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Going -- and saving -- green in the kitchen

Looking to cut the electric bill? One place to start is the kitchen, which accounts for about a third of household energy use.

By Stacy Johnson Feb 21, 2011 12:07PM

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the kitchen accounts for about one-third of our monthly electric bills. Some costs are unavoidable, like the fridge.

But there are many ways to save money and the environment by being a little more efficient in the kitchen.

 

Watch the video below to learn about the energy eaters and savers in your kitchen, then read on for some tips on cutting costs.

Now let's recap those tips and add a lot more, appliance by appliance.

 

Dishwasher

  • Don't waste water on prerinsing dishes in the sink. If the dishwasher can't fully do the job, give them a scrub by hand afterward. If you make a habit of scraping off plates right after eating and putting them in the dishwasher, this usually isn't an issue.
  • As mentioned in the video, run the dishwasher only when it's full. This will save hundreds of gallons of water a year, and electricity as well.
  • To save electricity, don't use the heat cycle to dry your dishes. Let them air dry or dry them by hand.
  • This Washington Post article says some utility companies vary the price of power depending on the time of day. If yours charges less during "off-peak" hours, make a habit of running the dishwasher before you go to bed instead of during the day.

Fridge

  • You're not going to unplug the fridge, so planning ahead is the key to saving here. Know what you want before you open it, so you let less cool air out and less room temperature air in.
  • Likewise, never put warm food into the fridge. It raises the temperature and makes the refrigerator work harder. Let the food cool and then put it away.
  • Defrost your food the smart way. Move what you plan to cook from the freezer to the fridge the night before, and let it sit out for a little while before cooking. This way you spend less on heating it.
  • Keep the fridge and freezer relatively full. The contents will keep each other cool and help maintain the temperature.
  • Vacuum your refrigerator coils at least twice a year to keep your fridge working efficiently.
  • Some people keep their fridge temperature settings way too cold. Make sure the milk carton in the back doesn't have ice crystals in it.

Oven and stove

  • Always think about what you're going to cook beforehand and choose the proper appliance based on the size of what you're cooking and how much time you have. Toaster ovens are more energy efficient than microwaves, and both are far more efficient than conventional ovens.
  • Glass and ceramics heat faster than metal, and pressure cookers are more efficient than pans.
  • When using the stove, don't use a burner that's bigger than the pot. That's just a waste of heating energy that's escaping into the air -- and probably bumping up your AC bill a bit more as well.
  • Preheating is unnecessary if you're cooking something for an hour. And you can turn off the oven 15 minutes early for things like roasts and casseroles, which will keep cooking after the oven is off.
  • Don't check or open the oven frequently. You're letting heat out the same way you let cool air out of the fridge. Minimize the time it's open to save energy. Use the oven light to peek through the window, and test the food's internal temperature only when you know it should be done.

The rest of the kitchen

  • Plug all your small appliances -- like toaster ovens, coffee makers and blenders -- into a power strip that you can switch off to save power. By flipping it off after dinner, and flipping it on before breakfast, you've saved money in your sleep. That's because these devices continue to use energy and run up your electric bill even when they're not "on" -- especially true for anything with a digital display or power light. The only thing in your kitchen that really needs constant power is the fridge.
  • When cleaning up,use dish towels or dishcloths instead of always reaching for a paper towel -- less wasted paper and fewer dollars spent.
  • If you're wetting a towel or rinsing off your hands, use cold water instead of warm to save more.
  • Believe it or not, a kitchen ventilation fan can completely empty a house of warm or cool air in about an hour. Use them, then turn them off.
  • Get a water filter and start drinking tap water instead of bottled. This cuts down on plastic in landfills and saves money.

Many of these are little things, but if you do all or most of them, the savings will add up. All you have to do is change your habits.

 

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