up and when your savings increase and are combined with other energy-saving efforts throughout your entire home, you’ll live a greener life and reduce your carbon footprint. Energy-efficient cooking does not have to be complicated or expensive. Start slow, and put your savings back into different energy-efficient appliances or even add to your grocery budget. When you’re done with improving your kitchen and are looking to find more ways to save in your home, check out our other blog post.
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