Energy saving ideas for the home have become so standard as to be almost rote recitations:
- switch incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs,
- raise or lower the thermostat by a couple of degrees,
- wash your clothes in cold water.
All of these methods work and are highly recommended, but real changes in personal energy use need to be part of a comprehensive program that considers all aspects of power consumption. Something as simple as unplugging vampire devices like cell phone chargers that draw idle current can make a big difference when that small action is part of a larger program of lifestyle and habit changes. The same is true for evaluating cooking habits in the kitchen.
While experts say there are few energy savings to be found in how food is cooked, the numbers are still interesting.
- An electric oven operating at a temperature of 350 degrees for one hour will draw approximately 2 kWh. At the average national electrical cost of $.12, that's $.24.
- A microwave oven on high running for 15 minutes, however, uses 0.36 kWh or $.04.
- A slow cooker or "Crockpot," which typically heats to about 200 degrees and runs for 6-7 hours draws 0.70 kWh and costs $.08 to operate.
(Just for comparison sake, a gas oven with an electric ignition costs about $.21 an hour to burn at 350 degrees. Units with a pilot light are approximately $.16 an hour.)
Run the Numbers
Now, run the math on these figures over time. That same stove, used for an hour a day over a month costs $7.50; over a year $90. Use the microwave 15 minutes a day for a month and spend $1.20; for a year $14.40. While these amounts may seem negligible, they are sufficient to make you stop and consider casual energy use in the kitchen.
Do you really need to fire up the stove to reheat leftovers when the microwave will do the job for a fraction of the cost? Why not cook with the Crockpot once a week? Supper is ready when you come in, there's only one pot to wash, and it's energy efficient. A toaster oven is even more economical. With an hour of operation at 350 degrees, you'll spend approximately 4 cents. Single individuals living alone can accomplish a lot with a toaster oven and rice steamers, with comparable energy consumption, can be used to cook a variety of vegetables and even to steam chicken.
The Kitchen Is A Great Place To Save Energy
People who are serious about changing their energy habits can't confine that decision to any one room of the house and no room should be left out -- especially the kitchen. Only by looking at every behavior that draws electrical current and making the most economical choices can you hope to see lower kWh usage per month. When someone tells you not to bother, do the math over time and see how the numbers stack up. You probably won't change your behavior for .24 cents, but $90 is a different matter altogether.
For a more extensive examination of this topic see â€śEnergy Used by Cookingâ€ť at http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/cooking.html and Solar Cooking.