The kitchen uses far more energy than any other single room in the home, with the refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, stove and auxiliary appliances. You can make a significant impact on your utility bill and the environment by making smart energy-saving purchases, as well as through proper maintenance and operation. Look in the Dex pages for the nearest appliance store to you.
In the past, the efficiency of kitchen appliances was largely neglected. It was only in the 1950s that appliances such as the refrigerator and dishwasher became commonplace. In later decades, energy efficiency was sacrificed for cost, aesthetics or functionality. During the 1970s and 80s, manufacturers started omitting insulation from refrigerator cabinets in order to enlarge the size of the cabinets. In recent years, manufacturers have focused more on efficiency as consumers have become cognizant of the costs to themselves and the environment that inefficient appliances can incur. Many appliances now use a mere fraction of the energy that their predecessors used.
Savings Through Upgrades
Upgrading kitchen appliances to newer models can offer substantial savings on utilities. Older refrigerator models can use an eye-popping amount of electricity. According to data from the EPA’s Energy Star program, a 20-cubic-foot refrigerator from 1985 costs $190 per year to run (using a utility rate of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour). The program estimates that a homeowner with this fridge could save $145 per year by upgrading to a modern energy-efficient refrigerator. Conventional dishwashers at national average utility rates cost about $55 per year with electric water heating or about $45 per year with gas water heating. Upgrading to Energy Star dishwashers can save 31% on energy and 33% on water, or $15 to $20 per year.
Efficiency and Maintenance
The refrigerator is the most crucial appliance to maintain. You can optimize the efficiency of your refrigerator by cleaning the coils every six to 12 months. This takes only five to 10 minutes and can improve the refrigerator’s efficiency by up to 30 percent. You can check whether the door seal, or gasket, is still airtight by inserting a sheet of paper underneath the closed door and moving it around the perimeter. If the paper meets no resistance at any point, the gasket is worn out and can be replaced for about $20. Check inside the cabinet of your refrigerator to see if it has an “energy saver” switch. Turning this on will turn off heaters in the sides of the refrigerator that are used to prevent condensation and are only necessary for hot and humid rooms.
Speculation on Cooking Efficiency
The efficiency of ovens and ranges are mostly ignored by certification programs like Energy Star. Turning electricity or gas into heat is a pretty straightforward process, so there is not a large difference in the technology between different models of ovens and ranges. Gas models are more cost-efficient than their electrical counterparts, but your home should be equipped with proper ventilation to preclude any health risks from the combustion byproducts. Self-cleaning ovens often have slightly better insulation, and ranges with flat ceramic tops are slightly more efficient.
Tips and Tricks
- See if your dishwasher has a booster heater, which is separate from the main water tank and boosts the water into the 140F to 145F range. If your dishwasher has this feature, set your water tank to 120F. This saves energy by only heating when necessary, rather than consistently heating the whole tank to 145.
- Another good way to save with your dishwasher is to use a slow-drying feature or let your dishes air-dry overnight.
- You can cut down on energy for cooking by using a toaster oven or microwave instead of a conventional oven and by covering pots and pans while reducing heat.
If any of your kitchen appliances need a tuneup, check out the Dex listings for a place near you.