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Cook Up Some Energy Savings in the Kitchen

Cooking habits, along with energy-efficient appliances, impact energy use in the kitchen. Replacing old, energy-inefficient appliances (think refrigerator, oven and dishwasher), along with changing how you cook, represent the biggest potential for energy and cost savings in the kitchen. New appliances aside, several strategies can help you save energy in the kitchen:

  • Use the oven only when cooking large dishes or batches – conventional ovens are inherently inefficient because in order to heat up food, they must first heat up about 35 pounds of steel and a large amount of air.
  • If you have a convection setting on your oven, use it. Cooking with a convection setting uses up to 20% less energy than the bake setting does.
  • If you are in the market for a new cooktop, induction cooktops are 12% more efficient at heating food than a smooth-top electric cooktop or range, according to the Department of Energy.
  • Identify and unplug energy vampires, i.e., appliances that draw power even when turned off. Examples can include blenders, portable coffee makers and toasters. If an appliance has lights still on when not in use —an “on” button or light, digital clock or blinking light — it is most likely an energy vampire.
  • Think small – opt for a smaller appliance, such as a toaster oven, microwave, or slow or pressure cooker, whenever possible.
  • Turn the oven or stove burners off a few minutes before your food is ready – they will remain hot enough to finish cooking the food.
  • When using your dishwasher, run it with a full load of dishes to conserve water and energy. Also consider turning it off when it reaches the dry cycle and let dishes air dry.
  • Keep your refrigerator well stocked. Not only does this mean you’ll have plenty of food on hand, but the more items in your fridge, the less energy it takes to keep them cold.
  • Speaking of refrigerators, they top the list of home appliances that use the most energy. If yours is older, check out the ENERGY STAR “Flip your Fridge” savings calculator to see how much energy your prehistoric fridge is costing you. Even if you don’t replace your refrigerator now, doing some homework on energy costs will help prepare you when it’s time to replace it.
  • Don’t preheat the oven unless you are baking or a recipe requires it. (Some types of food, like those that need to rise, have specific preheating instructions that should be followed; other items, such as casseroles, will usually turn out fine without preheating the oven.)
  • Bake with ceramic or glass pots and pans – this will allow you to lower the oven temperature by about 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • On electric or induction cooktops, consider copper pans. Copper is highly conductive, so it takes less time to get hot.
  • If you have a self-cleaning oven, plan to clean it right after you’ve finished baking or cooking so it doesn’t have to heat up a second time. Also, try not to use the feature when it’s hot outside.
  • Don’t peek – opening the oven door can lower the internal temperature as much as 25%
  • Don’t cover oven racks with foil – this reduces heat flow and increases cooking time.
  • Make sure your pan covers the coil or cooking area of your range – if you can see red past the sides of your pan, you need a smaller burner.
  • Put a lid on it – cover pans while cooking to prevent heat loss.
  • In warmer months, grill outdoors when you can. The less energy used to heat food, the less work your air conditioner will have to do to keep your home cool.

For information about electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.