Tips for Saving Energy in Your Kitchen

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that cooking accounts for 4.5% of total home energy use, and this figure doesn't even include the energy costs associated with refrigeration, hot water heating and dishwashing. Added together, these costs mean that as much as 15% of the energy used in the average American home is expended in the kitchen. Cooking and cleaning are largely unavoidable parts of our lives, so modifying your kitchen habits may save a significant amount of energy. Here are a few quick ways to start saving.

Use the microwave more often: A microwave can be used for reheating leftovers, thawing frozen food and even cooking meals. With a power demand of about one-third of a typical oven, microwaving is a great way to save on your electric bill. You can even cook some larger dishes in the microwave. According to the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, microwaving a casserole on high for 15 minutes is the equivalent to one hour in an oven, and requires less than half the energy.

Cook in bulk: Making larger portions and microwaving leftovers requires less overall energy than cooking from scratch each day, especially if you're using the oven or boiling water. Leave your food out to cool before storing it in your refrigerator or freezer to save energy on cooling.

Use the oven light: According to the Department of Energy, every time you open the oven door the oven temperature can drop 25 degrees. In order to avoid wasting energy, use the oven light or a timer to get updates on the status of your meal.

Strategize before cooking: A little extra preparation can end up decreasing your total cooking time. Before you turn on your stove or oven, cut your food into smaller pieces so it cooks faster. Thaw frozen food ahead of time rather than using the microwave. Measure how much water is needed before boiling, and use an electric kettle whenever possible. Lastly, turn off whatever electric appliance you are cooking with a few minutes early and let the residual heat finish the job. This will also prevent any risk of forgetting about a dish and overcooking or burning it.

Use the right size pot or pan: This is important whether you have a gas or electric stove top. According to the Maryland Energy Administration, a 6-inch pan on an 8-inch burner will waste more than 40% of the heat produced. If you have a gas burner, make sure the flame does not come up the sides of the pot or pan.

Don't pre-heat the oven: Unless you're cooking something that requires rising, such as bread or a cake, you don't need you put your meal in a pre-heated oven. While this will extend the overall cooking time, it will lower your overall energy consumption.

These easy tips to save energy in the kitchen won't cost you anything, and may lead to a reduction in your monthly utility bills. With that saved money, you may be able to address the household appliance with the largest energy consumption – the refrigerator. Refrigerators and freezers consume about one sixth of all electricity in a typical American home. If you have an old refrigerator, keeping your food cold could be costing you significantly more than it should. According to the Consumer Energy Center, modern models use 60% less electricity than 20-year-old ones. While the upfront cost may be high, you can enjoy the savings for years to come.