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Date: November 2013
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.




 



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