Two simple tips will improve your energy efficiency in the kitchen:
Buy sturdy, flat-bottomed cookware. The ideal pan has a slightly concave bottom. When it heats up, the metal expands and the bottom flattens out. An electric element is significantly less efficient if the pan does not have good contact with the element. For example, boiling water for pasta could use 50 percent more energy on a cheap, warped-bottom pan compared to a flat bottom pan.
Use high-conductivity materials. Certain materials work better than others when cooking and usually result in more evenly cooked food. For instance, copper-bottom pans heat up faster than regular pans. In the oven, glass or ceramic pans are typically better than metal – you can turn down the temperature about 25 degrees and cook foods just as quickly.
Because microwave ovens cook faster, they’re much more energy-efficient than conventional ovens. While they do use more power per minute, less cooking time is required, and they do not heat up the house in the summer. And the toaster oven – it’s not just for toast. When baking, they use half the energy of a conventional oven.
When using a conventional oven don’t pre-heat. Roasting or baking meat is a long, slow process, so there is really no need to pre-heat your oven – despite what the recipe suggests. During the cooking process, don’t peak. Opening the oven door can lower the temperature inside as much as 25 degrees. This not only wastes energy, it also prolongs cooking time. And if you have an electric oven, try turning it off 5 to 10 minutes before the dish should be done. Electric ovens hold heat, and your dish will continue to cook. Just remember to keep the oven door closed until the full cooking time is completed.
During the summer, use the exhaust fan to vent the heat outside and keep the house cooler. For the winter months, take advantage of the heat by keeping it off.
Most of the energy used by a dishwasher is for 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. Scrape, don’t rinse, off large food pieces. Be sure your dishwasher is full but not overloaded when you run it. 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. Energy Star qualified dishwashers use 25 percent less energy than the federal minimum standard for energy consumption, and use much less water.
Refrigerators consume some 13 percent of household energy, and the older they are, the more inefficient. If your refrigerator is 8 years or older, it’s advisable to invest in a new one. For example, a 2009 model will save 40 percent in energy use over refrigerators manufactured as recently as 2001. LPEA also offers rebates for Energy Star-rated models.
Position your refrigerator away from a heat source such as an oven, dishwasher or direct sunlight. To allow air to circulate around the condenser coils, leave a space between the wall or cabinets and the refrigerator or freezer – and keep coils clean. Set your refrigerator between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer at 0 degrees. Minimize the amount of time the refrigerator door is open and make sure the door seals are airtight by closing a door on a dollar bill. If it pulls out easily, the gasket should be adjusted or replaced.