Little things like that can really add up. Here are a few more:
• Today’s refrigerators use 60 percent less electricity on average than those manufactured before 1992, when the EPA introduced the Energy Star program, and Energy Star refrigerators and freezers can save you an extra 15 percent over noncertified models. You can calculate your potential savings at energystar.gov.
• If you’re remodeling, don’t get a big refrigerator just because it looks good. “Get the smallest one you need,” says Thomas Buckborough of Thomas Buckborough & Associates in Acton. “A giant refrigerator is still a giant refrigerator, whether it’s Energy Star rated or not.”
• If you have a second fridge in the basement or garage, says Laurie Acone, senior program manager at National Grid in Waltham, “remove it and let us recycle it for you.” And if you’re renovating, make sure to replace that older model with a newer Energy Star version. It can save you big bucks, especially if the spare was made before 1992.
• Tightly pack your refrigerator and freezer. “When you have more in there,” says Tawfik, “it doesn’t have to work as hard to cool an empty space.” In both compartments, use 2-liter soda bottles filled with water to take up slack.
• Why use an energy-sucking automatic ice maker when you can make ice yourself with a tray? The built-in gadgets increase your fridge’s energy consumption by as much as 20 percent, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. You can get molds now that form little Titanics, Legos, letters, and more. Better yet, buy reusable cubes made of plastic filled with water. Some ice makers have an on-off switch; if yours doesn’t, simply lift the little wire arm that senses when the bin is full to turn it off.
• Dust or vacuum the coils on your refrigerator: “Dirty coils make the compressor work harder,” says Acone. Keeping the fan vent clean can also increase efficiency.
• Thaw frozen food in the fridge rather than on the counter. It takes slightly longer but helps keep the refrigerator cold — and is safer from a health standpoint, because bacteria grow quickly at room temperature.
• Open and shut the doors of your refrigerator and freezer as little and as quickly as possible. Good organization can help you find things quickly.
• Set your appliances at the right temperature. Check your owner’s manual, but most refrigerators work best between 36 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit, and freezers at 0 to 5 degrees. If you have a wine cooler, around 55 degrees is best.
• If the flame from your gas burners is yellow anywhere but toward its top, it’s time to get your stove serviced. A yellow flame signals the range isn’t using gas efficiently.
• If your recipes won’t suffer from it, use the microwave instead of the stove top or oven. A casserole “nuked” on high for 15 minutes costs only 3 cents in energy, while baking the same meal in an electric oven at 350 degrees for an hour costs 16 cents, and in a toaster oven, about half that.
• When you use a 6-inch pot on your stove’s largest burner, says Swett, “you’re heating the air in the kitchen instead of actually cooking the food.” Right-sizing your pot to your burner can save a surprising $20 to $40 a year.
• Keep the metal reflectors under your electric burners clean for maximum efficiency.
• Cover pans when cooking to keep more heat where it belongs.
• If you’re in the market for a new range hood, look for one with an automatic shut-off option that lets you preset its running time, so you don’t forget to turn it off while eating that fabulous meal you just cooked. Others have heat sensors that automatically adjust the blower to a higher speed when the stove top is hotter.
• Cook multiple meals in your oven once or twice a week and then freeze portion sizes; it saves you time and lets you use the appliance while it’s hot, rather than preheating and cooling it down every day.
• Use your dishwasher. According to energystar.gov, doing dishes by hand not only requires as much as 230 hours of your time annually but also consumes about 5,000 gallons more water a year. If you don’t have the space or funds to add a dishwasher, consider investing in a touch or motion-sensor faucet so the water needn’t continue running when you’re not actively using it.
• Wash dishes in cold or tepid water. “Hot water is no better for the dishes,” says Swett. “You’re not getting to a temperature at which you’d be killing bacteria anyway. You’d need to get it to 180 or 190 degrees, and you’d be scalding your hands.”Continued...