Making your kitchen energy efficient and eco-friendly benefits not just you, but everyone. After all, it’s everyone’s duty to try and make the world just a bit cleaner and greener bit by bit, day by day. Here are a few helpful tips on how to choose the best eco-friendly appliances and turn your kitchen into a lean, mean, green machine.
The refrigerator is the second-biggest energy drain in the typical American home (HVAC systems are the biggest). Up to a whopping 15% of your home’s total energy consumption can be chalked up to your refrigerator. After all, it takes a lot of power to keep all the food you keep in your fridge fresh, frozen, and chilled for 365 days a year almost without fail.
To make sure that your fridge is doing the best job it can without piling more costs onto your energy bill, consider these tips:
- Size: Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to refrigerators, and chances are you won’t even need the biggest model to store your weekly groceries. Make sure you have enough space but not way more than you need. A small fridge stuffed full with food will have to work harder to cool everything. Similarly, an oversize fridge that almost never gets even halfway full will be wasting energy cooling empty space.
- Configuration: Top freezer models have about 80% usable space, bottom freezer models have about 67%, and side by side units have only 63%. Side by side units were also found to use around 20% more electricity than other models. Note that automatic ice makers and through-the-door dispensers can also increase energy use by up to 20%.
- Energy efficiency: Look for brands and models that have the Energy Star sticker. You can also check the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s website.
- Location: Don’t place your refrigerator near sources of heat like a stove or oven. The heat from these appliances may cause your fridge to work harder, using up more energy in the process.
Cooktops and Ovens
The biggest choice here is whether you want to go with gas or electric. Both have their own pros and cons.
- Pros: Can be very efficient if you have a renewable energy system such as solar panels in place.
- Cons: Without a renewable energy system, you’ll be relying on coal-powered electricity, which is one of the leading man-made causes of greenhouse gases. Also, about 70% of the energy generated by coal is lost while transmitting electricity to your home. Very inefficient.
- Pros: Natural gas is one of the most efficient and cleanest fossil fuel sources. It’s also relatively inexpensive.
- Cons: You’ll need a high-quality ventilation system to remove most combustion by-products from your kitchen. That’ll use up more juice and a good one will only be able to get rid of around 70% of these harmful chemicals.
If you do go the electric route, your best bet is a magnetic induction cooktop. It may cost a bit more, especially if you factor in the need for magnetic cookware, but it’s safe and uses only about half of the energy needed by standard coil-element cooktops. As for ovens, self-cleaning convection-type models are the smart, energy-efficient options as they typically use 20% less energy.
Energy Star-rated models are the way to go when it comes to exhaust hoods (and pretty much any appliance, in fact!) as they are generally quieter and use 65% less energy than non-rated models. Also note that overhead hoods usually perform much better compared to downdraft hoods.
Use the hood liberally – you need it to keep the air quality in your kitchen safe and high. As such, don’t settle for a ventilation hood that only removes odor. Look for one that actually vents what it sucks up to the outside of your kitchen. These can be anything from excess moisture, which can lead to moisture problems in your kitchen, to the hazardous by-products released by gas cooktops mentioned earlier.
Again, look for the Energy Star sticker when you’re shopping for a dishwasher. These models are typically up to 10% more efficient compared to others. Also be sure to choose a model that gives you several wash options like energy saver and no-heat drying.
The biggest energy eater in a dishwasher is the water heater; it can use between 80% and 90% of the dishwasher’s energy consumption. As such, a dishwasher model that customizes the amount of water per load according to what you’re cleaning is a must. The drying cycle is another big energy drain, hence the recommendation of a model with a no-heat drying option above.