October 25, 2014

Use Your Appliances to go Green in the Kitchen – Plus a Few Other Helpful Suggestions

Another Earth Day has passed us and just as we make resolutions on New Year’s Day, you might have planned to change your energy wasting ways. Those New Year’s resolutions are difficult to maintain, because we often try to do too much. Making just a few small changes is helpful and can be the key to lasting change.
Lisa Abraham at Ohio.com has compiled her tips for saving energy in the kitchen. They include being creative when using kitchen appliances and modifying some eating habits.

Limit the time the stove/oven is used

Never light the oven or turn on a burner when a small appliance will do the job. Microwave ovens, toaster ovens, electric griddles, panini makers and, yes, even a slow cooker all consume less energy than a traditional gas or electric stove.

Consistently using these small appliances can make a huge difference in your energy consumption, Jackie Newgent a dietitian, cooking instructor and cookbook author of the newly released Big Green Cookbook (Wiley, 2009). said. Even though slow cookers are typically on for hours at a time, they will burn less energy than a traditional oven to prepare the same dish, such as a roast.

Look for ways to lessen the amount of time the oven and burners are on. When cooking pasta, Newgent recommends using skinny varieties, like angel hair, that will cook more quickly. She also uses a method she dubs ”lid cooking” to turn the stove off sooner.

Newgent brings a pot of water to a boil, adds her pasta and brings it up to a boil again. But then she turns the heat off, puts a lid on the pot, and lets the pasta finish cooking from the heated water.

When baking something, turn the oven off five minutes before the item is done and allow the residual heat in the oven to finish the job, she said.

Consider making one meal each week that doesn’t require using the stove at all, such as a salad.

Eat more fruits and vegetables, less meat

Newgent suggests eating one meatless meal per week. It requires more energy to produce meat than vegetables and fruits. Cutting meat out of just one meal per week can lead to significant energy savings over a year, she said.

That salad fits in well here. Think of it as a chance to be a more adventurous eater.

Run an energy-efficient kitchen

While new major kitchen appliances may not be in the budget for many homeowners, most would see an immediate savings on electric bills with the conversion.

Refrigerators should be away from sunlight and heat sources, like ovens. The warmer the environment, the harder the appliance will have to work and the more energy it will use.

Refrigerators also need breathing room — at least two or three inches of open space between the coils and the wall behind them to allow for better air circulation. Keeping refrigerator coils clean of dirt, dust and pet hair also will improve performance.

The harder an appliance has to work, the faster it will wear out.

Constantly opening and closing the refrigerator causes it to lose cold air. The same goes for the oven — keep the door closed as much as possible while in use to keep the hot air inside.

Gas stoves typically are less expensive to run than electric ones.

Always have the dishwasher fully loaded before running, and consider scraping your dishes instead of rinsing them before loading, to save on water.

Newgent also noted that when cooking outdoors, choose a gas grill over charcoal because gas emits less carbon into the atmosphere.

Here is a sample recipe from Jackie Newgent’s Big Green Cookbook:

CITRUS CREAM OF CAPELLINI

13/4 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
12 oz. whole wheat capellini or angel hair pasta
1/2 cup organic heavy cream
1 tbsp. unsalted organic butter
Juice and zest of 1 lemon (about 3 tbsp. juice)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black or white pepper, or to taste
1/3 cup freshly grated organic or locally produced Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup raw pine nuts (optional)

Bring 6 cups fresh water and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the pasta and return to a boil. Cover and turn off the heat. Let the pasta ”lid cook” (cook covered while the burner is off) until it is al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

Place the drained pasta back into the dried saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the cream, butter, lemon juice and zest. Cook while stirring until the pasta is hot, about 1 minute. For a thinner sauce, add the reserved pasta cooking water. Add remaining salt and pepper.

Pour the pasta into a serving bowl or serve directly from the saucepan. Sprinkle with the cheese and parsley. Top with the pine nuts, if using, and serve.

Makes 6 servings, 1 cup each.

Extend the Life of Your Appliances

One of the easiest ways to extend the life of your appliance is with some preventative maintenance. Don’t spend your hard earned money on new appliances when applying some of these simple tips can keep your laundry, kitchen and small appliances running smoothly.

Washing machine – Make sure this is set up on an even flat surface. Unbalanced machines cause uneven distribution of wash loads and may cause the appliance to “walk” or move little by little, which can eventually damage the barrel.

Don’t load your wash to above the maximum capacity. Every six months, check the hose for leaks and kinks, and replace promptly if needed as cracked hoses waste water. Periodically clean the lint screen by turning it inside out and washing it with soap and warm water to eliminate buildups. Check the hose vent for clogs.

Refrigerator – After delivery of a new refrigerator, wait at least eight to 10 hours before plugging in. Let the Freon settle down first. If you live in areas where electricity fluctuates, protect your fridge with an auto-voltage regulator (AVR).

Twice a year, clean the condenser coils located either at the back (for older models) or the front (newer models have grills that cover the coils near the bottom) of your refrigerator.

When defrosting freezers, never scrape ice from the walls to avoid damaging the appliance. Merely it turn off and remove all the food. Clean the refrigerator’s interior while you’re at it. To check the gasket, close the door on a piece of paper and pull. If it easily slides out, it’s time to replace the seal.

Air conditioner – Always follow the rule of starting the unit in fan setting for a minimum of three minutes before turning it up to high-cool to avoid overworking the compressor. Sustain airflow by cleaning the filter monthly with soapy water and a soft toothbrush. Wipe the exterior with a damp cloth and remove all debris from the central air unit to maximize air current.

Electric fan – Once a week, remove and clean the blade and grills. If you are adept at dismantling things, you can remove the shaft and apply industrial grease/oil to postpone wear and tear of the bushing parts. Let the grease dry for about three hours before using the unit again so the oil won’t enter the motor.

Television and DVD player– Avoid placing the TV near a window where splashes of rain could damage the circuits. Wipe the exterior with a damp cloth. Clean DVD players using a commercial disk cleaner once a month and remember to wipe CDs thoroughly with a soft, non-abrasive cloth before playing. Take good care of the remote controls as well.

Microwave – Never put any metals inside and don’t let splattered food stay inside for long. Use only microwavable dishes for heating. Before cleaning, heat a cup of water with a teaspoon of baking soda in a bowl for three minutes. This makes it easy to wipe off all sticky food particles with a sponge or soft cloth right after. Don’t forget to clean the door gasket too.

Rice cooker – Dry the bottom of the pot before putting it over the hot plate every time you cook rice. Position the cooker on a flat, even surface. Clean up any overflow on the sides right after cooking.

Electric air pot – Always boil water at the correct water level. Avert or remove hard water deposits by pouring pure white vinegar just above the water stain. Boil in one cycle, leave overnight, then clean as usual. Remind members of the family to gently press on the controls so as not to damage the pads.

It may take some extra effort, but you’ll find the both savings and the piece of mind of knowing everything is running smoothly are worth it. You can read more here.

Appliance Maintenance Tips and Lifespan Estimates

I think it’s good to be reminded regularly to look after these appliances we spent so much to acquire.  So I feel justified in offering this list from the Sun Herald that nudges you to take a minute and check up on your household appliances. It could add years to their lifespan.

Refrigerator

Average life span: 14 years

What you need to do: Locate the condenser coils by checking your owner’s manual. Clean them by unplugging the fridge and removing dust gently with a broom or brush. Check the seals by sliding a piece of paper in the closed door. If it falls out, you need to replace your seals. And defrosting regularly can’t hurt.

Inspected and cleaned: Have it done if your at-home remedies don’t work or if there are noises you can’t locate.

Washer, dryer

Average life span: Washer: 12 years; Dryer: 14 years

What to do: Clean the dryer’s lint filter and hoses. Kinks or ridges can cause highly flammable lint to build up, a major cause of fire.

Inspected and cleaned: Replace the hoses on your washing machine every 3 to 5 years.

Window air conditioner

Average life span: 13 years

What you need to do: Changing the air filter every month helps the system run more efficiently and improves air quality. Dirt and neglect are the main causes of AC failures, so clean it well.

Inspected and cleaned: Do it twice a year, usually fall and spring.

Garbage disposal

Average life span: 13 years

What you need to do: Keep anything stringy, like pumpkin pulp, out of it. Also leave out tough produce, anything hard that can dull the blades, and grease, which can clog your pipes.

Inspected and cleaned: Have this looked at whenever your plumbing is checked.

Microwave

Average life span: 5 to 8 years

What you need to do: Microwaves are simple appliances; they don’t know the difference between the food you want cooked and old splatters in the chamber, so keep it clean and don’t exceed the recommended usage.

Inspected and cleaned: Anytime there’s a problem. You should never attempt to work on it yourself.

Dishwasher

Average life span: 9 to 12 years

What you need to do: Be mindful of what you put in it. Leave out small pieces that can get lodged in the drain and make sure everything is dishwasher-safe. Use a powdered detergent, because gels can cloud dispenser and glasswear. Spend the few dollars on a rinse aid, such as Jet-Dry, every month or so.

Inspected and cleaned: Every 2 to 3 years.

Water heater

Average life span: electric: 6 to 14 years; gas: 5 to 9 years

What you need to do: Check your hoses, fittings and release valves. Also watch for damaged areas on the outside of the tank and leaking.

Inspected and cleaned: Every couple of years.

Stove

Average life span: electric, 16 years; gas, 19 years

What you need to do: Check temperature with a thermometer or by following a basic white cake mix and making sure it cooks correctly. Keep it clean inside and out, using nonabrasive cleaners. Check your seals and the hinges, which can bend over time and let heat escape.

Inspected and cleaned: Any time it’s not heating properly.

Central air system

Average life span: 10 to 20 years

What you need to do: Check for leaks around the system and with hose connections. You should also change your filter monthly.

Inspect and cleaned: Seasonally