In the kitchen

Heat up your energy savings with these cooking tips
By James Dulley
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The pot should fit the heating element and it should be covered when boiling water. (photo: James Dulley)

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Use lower-wattage countertop cooking appliances, instead of the range or oven, whenever possible. (photo: James Dulley)

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Use a microwave oven for cooking smaller amounts of food. (photo: Amanac)

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When the weather is warmer and you are air-conditioning, use smaller cooking appliances outdoors when possible. (photo: James Dulley)

If you cook and bake frequently, you consume a lot of energy in the kitchen. It's important to know how to save energy there.

The major energy user is the refrigerator. Odds are if you prepare a lot of food, you have a large refrigerator and open it often. Place your commonly used items (milk, butter, etc.) near the front of your fridge. Keep the fridge fairly full to keep items efficiently cold — use water jugs if needed.

When installing new kitchen appliances, locate them properly. The cooking range and oven should not be directly next to the refrigerator. Their heat makes the refrigerator compressor run longer. Also, don't put the range or oven under a window; a breeze can carry away heat before it gets into your pots and pans.

Ranges and induction units

The most efficient electric range heating elements are induction units. These elements produce magnetic energy which warms magnetic (usually iron and steel) pots and pans. If there is no utensil on an induction element, the element does not get hot. Induction elements provide heating control almost as precise as gas burners, and nearly all of the energy goes into the pot or pan to heat food. With a regular resistance element, the heat transfers from the range top to the base of the pot. A lot of heat is lost to the air, never getting to the food.

Because you may not always use magnetic cooking dishes, your range can have only one or two induction elements. The others can be standard resistance or halogen elements. Halogen elements heat up faster, but are not as efficient. Opt for different sizes, then match the size of the pot to the element size for less heat loss.

Oven savvy

When it comes to ovens, most professionals prefer electric ones. They hold heat for baking more evenly than gas ovens. Another advantage, especially during summer, is that an electric oven does not introduce extra moisture to your house.

A convection oven is a better energy-saver compared to a standard oven. Even though the small air circulation fan in a convection oven uses some electricity, the oven itself cooks so much faster that there is significant overall savings. Choose a self-cleaning oven, because they often have heavier wall insulation needed for the super-high cleaning temperature.

Advantage of small appliances

A good way to use less energy in the kitchen is to use small countertop appliances when possible. For example, a small toaster oven, especially one with a convection option, uses significantly less electricity than large oven elements. Countertop electric woks and rice cookers are other good examples. During summer, you can use them outdoors to reduce indoor heat.

Microwave ovens are still the most efficient appliance for cooking individual food items. They run on lower wattage and offer short cook times, compared to regular ovens. If you are cooking larger quantities of food, a large oven remains the best choice. Plan your baking to make foods that require similar baking temperatures simultaneously or consecutively while the oven is hot.

About the Author

James Dulley is an engineer and syndicated columnist for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. www.dulley.com

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