Energy Tips For The Kitchen

The Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy offers the following energy saving tips for the refrigerator and the rest of the kitchen.

Refrigerator/Freezer

The EnergyGuide label on new refrigerators will tell you how much electricity in kilowatt-hours (kWh) a particular model uses in one year. The smaller the number, the less energy the refrigerator uses and the less it will cost you to operate. In addition to the EnergyGuide label, don't forget to look for the ENERGY STAR® label. A new refrigerator with an ENERGY STAR® label will save you between $35 and $70 a year compared to the models designed 15 years

  • Look for a refrigerator with automatic moisture control. Models with this feature have been engineered to prevent moisture accumulation on the cabinet exterior without the addition of a heater. This is not the same thing as an "anti-sweat" heater. Models with an anti-sweat heater will consume 5 percent to 10 percent more energy than models without this feature.
  • Don't keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold. Recommended temperatures are 37° to 40° F for the fresh food compartment of the refrigerator and 5° F for the freezer section. If you have a separate freezer for long-term storage, it should be kept at 0° F.
  • To check refrigerator temperature, place an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator. Read it after 24 hours. To check the freezer temperature, place a thermometer between frozen packages. Read it after 24 hours.
  • Regularly defrost manual-defrost refrigerators and freezers; frost buildup decreases the energy efficiency of the unit. Don't allow frost to build up more than one-quarter of an inch.
  • Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Test them by closing the door over a piece of paper or a dollar bill so it is half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the paper or bill out easily, the latch may need adjustment or the seal may need replacing.
  • Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.
  • Move your refrigerator out from the wall and vacuum its condenser coils once a year unless you have a no-clean condenser model. Your refrigerator will run for shorter periods with clean coils.

Dishwashers

Most of the energy used by a dishwasher is for water heating. The EnergyGuide label estimates how much power is needed per year to run the appliance and to heat the water based on the yearly cost of gas and electric water heating.

  • Check the manual that came with your dishwasher for the manufacturer's recommendations on water temperature; many have internal heating elements that allow you to set the water heater in your home to a lower temperature (115° F).
  • Scrape, don't rinse, off large food pieces and bones. Soaking or prewashing is generally only recommended in cases of burned-on or dried-on food.
  • Be sure your dishwasher is full, but not overloaded.
  • Don't use the "rinse hold" on your machine for just a few soiled dishes. It uses 3 to 7 gallons of hot water each time you use it.
  • Let your dishes air dry; if you don't have an automatic air-dry switch, turn off the control knob after the final rinse and prop the door open a little so the dishes will dry faster.
  • When shopping for a new dishwasher, look for the ENERGY STAR® label. ENERGY STAR® dishwashers use less water and energy and must exceed minimum federal standards by at least 25 percent.

Other Energy-Saving Kitchen Tips

  • Be sure to place the faucet lever on the kitchen sink in the cold position when using small amounts of water; placing the lever in the hot position uses energy to heat the water even though it may never reach the faucet.
  • If you need to purchase a gas oven or range, look for one with an automatic, electric ignition system. An electric ignition saves gas because a pilot light is not burning continuously.
  • In gas appliances, look for blue flames; yellow flames indicate the gas is burning inefficiently and an adjustment may be needed. Consult the manufacturer or your local utility.
  • Keep range-top burners and reflectors clean; they will reflect the heat better, and you will save energy.
  • Use a covered kettle or pan to boil water; it's faster and it uses less energy.
  • Match the size of the pan to the heating element.
  • If you cook with electricity, turn the stovetop burners off several minutes before the allotted cooking time. The heating element will stay hot long enough to finish the cooking without using more electricity. The same principle applies to oven cooking.
  • Use small electric pans or toaster ovens for small meals rather than your large stove or oven. A toaster oven uses a third to half as much energy as a full-sized oven.
  • Use pressure cookers and microwave ovens whenever it is convenient to do so. They can save energy by significantly reducing cooking time.

Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: http://www.eere.energy.gov.

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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