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Become an Educated Energy Consumer    OttawaEnergyAudit     Sunday 22 October 2017
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Published Columns: June 2006
Curbing Your Consumption:
Kitchen Waste

By John Ford

Outside of heating and cooling your home and hot water, the kitchen is one of the largest potential users of electricity in the average home. It makes sense to make sure your kitchen is as efficient as you can make it. This is even more important when you get a smart meter since your cooking is likely to fall into peak cost hours. Once again, evaluating your use of elecgtricity in the kitchen could provide a business case for converting some or all of your appliances to gas.

If you have an old refrigerator, that may be the first place to start. My old fridge used an average of 130 wattts while the new one uses 44 watts. At today's rates I'm saving $90 per year energy costs, but that's also 86 watts of heat being kept out of the kitchen on hot days. Cooling the kitchen down in the summer would take about 200 watts extra air conditioning with the old fridge. My grandparents had what they called the summer kitchen which was a separate uninsulated room on the back of the house. Some day we may return to this concept to help keep things cool without energy.

Counter-top appliances are more efficient than using the stove or oven because the heating element is contained within the appliance closer to the food you are cooking. They also supply just the amount of energy required, rather than the large element or oven volume. Maybe some standards are needed so that appliances can plug in to the stove to use the built-in controls and timers and keep the efficiencies.

You can optimise the cooking of pasta by starting with hot water from the tap, bringing it to a boil, adding the pasta, and then turning off the heat while it simmers. [A reader sent a note to say that drinking from the hot water tank is not advised since it collects unhealthy residue such as lead absorbed more by hot water from the pipes.] It takes about three times the time to cook, but uses less energy. You may have to experiment to see what works best for you.

Lighting in the kitchen needs to be targetted to work surfaces and eating areas. Make sure all lamps can be individually controlled, and give off just the amount of light required for the job. There's not much efficiency lighting the kitchen with 1000 watts of halogen bulbs at the wrong end of the counter.

Some sources suggest using the microwave is more efficient than the stove for heating food, and better than an electric kettle for heating water. This is not true in all cases. The megnetron which converts electricity into microwaves is only about 50% efficient. The efficiency of a microwave is realised by only heating the food and not the container. When you compare with an electric kettle which is 100% efficient, and the container is fairly well insulated, a microwave uses double the power.

Update on current costs: The non-smart meter cost for Ottawa Hydro customers is 11.002¢ per kWh for the first 579 kWhs per month, and 12.000¢ after. Smart meter costs are 7.786¢, 11.667¢, and 14.885¢ for the three cost levels.

John Ford is a technology consultant, owner of a small energy conservation business, and Energy Advocate for the Green Party of Ontario.