Kitchen Energy Usage
For those of us with big gardens, August and September are the heart of canning and preserving season. My wife puts up dozens and dozens of jars of raspberry jam, pickles, pickled beets, and other assorted vegetables. We also freeze lots of veggies to enjoy the bounty of our garden during the frozen days of winter. Which leads to the question (for us energy geeks):
How much energy do we use in the kitchen?
On a heavy canning day, when our home might use an electric stovetop for 5 hours (or more), you’re looking at somewhere around $0.75 in cooking expenses (this figure would be lower for gas ranges). Over the course of year, a home that uses an electric range and electric oven for an average of 2.5 hours/week each plus a microwave and toaster for an average of 1 hour/week each will use about 600 kilowatt-hours (kWh) in total. In Colorado, this would cost a little over $60. With current low natural gas prices, using a gas oven in place of an electric one could save this home about $20/year.
Refrigerators offer the biggest opportunities for savings in the kitchen. New fridges can use less than 400 kWh per year (costing less than $40), whereas older fridges can use 2,000 kWh/year (costing $200)! Older stand-alone freezers can use more energy than new refrigerators, as well.
Tips to reduce your energy use in the kitchen:
- Set refrigerator temperature at 36-40 F
- Set freezer temperature at 0 F
- Minimize opening the oven/toaster during cooking
- Right-size pans to burners and use a lid if suitable for your recipe
- Use microwaves and toasters in place of ovens and ranges when appropriate
- Don’t “overclean” with self-cleaning ovens
- Preheat only when necessary
- Use the residual heat after an electric stovetop is turned off to complete your cooking
- If you’re looking to replace a large appliance such as an oven, dishwasher or refrigerator, look for discounts on “previous year” models in September and October!
What we eat impacts energy use, too
From the environmental standpoint, each kWh we consume in Colorado emits about 1 pound of CO2 equivalent. Therefore in an all-electric cooking household, cooking emits about 600 pounds of CO2e per year.
- For perspective, a study of people on various diets in the United Kingdom found that the diet of meat eaters is responsible for 5,700 lbs. of CO2e/year, while vegetarians are responsible for 3,059 lbs. of CO2e/year.
- With this in mind, it would take not cooking for 4 years to equal the emissions reductions resulting from a single year of vegetarianism. So when it comes to our personal environmental impact, it’s not only how we cook, but also what we eat!