Becoming more energy efficient in your home doesn’t just mean adjusting your thermostat and taking shorter showers; there’s a whole range of tweaks you can make. The payoff can be remarkable, allowing you to save a chunk of change. What’s more, you can enhance your understanding of how the appliances in your home function, as well as how to live more sustainably. We're going to show you how to save energy in your kitchen, which is one of the most energy intensive spaces in the home.
Consider Changing Out Your Light Bulbs
Although not specific to the kitchen, lights are one of the foremost energy consumers. In fact, it’s estimated that bulbs use about 10% of the total energy used in the home. So, how can we amend this? The most obvious is to both refrain from using lights when you don’t need them,
and turn them off when you leave the room. Second and perhaps less apparent, is to ensure the light bulbs you’re using are efficient. LEDs are the best option available, saving 25% more energy compared to incandescent light bulbs. They can range in color, so you can adjust the light temperature if you're looking to avoid bright white lights. Generally, the second-best option is CFL bulbs, which are a bit cheaper than LEDs and have comparable efficiency, though they do contain mercury.
A Refrigerator Running on Efficiency
Refrigerators account for about 8% of the energy used in the average home, which can multiply if you have more than one. Of course, a refrigerator should always be running, so unplugging it is not an option, but there are still several methods you can use to increase its efficiency. Over time, appliances have evolved in energy efficiency, so one way to save money, in the long run, is to invest in a new refrigerator if this makes sense for you. Look for the Energy Star symbol, which is a third-party certification run by the EPA. That said, if you’re not in the market for a new refrigerator, set its internal temperature to 36-38F and ensure it's tightly packed. This is because the items in your refrigerator will retain their temperature more easily than the cavity itself, ultimately saving energy and you, money.
Cooking is at the heart of a kitchen, so it's good to get savvy about it if you're interested in increasing your efficiency in this part of your home. First, it’s important you use a pot or pan that is proportionate to the amount of food you’re cooking. This is because more surface area requires more energy to heat, so if it’s not necessary to cook in an oversized pot or pan, it’s better to avoid it. Along these lines, make sure you use the hotspot on your stove that most closely fits the diameter of your pot or pan since heat that’s generated and not distributed to your cookware is energy lost. You can even turn off your stove or oven just before your food is ready, allowing the residual heat to finish the job.
Finally, if you’re at all in the market for a new stove or cooking method, induction stovetops are up to 84% efficient, making them by far the best choice in this category. The next most efficient are electric stovetops, which land at about 74% efficiency. The worst in the case of efficiency are gas stovetops, which only run at 40% efficiency. What’s more, there’s concern over their safety since they emit both nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide
A Better Way to Wash Dishes
Dishwashers have long been touted as the easy way to deal with dishes, but they’re simply not energy efficient, using about 4 to 6 gallons of water per cycle. That said, washing your dishes by hand with the faucet running is also not efficient, so what is? It turns out that using two basins, one filled with soapy water and one filled with clean water, is the most energy efficient method. You can also install faucet aerators, which reduce water flow without compromising your faucet's utility. But if that's not an option for you, choose an Energy Star washer and run it only when it's full.
How you clean your dishes isn’t the only way to increase your efficiency; what you use to clean them makes an impact as well. For example, these days most sponges are composed of plastic, meaning they are made from extracted fossil fuels. From an energy efficiency standpoint, it’s helpful to use sustainably manufactured sponges. Try stainless steel scrub pads, cellulose sponges, or other plant-derived options like coconut and walnut-based sponges. Similarly, consider using bar soap that's made from natural, non-toxic substances. You can also learn how to whip up a simple, environmentally friendly dish soap at home.
Lawson, Greg, and Chip Berry. “Regional Variations in Household Lighting Consumption Driven by Bulb Choice and Bulb Count.” eia.gov, 2019.
Matthews, Leigh, Scott Burton, Paul Labelle, and Lydia Noyes. “Which Is More Energy Efficient - Gas, Electric, or Induction?” LeafScore, March 15, 2021. https://www.leafscore.com/eco-friendly-kitchen-products/which-is-more-energy-efficient-gas-electric-or-induction/#comments.
Santanachote, Perry. “The Best Way to Hand Wash Dishes.” Consumer Reports, 2021. https://www.consumerreports.org/cleaning/best-way-to-hand-wash-dishes/.