Spending less on utility bills doesn't mean you need to rush out and buy new Energy Star appliances. With light maintenance and good habits, you can improve the energy efficiency of your kitchen appliances, up to $120 annually, without sacrificing convenience.
1. Adjust the thermostat. By setting the thermostat colder than it needs to be, you might increase your fridge's energy consumption by as much as 25% on average. Adjust the refrigerator so that it stays in the 37-40 degrees F range. For the freezer, shoot for 0-5 degrees F.
2. Clean the coils. As dust accumulates on the condenser coils on the rear or bottom of the fridge, it restricts cool-air flow and forces the unit to work harder and longer than necessary. Every six months, vacuum away the dust that accumulates on the mechanism. Also, check for at least a 3-inch clearance at the rear of the fridge for proper ventilation.
3. Use an ice tray. Automatic ice makers are a nice convenience, but the mechanisms are energy hogs. An ice maker can increase a refrigerator's energy consumption by 14% to 20%. By switching off the ice maker and using trays, you can save about $12 to $18 off your annual electricity bill.
4. Unplug the "Beer" fridge. Many homes have an extra fridge that runs year round. Worse, these fridges tend to be older, less efficient models. By unplugging the additional unit, you eliminate the entire operating cost of a fridge. The second-best solution is to make sure the extra fridge remains three-quarters full. The mass helps maintain steady internal temps and lets the fridge recover more quickly after the door is opened.
Ovens and ranges
5. Cut the power early. Electric heating elements stay hot long after they've been switched off. Put that residual heat to work by shutting off the burner several minutes before the end of the cook time. The same technique can be applied to the oven.
6. Match the burner to pan. When a small pan is placed on a big burner you can practically see the money disappearing into thin air. By matching the burner to the pan, electricity won't be squandered heating the kitchen rather than the food. The reverse is true, too. A small burner will take considerably longer to heat a large pan than would an appropriately sized burner.
7. Do away with preheating. You can save about $2 a month by not preheating your oven (20¢ per hour to operate electric oven; eliminate 20 30-minute preheats a month). Many cooks agree that the practice is unnecessary for all but a few recipes, namely baking breads and cakes.
8. Manage the load. Most dishwashers use the same amount of water and energy whether they're run full or half-full. You can cut your operating costs by one-third or one-half by running the machine only when it's full.
9. Activate energy-saving features. A dishwasher's heated dry cycle can add 15% to 50% to the appliance's operating cost. Most machines allow the feature to be switched off (or not turned on). If your dishwasher doesn't have that flexibility, simply turn the appliance off after the final rinse and open the door.
10. Use it! Many believe they can save water and energy by hand washing dishes. The truth is a dishwasher requires less than one-third the water it would take to do those same dishes in the sink. By running the machine when full, you can cut down the operating time of the hot water heater, your home's largest energy hog. Not only will you save a buck per month, you won't have to do the dishes.