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How to Choose and Use Ecofriendly Kitchen Appliances
Michelle Jeresek, Houzz Contributor 11.15.13    
Choosing energy-efficient appliances benefits everyone. TopTen USA, an independent organization that researches and ranks the most efficient appliances, says: "If you're going to waste money, waste it on something more fun than your electrical bill."
Be smart with money and energy with these tips for selecting kitchen appliances and using them more efficiently.

 
 










Refrigerators
Refrigerators are energy hogs, accounting for 9 to 15 percent of your home's electricity use. Luckily, choosing an energy-efficient refrigerator can be as easy as looking for the Energy Star label, which guarantees the appliance has met government standards. However, all Energy Star appliances are not created equal — energy consumption still varies significantly from model to model. The Energy Star website can help you compare models to find to the most efficient refrigerator.
 
Size matters. If you buy a refrigerator too small for your needs and keep it packed full, the refrigerator will have to work harder and use extra energy. Similarly, oversize refrigerators keep excessive space cool. Refrigerators smaller than 25 cubic feet should meet the needs of most households.
 
Money- and energy-saving tips:
Locate your refrigerator away from sources of heat, such as the stove or oven, which can cause it to work harder.
Let foods cool first before putting them inside the refrigerator.

 

 









Gas Cooktops/Ranges
Electricity
Pros: Electrical appliances have the option to be fueled by renewable power if you add solar panels in the future. Also, most electrical utility companies have a program where you can pay a small added cost to support green renewable power.
Cons: Much of our electricity is generated from coal, which is the most significant man-made contributor to greenhouse gases. Also, roughly 70 percent of electric power is lost in transmitting it from its source to your home.
 
Natural Gas
Pros: Natural gas is a relatively inexpensive and efficient fuel source and the cleanest fossil fuel, emitting 45 percent less carbon dioxide than coal.
Cons: Cooking on gas appliances introduces combustion by-products into your home, including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and nitrogen dioxide. This is especially worrisome in newer, more airtight houses. While a good exhaust hood can remove up to 70 percent of these pollutants, it doesn't remove all of them. Also, natural gas is commonly sourced by hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," which involves injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth under high pressure to break up rock formations, releasing the gas. At this time there is some evidence demonstrating that air, groundwater and drinking water are being contaminated from the process, causing several nations and even some U.S. states to ban fracking.

 
  














Ovens
Wall ovens are available in three widths: 24, 27 and 30 inches. The energy used by a wall oven relates to its size, so it's worth going for a smaller unit if it will meet your needs. If you have the occasional need for more capacity, opt for two smaller ovens rather than one larger unit. You'll save energy by frequently using just one of the smaller ovens, and for large gatherings you'll still have all the capacity you need.
 
Money- and energy-saving tips:
Save your oven for large or multiple dishes. Ovens are inherently inefficient — only about 6 percent of the energy from a typical oven is absorbed by the food.
Use your oven light to check on food's progress. Every time you open the oven door, the temperature drops 25 to 50 degrees.
 


 








Exhaust Hoods
Find an efficient kitchen exhaust hood by seeking an Energy Star–rated model, which is quieter and uses 65 percent less energy. Once you have an efficient model, do not be conservative with its use. Your ventilation hood is essential to keeping your indoor air quality safe by getting rid of:
Excess moisture. Cooking can introduce 2 to 3 gallons of moisture into your home's air per day. If it's not properly released, this can lead to moisture problems in the home.
Hazardous combustion by-products from gas cooktops mentioned earlier.
Your hood needs to exhaust to the exterior, ensuring removal of moisture and pollutants from your interiors. Stay away from recirculating fans, which only remove odors. Also avoid downdraft hoods, which do not perform as well as hoods mounted overhead.

 

 












Dishwashers
Your dishwasher is a stealth energy consumer: Between 80 and 90 percent of a dishwasher's energy consumption is tied to the water heater. Search for models that are water misers. Also look for a dishwasher with a booster heater, which allows your water heater to remain at the recommended 120 degrees and boosts the hot water for your dishwasher to 140 degrees, as needed to melt newer dishwasher soaps.
 
Money- and energy-saving tips:
Always run a full load.
Scrape, don't rinse. Hand-rinsing dishes can use up to 20 gallons of water. Scrape food off the dishes and load. If your dirty dishes are going to sit overnight, use your dishwasher's rinse feature, which uses a fraction of the water needed to hand-rinse.
For not-so-dirty dishes, use the light or energy-saving wash cycle, which uses less water and operates for a shorter period of time.

 

 









Microwaves
The humble microwave can be an energy saver, consuming between one-fifth and one-half as much energy as conventional stoves. Know too that concerns of microwave radiation have been mitigated by FDA regulation. However, microwave emissions do increase at the glass window, so I prefer models without a glass window, like the one here.
 
Money- and energy-saving tips:
Microwaves are most efficient when cooking small portions or defrosting.
Place food at the outer edges of the rotating tray for faster cooking.




6 Lessons in Scale From Well-Designed Bathrooms
Sarah Burke Houzz Contributor 10.11.13    
How we mix objects of different sizes, masses, proportions and patterns — in other words, how we work with scale — is a big part of good design. Architects and designers use scale to create interest and balance, and taking it into account leads to good design in even the smallest rooms of a house. To see what I mean, take a look at the lessons in scale from these six bathrooms.





1. Use similar shapes in different sizes. Using similar shapes — rectangles and squares or circles and hexagons, for example — in different sizes can add interest and subtly draw the eye around the space.
Unlike most bathrooms, where rectangular and square tiles have a significant presence, this bathroom has round elements — hexagonal tiles, round mirrors and round floor mats — that create an environment that is both fun and minimalist. The white hexagonal tiles on the walls, floors and bathroom vanity make the space feel large and bright.






2. Play with one main material. Choosing one main material for your bathroom's palette will help harmonize the elements, creating a visual flow that's easy on the eyes. Here's an obvious example of how using one main material produces a calm feeling. The large 12-by-24 tile reduces the amount of grout lines, adding to this bathroom's expansive feel. And the simplicity of one material allows the art in the room — the silver steer head — to have a real presence.




3. Vary the sizes and shapes of materials and furnishings. Transitioning between sizes of furniture and materials connects various parts of the space in a different way. There are many good examples of scale in this classic bathroom. There is a nice transition in scale from floor to ceiling, with the small basket weave tiles on the floor, the medium subway tiles for the wainscoting and the large drywall that leads to the ceiling. The leaded window design relates in pattern and proportion to the basket weave floor tile. And because the ceilings are quite high, I love this tall wooden chest next to the cast iron tub. It helps connect the space from floor to ceiling.
 




4. Create collections. Using grouped items in the same scale adds rhythm and variety to designs. Don't overlook the relationship between wall sconces and the vanity in the bathroom. Because this vanity's mirror is as wide as the vanity, the lighting above the mirror needed to span the same width. Instead of adding one large horizontal light fixture, this designer used a collection of three sconces above the mirror, creating a nice rhythm and tapping into the power of three.






5. When working with one material, use it in different sizes. The floor and window-wall planks in this wonderful barn bathroom are one size, the vanity-wall planks are narrower, and the ceiling planks between the rafters are yet another size. Using the same material in various sizes — one way of working with scale — made this bathroom simply beautiful.








6. Use contrasting shapes. Sometimes the use of the same shape can create harmony in a space, and sometimes the use of different shapes can create a contrast that works. In this creative bathroom, small white floor tiles contrast nicely with 4-by-4 glossy black ceramic wall tiles. The black and white palette allows the wall mural to make its statement.




12 Great Kitchen Styles — Which One's for You?
Sheila Schmitz, Editor, Houzz.com 9.27.13    
Style is easier to recognize with your eyes than with words: You know it when you see it, and the photo that inspires you most can often surprise you. Think you know your kitchen style? Check out these guides to a dozen favorite kitchen design themes, then tell us which one takes the cake.

 

Farmhouse kitchens. Warm and homey farmhouses anchored a life on the land, and they still offer great functionality and comfort. Their open shelving, wide sinks, classic flooring and big kitchen table make them easy to work in and easy to love.
 



Rustic kitchens. “Worn," "distressed" and "rough hewn" may not be the first words that come to mind when we think of kitchens. But today rustic kitchens rival the classic white kitchen in popularity — thanks to their timber, stone, brick, vintage appliances and fireplaces.
 


Modern kitchens.
 Definitions of "modern" vary widely, but when we think of modern kitchen designs, we often think of frameless cabinets, sleek and simple hardware, strong horizontal lines and a lack of ornamentation, with the natural beauty of the materials shining through.



Traditional kitchens.
 Traditional kitchens are defined by their details, which can include arches, decorative moldings and corbels, raised-panel cabinets, a mix of antique finishes and furniture-like turned legs — even a chandelier. Whether they have a classic American or old-world flavor, they still carry the stamp of their owners' personal style.
 



Contemporary kitchens
. Contemporary kitchens can be very sleek, but while a purely modern kitchen often celebrates structure and grid, a contemporary kitchen is often more playful in form and finishes, including elements of other styles and creating its own reflection of the times.


 


Transitional kitchens.
 Think of a transitional kitchen as the great moderator. With the warmth and welcome of traditional design and the clean, simple lines of contemporary style, transitional spaces project balance and harmony. Because they offer a great deal of flexibility, they're a great choice for homeowners whose taste spans the two.
 


Craftsman kitchens.
 Craftsman style arose in the early 20th century as a reaction to the mass-produced fussiness of the Victorian era. Its rich woods, built-ins, handcrafted tiles and well-made simplicity continue to charm us.
 



Cottage kitchens.
 Cozy, happy and unpretentious, a cottage kitchen harks back to simpler times and evokes a sense of easy, carefree living. Beadboard, soft colors, vintage hardware, wood floors and colorful accents and curtains will infuse your kitchen with cottage comfort.

 






Paris bistro kitchens
. If you long for a sugar-laced café au lait on Rue Monmartre, why not bring a little Parisian style into your house? Intimate kitchen lighting, pretty cookware on display, tile floors and a striped awning ought to do it.



 



Classic kitchens.
 What is classic? The answer is as varied as cooks are. Still, white or cream kitchen cabinets, simple architectural details and black accents offer a blank slate that homeowners can personalize with contemporary, traditional and eclectic touches as they see fit.
 



Mediterranean-style kitchens
. Flared hoods, hand-painted tile, warm wood cabinets, beamed ceilings and arched cooking alcoves are just some of the features that put Spanish revival kitchens on the most-wanted list.

 



Eclectic kitchens
. Do you rebel against styles and refuse pigeonholes? It's your house; you can mix and match for your own distinct kitchen style however you please. The trick: Be a rebel with a cause. Get ideas for a very personal kitchen, with touches of modern and rustic styles, well-traveled flair, humor and irreverence.
 



 



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