What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

With rising energy costs, I think everyone is concerned with saving energy in all areas of their home. Since I spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen, I thought I'd start there. Let's face it the energy costs are not going to get any lower and the kitchen is filled with a lot of large energy users. Then there are all the small appliances that when used add to the energy load. I heard so many frugalistas claim their meal costs under a $1 per serving to make but for some reason they never calculate in the energy costs per serving. When factored in, energy costs could easily increase considerably the cost per serving.

We are currently paying 5.5¢ per kWh (6.4¢ per kWh adjusted rate) but that goes up to 5.8¢ per kWh in April. We also pay a higher fee for usage above 1000 kWh per month. Now in reality we pay a little over that per kWh in service charges (delivery, regulatory, dept retirement and GST) so on the lowest end we are paying a total cost of closer to 13¢ per kWh. The amount of kWh used directly affects all the service charges. We are currently paying 31.9¢ per cubic metres of natural gas plus additional service charges. Water and sewage is averaging about $30 per month. All three utilities are used in food prep in some manner so knowing that, here some of the things I do to reduce energy usage in the kitchen.

Major Appliances: Any major appliance should be replaced with an Energy Star® qualified model if at all possible. But that isn't always possible so take necessary steps to minimize energy wastage by maintaining and using your appliances wisely.

Stovetop: I do a lot of stovetop cooking especially with the amount of canning I do. Stove burners can be larger energy consumers but there are ways to combat that. I think it is important to fit the pot or pan to the burner. Too large or two small of a pot and you are wasting energy. Second wherever possible, use lids! I also prefer to steam vegetables. Steaming is faster, uses less energy and the vegetables don't get that water logged look or feel. I like using pressure cookers for energy savings as well. Not only do they cook food faster with excellent results, they save money. Stovetops must be kept clean especially the drip pans that are designed to reflect the heat from the burner back to the pot. So if your drip pans are heavily stained, you're wasting energy dollars!

Oven: My number one rule of thumb is not to operate the oven for one thing. If I'm making a casserole for dinner chances are good there will be two or three other things in the oven for later in the week. I aways us convect when possible as that not only reduces the cooking temperature by 25ºF but also the cooking time. The self cleaning feature on the oven uses 8kWh on average. By my calculations each time I use this feature at the 2 hr setting it cost me $3.99 despite Hydro One quoting it at 89¢ ($1.98 actual cost) per use. Even at the higher cost, running the self clean feature is still cheaper and less toxic than using oven cleaners plus there are no containers for the landfills. However, to save on this feature, I like to wipe up spills in the oven after each use. That way I can minimize running the self clean feature to bi-monthly. Clean ovens are more efficient to operate than dirty ovens.

Refrigerator: This can be an expensive appliance to run if not Energy Star® qualified. If not, check all seals using the dollar bill test. Place a dollar bill on the seal, short end facing out. Shut the door. Now give the dollar bill a tug. If it breaks free, replace the seals. Keep your seals clean. I wipe them down once a week. If you have a model with coils on the back, vacuum those monthly for better energy usage. I don't like over stuffing my fridge because that interferes with air circulation. I also like to let hot foods cool before placing in the refrigerator.

Freezer: If you have a freezer especially and older one, you could be paying as much as $20 or more per month just to store food. It is best to replace or at least keep fully stocked. Use jugs of water if necessary. Keep the seals clean and replace if necessary. I prefer to have all foods cooled before placing in the freezers. I also don't like adding a lot of unfrozen food to the freezers at one time. Sometimes this can't be helped but in general if I can avoid it, I will. If your freezer is in an unheated space as one of ours is, cover with a heavy blanket. This helps conserve a bit of energy.

Dishwasher: My dishwasher only runs when fully loaded, drying element off! That may mean more than once on busy cooking days or only a few times a week when I haven't been doing a lot of cooking. I like using a liquid detergent with rinse agent included because it does dissolve better in our water. For ultimate functioning, the filters are cleaned regularly and I run an empty load once a month using only vinegar.

Microwave: Sorry folks, I'm not a big microwave user even though it can be a large energy saver. It really depends on your usage and your cooking style. I have an 1100 w that on full power costs 2¢ per 5 minutes. Not bad really except I don't like food cooked in the microwave so it really is used for reheating. However, if you use your microwave more than me, keep it clean. That is really easy to do by boiling a cup of water, letting it sit 5 minutes than wiping out the inside.

Small Appliances: I love cooking so that means small appliances and if you have read my cooking blog, Mom's Cafe Home Cooking, you will know my current goal is replacing whatever small appliances I can with KitchenAid® attachments for my stand mixer. The reason for this is both energy and space savings. So my first tip would be to eliminate any single use appliances if possible. The next step is to calculate the cost per use of that appliance then decide if you really need that appliance. The calculation is kW/1000 x rate adjustment x cost/kWh x hours used x number of times per month used = cost of operation. Some small appliances are going to be worth it just for the convenience but others aren't depending on your use. You might be surprised at how much some of these small appliances are costing you per month. Honestly, there are a lot of electrical appliances that are available in manual form and always nice to have on hand during power outages. Check out Lehman's for any kind of non-electric appliance. I invested in a good set of knives and knife sharpener as well as manual graters, mandolin. I refuse to use an electric can opener and do not have a toaster oven.

Natural Gas or Propane Grills: During the summer, I use my outdoor natural gas grill as much as possible. The cost for natural gas is considerably lower than electricity here. By cooking outdoors not only am I reducing the cost per serving by using less expensive energy, I am also saving on AC costs by not heating the house. I use my grill not only for grilling but as an oven for baking and roasting.

PS. The title I made is supposed to be animated but for some reason the animation is being stripped. I have an SOS out to a help group to see if I can find out what the problem is. If you see it as an animation, please let me know in the comment area. Thanks so much!

Animation Update (March 11, 2007): It still won't animate properly when uploaded directly to Blogger. A very kind soul uploaded the title to his site and when uploaded to Blogger that way, now works.

Garden Gnome
© 2007