Our modern kitchens are expensive in energy terms, cookers, microwaves, and kettles, washing and washing-up machines, tumble dryers, fridges, deep freezers and fryers and a plethora of gadgets to make our lives easier and consume power.
Only now are we starting to realise the real cost of such labour saving devices, not just in energy but also in environmental terms. Nobody wants to go back to hand washing in a bucket in the outhouse but there are easy energy-saving alternatives!
Hopefully nearly everyone knows by now about energy efficiency ratings and the fact that ‘A’ is more efficient than ‘G’. It is a good start to buying more energy efficient consumer durables but this system still doesn’t tell us all we need. For example buying a new washing machine based on energy ratings alone might still land us with a rubbish machine that broke down after a few months with no reliable after-sales service. What if the ‘B’ rated machine costs £2.50 a year more to run than the ‘A’ rated machine that is £100 dearer? Or if the ‘B’ rated machine is better made and lasts longer? Several ‘A’ rated machines can have wide differences in their performance – the system of classification is quite simplistic so relying on energy ratings alone is not enough to get a good washing machine.
In the UK in 2007 new laws were made to encourage the recycling of old electrical products because the amount of this type of waste is increasing by 5% a year. Over 75% of old electrical goods go to landfill which is not just a waste of resources but also a source of pollution and contaminants for wild creatures and people. The toxins leaking from landfill sites find their way into watercourses and ultimately back into us when we drink it. Presently only the electrical waste from just the UK would fill Wembley Stadium six times over, every year.
New electrical appliances that are recyclable have a small image of a crossed out wheelie bin, like the one shown here, so if purchasing a new item, check for this mark in addition to the energy efficiency ratings shown above.
Fortunately washing machine manufacturers are responding to consumer led demand for less energy expensive machines. Half-load washes and quick cycles at lower temperatures are standard on most modern machines and this is progress indeed!
But do you really need to wear something just once and then wash it? Come on, nobody smells that bad do they? Well, I’m sure you don’t!
Consider a ‘halfway house’ for clothing you only wear once unless it is actually tainted. Over time this little practice saves energy, it saves water and it saves you wear on your clothing. Cumulatively too, it will save you pots of money and time spent washing clothes that don’t really need it. If you are considering a replacement of any machine in your home, look carefully at the subject of energy rating as shown above.
Washing-up machines too are essential in the modern family kitchen. But even just a pre-rinse in water and a quicker wash cycle will save energy and water even, occasionally ‘the old practice’ of washing up small amounts by hand. Filling the machine to full and loading it properly may take a little longer but it’s a tiny price to pay to save the earth’s precious resources and you can feel all virtuous afterwards! Look also towards the bio-degradability of the cleaning solutions and detergents you use in the machine.
Fridges that don’t work properly or leak cold air can cost £1 a day to run – that’s £365 a year! Over five years that amounts to a massive £1825, four or five times the price of a new fridge!
An average fridge is rated at about 220kWh a year. At 14p per kWh this should cost about £2.56 a month, about £30 a year. Look in the instruction manual that came with your fridge to find its power consumption (although this will change according to how cold you have it set). If you have a power monitor it is easy to check your fridge to see how much electricity it uses.
Fridges, like water heaters are thermostatically controlled. Check the temperature at which your fridge is operating and see if you can safely raise it a degree or two. There are several ways you can lower the energy requirements of your fridge. First of all check the seals on the door are operating properly so that the cold remains sealed in the box. That little catch that holds the freezer door closed is particularly tricky and if the door is open it could be bleeding energy every time you open the fridge. An occasional defrost helps it run more efficiently also.
When opening your fridge, keep the door open for as little time as possible, cold air sinks and a fridge takes only seconds to pour its chilled air into the environment, a total waste of energy. Thirdly, when storing cooked food, let it chill down to room temperature before placing it inside the fridge. If you are going to buy a new fridge ask for an eco-friendly one and make sure you dispose of the old one carefully as the CFC’s (Chlorofluorocarbons) they use are a major ozone layer destroyer.
This may seem quite extreme to some people – turn the fridge off altogether in the winter and keep stuff in a pantry (unheated room on a north facing wall). You can even keep stuff outside in a cupboard in some areas of the world where it is cold enough and wild animals aren’t a problem. If you don’t use milk or buy frozen food and don’t eat ready-meals it is quite easy to exist without a fridge altogether.
Electric cookers are a particularly large user of energy and there are several ways that you can minimise expense and energy when cooking electric:
For all cookers steaming is a great way to cook. Not only does this recycle energy through the layers but it is also a load healthier. For example, tests in Spain measured the levels of flavonoids left in fresh broccoli after it was cooked. The results show large differences in flavonoid content according to how the broccoli was prepared.
So if you are boiling something, such as rice or potatoes or spaghetti, use a steamer to stack your vegetables (with a lid on top) and save energy knowing that the nutrients are staying in the food rather than being thrown away in the cooking water. They also taste much nicer steamed !
Most gas hobs burn gas inefficiently, resulting in wasted energy, unburnt by-products, and lost heat, which means they’re costing you money. The Cooker Hob Gas Saver solves this problem. Its special catalytic alloy disc fits neatly over one burner, and can convert the 600 to 700 degree heat from your hob to to over 1,000 degrees centigrade, it also converts any unburnt gas to heat and energy.
The effect is to make your gas hob work like a halogen hob: ie radiating heat as well as convecting heat. As it also captures wasted gas, it is more efficient, so you can cook your food using less gas, saving energy and money. Fits all gas hobs. Typical energy savings: 12%. Available From Nigel’s Eco Store
Now this energy saving measure probably seems pretty tight to some people. Boiling water using an electric kettle has always annoyed me. It uses a lot of electricity – If you have ever ridden a bicycle to convert motive power into energy – to heat up water – you will know just how much it consumes. The power it uses is too highly rated for ‘onsite renewable sources’. I have longed to eradicate the electric kettle from my kitchen.
Now we have a wood-burning stove we fill a kettle and place it on top during the evening fire. Every time it boils we use the water to fill up large thermos flasks. This means we get free hot water for hot drinks during the evening and hot water bottles for bed. There is enough to wash up the dishes in the evening and if we don’t the water stays hot until the morning and one of us washes the dishes then.
Now this might seem a lot of work, walking to the kitchen with boiling water and such, but our electricity bills have gone down noticeably as a result of this single action. And I have a big smirk when I look at our nearly useless electric kettle in the winter. It also turns out that the wood burning stove can be used for cooking and drying all sorts of food items. However now we have stopped lighting the stove as it is warmer in the evenings, so its time to revert to electricity or get my hands on a storm kettle !
Kettle use accounts for nearly one third of the electrical energy used in a domestic kitchen. Nearly everyone overfills the electric kettle and wastes energy in boiling water that isn’t used. Over time and across the world this unconscious little practice builds into a huge waste of energy. In the UK you could actually power a city on the amount of energy wasted with electric kettles every year!
Boiling a kettle in the UK takes about 0.2 units of electricity. If you boil a kettle with more water in it than you need, say five times a day, that is up to 25 pence a day kettle costs – £100 a year. Boiling the exact amount of water you need cuts the energy needed and the costs. If you have to boil too much, put some hot water or make tea in a thermos for later to save boiling it again!
It’s estimated that many of us use a kettle to boil twice as much water as we actually need. Modern wide-based kettles don’t help as it takes more than a mug full to cover the element. Make sure you are boiling only the amount of water you need by filling your cup or mug with water then pouring it into the kettle to boil. There are about seven million new electric kettles bought in the UK every year, so next time you buy one think about power consumption.
Quite a range of eco-kettles are now on the market. They release exactly the amount of water you need from a built-in reservoir. A new energy-saving kettle is a top-tip for cutting energy expenses and pays for itself in saved energy very quickly.