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The average kitchen contains many appliances from refrigerators to stoves and sometimes washing machines, all of which require energy to operate. It is here that the big savings in energy consumption can be made by the operation and use of the appliances. When they need replacing the purchase of a high energy efficient model will ensure energy conservation in the kitchen.
This is an article on energy conservation in the kitchen. We will begin by explaining off-peak electricity usage, examine the current energy efficient appliances for the kitchen, and go on to look at some simple energy saving tips when operating your appliances.
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Off-Peak Electricity and Lighting
Most all-electric homes have off peak electricity already installed as a standard, but if not, it can be installed in your home by your energy supplier who may charge for upgrading as it can require a separate electricity meter and wiring system.
Usually the electric immersion water heater in the hot tank is on off-peak along with dishwashers, tumble dryers and washing machines.
Off-peak is designed to be used at night (usually from midnight to 7am) when there is an excess of energy in the national grid system, so it is cheaper than the normal daytime unit rate.
Timers can be used to start the appliances connected to the off-peak electricity at midnight, and this will enable energy savings to be made.
Before we leave electrical power, here are some tips about how to save on kitchen lighting, which accounts for a large proportion of the household energy consumption.
- Use of energy efficient light bulbs – these are known as Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFL) and although more expensive to purchase, have a payback time of six months. Considering the fact that they last up to ten times longer than incandescent light bulbs and only use 25% of their energy, this is a great way to conserve energy in your kitchen and around the home.
- Appliances on standby mode – try to remember to switch the power off rather than leave appliances on standby – their tiny red or green lights can use up to 10% of normal operating energy.
- Use of lighting – Switch of lights when they are not required. I have lost count of the times I have left front and back outside lights on, until had a simple timing device fitted which switches them off after a specified interval. (Set at 2 mins at present)
- Use daylight as much as possible – open blinds and curtains as soon as you are up and about and keep them open till dusk, letting the free light into your rooms.
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Energy Efficient Kitchen Appliances
In Europe, all kitchen appliances now come with an energy efficient rating, which tells the consumer at a glance how efficient the product is.
The ratings range from A rated down to G, and are also color-coded for easy identification. "A" rated appliances can lead to up to 40% reduction in energy, and savings of $114 a year can be made. All this as well as lasting twice or three times longer than the older models, should be reason enough for us to purchase an energy efficient appliance, when the old one is being replaced.
A different system is used in the USA known as the Energy Star, which is only awarded to appliances which have proved to be energy efficient, most of them giving energy savings of between 10 and 20%. The EU have adopted this method of energy rating as of February 2010.
The USA also has an energy efficient rating system which is even more energy saving, which is known as the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) and appliances with this rating are said to be super-efficient.
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Efficient Use of Dishwashers
Dishwashers have been tested and proven to be more economical than hand-washing the dishes, when used for an average family’s daily settings.
There are a few provisos to this:
- Water temperature. This cannot be skimped on, because of the danger of leaving bacteria on the dishes. The water needs to be at least 60οC (140οF) to kill the germs. If the temperature is too low, this can also lead to the machine cutting out to try and heat the water – resulting in much longer cycles.
- Stack the dishwater as you use the dishes and wait until you have a full load to wash.
- Place the different dishes and/or pots and pans as per the manufacturers advise, this will give the best and most efficient results.
- Some folks turn the machine off just before the drying cycle, and open the loading door to let the dishes air dry. We have tried this, but some glasses and cutlery have been dried with smears. We found that using a rinse additive makes a difference in these results.
- Another wee tip is when the water runs off the dishes faster, it gives a much better drying result with little extra use of energy, but you do have to purchase the additive.
- Detergents – Do not be tempted to use the cheap ones as you will likely have to put the dishes through again, particularly the heavy soiled ones. My advice is to try the manufacturer's recommended detergent and if this gives good results – stick with it!
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Efficient Use of Stoves, Kettles, Refrigerators and Freezers
When cooking soups or stews on the stove burners it can be more energy efficient and quicker to use a pressure cooker, which is a pot with a tight rubber sealed lid, having a safety valve to prevent over pressurization. When cooking with normal pots and pans, keep their lids firmly in place and when the cooking time is nearly up – switch of the power to the stove burner ring and let the cooking finish as the ring cools down. Finally, remember before using the oven to remove any racks or trays not needed as these use energy, even though not in use.
Electric stoves with induction burner rings are most efficient, stoves having fan assisted ovens being the most energy efficient.
Refrigerators and Freezers
Keep the temperature of the fridge between 3οC and 4οC for optimum efficiency and food preservation. Freezers should be kept stocked, with the frozen food tightly packed. Any large gaps in freezer bags can be filled with shredded paper. Finally, defrost regularly (provided you do not have a self-defrosting freezer). This will make the freezer operate more efficiently and therefore more economically.
The Old Faithful Kettle
In the UK, as well as other parts of the world, we often put the kettle on for a quick cup of tea during TV advertisements. We might think that we are doing no harm in doing so, but the guys who control the national grids become a bit twitchy as the power stations are required to ramp up the amps when everyone boils water for a quick brew at the same time. The kettle can have an element rated at 2KW, so it is best to fill it with just enough water (make sure you cover the electric ring) for your immediate needs. There are new energy efficient kettles on the market which reputedly save 25% energy compared to the older models. One of these type models should be purchased when the old one needs replacing. Always use an electric kettle to boil your water for beverages as this uses a third of the energy that boiling water on a gas or electric stove consumes.
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Efficient Use of Washing Machines
If you have a washing machine in your kitchen or near your kitchen area, then follow this advice to save on energy.
Modern washing machines are cold-water filled, the older type having a hot and cold water supply to the machine. The old method meant that the domestic hot water entered the machine at whatever temperature you had the thermostat set at (60οC/140οF) and then cold water was added to cool it to your programmed temperature, which wasted a lot of you heat energy.
The modern washing powders and gels are designed to be used at 30οC for most washing program settings, so a cold-water filled washing machine heats the cold domestic water from around12οC to 30οC, using its electric heater.
Amount of Clothes in a Load
The washing machine is designed to operate efficiently with a full load of clothes, therefore unless absolutely necessary, clothes should be saved up and washed when a full load is gained.
Domestic Water Properties
Depending on where you live, your water supply could be hard or soft. Hard water contains minerals such as magnesium and calcium, which can scale the heaters in your washing machine. However, most modern detergents contain a water softener and if the recommended quantity of detergent is used, it will prevent the formation of limescale on your washing machine heater. There are tablets which can be used to soften the water and remove limescale which are easy to use, but not always required.
Finally, have the machine serviced once a year. Most manufacturers offer a free supply of parts and only charge for the fitting of them. There are also insurance schemes which cover the cost of spares and fitting, and the engineer normally gives the machine a service when he repairs it.
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Energy conservation can be achieved by replacing your old inefficient kitchen appliances with new, energy efficient appliances. Energy can also be conserved by following the manufacturer’s operating instructions, especially where washing machine and dishwashers are concerned. There are also other tips available online which can raise energy efficiency of kitchen appliances, even in the older models. The use of energy efficient light bulbs and off-peak electricity can also conserve electrical energy, not only in the kitchen but in utility rooms as well.
Europe and the US have energy rating schemes which visually show the consumer how much power the appliance uses, along with other relevant information on the product’s energy properties. Europe has adapted the United States' Energy Star System as of February 2010, and this will complement their current High Energy Efficient System of appliance rating, all these energy saving methods showing how to conserve energy in your kitchen.