Discouraged because you lack the dough for that $1,600 Asko ultra-efficient dishwasher or the $1,500 LG Tromm Steam Washer? Don't be. Splurging on new appliances isn't the only way to cut energy costs in kitchen or laundry room. Your dad had it right when he chided you to turn off the lights and close the fridge door; it's all about habits. Katie Ackerly, a member of the research staff at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE, http://www.aceee.org) says little changes in how we use appliances make a difference. "Common sense goes a long way in using appliances more efficiently," she says-by adjusting temperatures and timing and by modifying your methods. You'll be saving lots of watts-and possibly hundreds of dollars-every year (see our downloadable calculator in the sidebar).
To get you started, we've put together some tips to maximize energy efficiency consumption in the kitchen and laundry room.
Think outside of the room: A hot kitchen in summer makes you sweat-and the AC work harder. Conversely, a home-cooked meal in the winter will warm you from the inside. Choosing a meal that fits the season is one of the simplest ways to conserve energy in your home.
- Size matters. Don't use your range oven to cook a small meal. A smaller appliance-a toaster oven or microwave, for example-is a wiser choice. (Buying a small appliance you hardly use is not, however.) A microwave can reduce the energy you use cooking by about two-thirds, while a toaster oven can cut energy consumption in half.
- Pan size matters too. "You don't want the pan to be hanging over the edge of the burner, and you also want the pan to be fully heated by the burner," says Ackerly. Choose a pan that matches the size of the burner.
- Pick your pan carefully, choosing sturdy cookware that conduct heat well (such as copper-bottomed pots) and that won't warp.
- Double up. If you do use the oven, make a larger batch. Leftovers, anyone?
- Unplug it. Even when not in use, some appliances may still be consuming "phantom" or standby energy. (Do you really need the clock on the rice cooker?)
- Put a lid on it. It decreases time on the burner.
- Keep it clean. "The burner drip pans work to reflect heat back up to the pan," Ackerly says. "If they're dirty or sooty, they won't be as reflective and won't do the job as well." On the other hand, she notes, "If you have a self-cleaning oven, you don't want to run the cleaning function too often." She recommends using the self-clean feature immediately after cooking to take advantage of residual heat.
- Don't peek. An open oven door or pan lid lets heat escape.