In the Kitchen

While many Floridians are trying to get away from the heat, particularly during those hot summer months, we all have to eat, and the kitchen can be one of the warmest places in the house. Appliances have a tendency to generate excessive amounts of heat while in use. Let’s explore energy tips and techniques for the kitchen and smart appliance usage.

Your Refrigerator

Today, more than the television, the refrigerator is the single most widely used appliance in America. While modern refrigerators and freezers now boast a long list of options and useful features, today’s new refrigerators are much more energy efficient.

Still, a refrigerator can be one of the biggest energy users in the home. Old refrigerators and freezers are power hogs, often accounting for as much as 20% of a total monthly energy bill. Many people are tempted to put their old refrigerator in the garage when a new one is purchased, causing their energy bill to go up.

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Be sure the refrigerator is working properly. Ask yourself – does the compressor motor run continually or does it cycle on and off? If running correctly, the fridge will cycle off when it reaches the correct temperature.
  • Check the seals around the door by placing a dollar bill between the seal and door. If the bill stays securely in place, the seals should be in good shape. If the gaskets are hard and not flexible to the touch, out of shape or split, replace the seals or even the fridge.
  • Defrost frequently to prevent ice buildup. Frost is an insulator when it forms and the compressor must run longer to keep the freezer cold. Automatic defrost can be a real money saver.
  • Keep the doors open only as long as necessary. A refrigerator left open allows the cold air to escape, costing you money.
  • For peak efficiency, keep your freezer full. Fill empty spaces with bags of ice or cartons of frozen water.
  • Clean condensing coils at the back or bottom of your refrigerator regularly. Try using a special brush or tool attachment on your vacuum cleaner.

Your Microwave

Microwaves offer more controls, features, and convenience at a better price than ever before.

Some features, such as preset programmed power, time settings for commonly cooked foods, and browning features make cooking in the microwave an efficient and time-saving convenience. Carousels save time and cook food faster and more evenly.

Combination microwave/convection ovens allow you to cook foods that require browning, eliminating the need to heat up your oven. Many models have built- in sensors that keep food from over cooking. In Florida, the best news is that it doesn’t add heat to your home.

More Good Ideas:

  • Defrost frozen foods in the refrigerator first. Baking defrosted food uses one-third less energy.
  • Lower the oven temperature. If you use ceramic, glass, or stainless steel cookware, temperatures should be lowered by 25 degrees. These materials conduct and retain heat better than other types of materials.
  • When you have several dishes to go into the oven, try to schedule your cooking so that you can cook more than one dish at a time. Often, a simple temperature change of a few degrees will allow you to put two casseroles in at once, using the oven’s heat efficiently and resulting in the same great meal!
  • Use a timer. Opening the oven door lets the heat escape and increases energy usage. Use the oven window and the interior light to check on the meal as it cooks.

The Energy Star®

It is important to look for the ENERGY STAR label when making a major purchase on any home appliance, electronics, water heater, cooling or heating units, and other items.

Although energy-efficient models identified with an ENERGY STAR label may cost more to purchase initially, the additional up-front costs are offset by savings on your utility bill. One helpful way to figure out if buying an ENERGY STAR product makes sense is to think of it as having two price tags. The first price tag is the initial purchase price that you pay at the store when you buy the appliance. The second price tag is the cost to operate the appliance over its lifetime. You might be surprised when you see the potential savings of buying a more energy-efficient model.

Appliances Are Not the Only Products Associated With the ENERGY STAR Label

Even doors, skylights, windows, roofing materials, insulation, light bulbs, HVAC units, and more are available with the ENERGY STAR label. Currently, there are more than 50 different product categories that are eligible to earn the Energy Star rating. Its purpose is to help you identify the more energy-efficient products available on the market. Check out the ENERGY STAR website to learn more about the efficiency of ENERGY STAR products.

What to Look for on the ENERGY STAR Label

The ENERGY STAR label was designed by the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to enhance awareness of the need for energy efficiency in consumer products. The bright yellow and black guide on new appliances provides the consumer with two important facts. First, it gives the estimated yearly electricity use in kilowatt- hours for a particular model in comparison to others. Second, the guide provides the estimated yearly operating expense in U.S. dollars based on the national average cost of electricity. You can use these numbers to determine the operating cost over the average life of the product. ENERGY STAR rated products are always among the most efficient available in today’s market. It’s wise to not only look for an ENERGY STAR label but to compare the product’s energy use and operating cost as well.