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Energy and Resource Consumption and Conservation in the Kitchen


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For outdoor cooking, I use real charcoal (not factory produced briquets), lit in a charcoal chimney using used newspaper and used cooking oil. All of this is renewable, reasonably inexpensive, and to my taste, grills food better than any other option.

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In the US, cooking consumes less than five percent of the average household energy budget. If you want to reduce consumption, you'll get better results by looking at refrigeration, heating water, and -- especially -- heating and cooling your house. That's where the money is. Or goes.

Those are the direct costs. A broader view would include the implications of the carbon footprint, especially whether locavore initiatives are truly environmentally friendly.

Dave, I know cooking is a relatively small fraction of household energy use and you're certainly right that refrigeration and water heating use far more energy. I started with cooking because of the two threads mentioned earlier, as well as Reichl's mindless running of water to cool eggs.

Outside of heating in the north and cooling in the south, water heating is usually the largest use of energy in a house, followed by refrigeration. So far as locavore initiatives, they are probably better if only because of reduced transportation. But, it's worth looking at in more detail to make sure. Got to head to bed now, but will check in tomorrow.

Nibor, if you have natural gas at the patio that's probably as energy efficient as anything else.

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I just had solar panels installed by Solar City -part of their leasing program. I am not only covering my own usage, but sending excess generated kWh back out to the grid. I paid, they send me a check each year for those excess kWh's.

All the lightbulbs in my house except the oven light are LEDs. (can't put an LED in an oven) If every light in my whole house were turned on at once I'd use 162 watts. The other plus is that LEDs are fairly cool, they don't waste energy as heat, so, they don't heat up the house and I don't waste energy running the AC to cool down a room because of lightbulbs.

Here in AZ, air conditioning is the main thing we use power for, followed by heating water. I plan on getting a solar hot water unit within the next year.

I got my house about a year ago and got all new, energy efficient appliances.

I do try to use things wisely. I often cook extra little things, like roasted garlic, with the residual heat in the oven after I have made something else. I pack my fridge and freezer efficiently. I only run the dishwasher when it's full. No big tricks, just little efficiencies.

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The food choices we make outside of the kitchen have a far greater impact that the food choices we make in the kitchen. Even cutting your meat consumption by a tiny amount is going to dwarf any savings from running the oven an extra couple of times.

A lb of meat takes roughly 10 lbs of carbon to produce. This is the equivalent of 8 kWh or running a full size oven at full blast for about 2 hours or a stove burner on high for about 6 hours.

Edited by Shalmanese (log)

PS: I am a guy.

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I just had solar panels installed by Solar City -part of their leasing program. I am not only covering my own usage, but sending excess generated kWh back out to the grid. I paid, they send me a check each year for those excess kWh's.

All the lightbulbs in my house except the oven light are LEDs. (can't put an LED in an oven) If every light in my whole house were turned on at once I'd use 162 watts. The other plus is that LEDs are fairly cool, they don't waste energy as heat, so, they don't heat up the house and I don't waste energy running the AC to cool down a room because of lightbulbs.

Here in AZ, air conditioning is the main thing we use power for, followed by heating water. I plan on getting a solar hot water unit within the next year.

I got my house about a year ago and got all new, energy efficient appliances.

I do try to use things wisely. I often cook extra little things, like roasted garlic, with the residual heat in the oven after I have made something else. I pack my fridge and freezer efficiently. I only run the dishwasher when it's full. No big tricks, just little efficiencies.

I've had tankless water heaters for several years - have written about them before - they save a lot of gas or electricity - mine are gas - because they are not constantly reheating the same water over and over.

And best of all, you never run out of hot water. I got mine when the rebate program was very positive so got back nearly half of the cost.

Last April one of my friends moved from a townhouse in Sun City to a house in Chandler that has both AC and a swamp cooler. She said her electric bill for the larger house has been less than half what she was paying in the townhouse, just using the swamp cooler most days. She uses the AC only when the monsoon moisture pushed the humidity up. This house also has pergolas all around it so the sun doesn't hit full on the walls all day long and that makes a big difference. The only complaint is that the kitchen is smaller than she wanted but as there is a non-weight-bearing wall between the kitchen and dining room, she has plans to make some changes.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Thanks for starting this topic, I was thinking of asking the same thing. I do try to consider the energy implications but it isn't always easy to consider the trade-offs.

Here in Australia energy is very expensive compared to my last abode, in the land of hydroelectric dams. My oven is electric and the range gas, so I try to use the range more and the oven less - Australia is one of if not the highest per capita greenhouse gas emitters, primarily due to the reliance on low grade brown coal for electric generation. So between that and the higher cost than running gas, makes the stove a preferred choice for me.

In the rest of the house the considerations get a bit harder. I just put in 1.6 kW of solar panels, not much but a help and the excess is sent back to the grid at a premium feed-in tariff incentive scheme (or will be if the power company ever finishes the conversion). I have a swamp cooler but didn't use it much last year and when I wanted it the humidity was up, too so not as good as it could be. The trouble is, water is in short supply (or was up until it started flooding). After that I would need to look at major investment to insulate the house - a foreign concept, here.

Just because running the oven is a small part of the energy use, doesn't mean it isn't worth doing for energy savings - especially if you aren't going to reduce the other elements. And comparing the the American over-dependence on climate control in often excessively large houses, isn't completely valid. And I used to live in an region of cold winters and hot, very dry summers. If there is a place to cut back with only minor impact on quality of life (or even net quality gain, since I believe there is value in voluntary simplicity), why not?

And yes, for me it is important to cut my carbon footprint by looking for nutritious food that relies on smaller quantitites of meat is an option I want to pursue further.

Oh, and I'm getting to know my pressure cooker and I think bacon works well in the microwave.

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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I think about this a lot, and it's had an effect on the way I cook (e.g. rice and legumes are cooked in the biggest batches I can manage, and frozen, since they reheat well), and the energy ratings and types of of appliances/fixtures we've purchased. Also, running the water the entire time someone is washing up always bothers me, because I've lived in countries where drought warnings are a fairly normal summer occurrence; unless I'm rinsing the dishes, the water is off. Other things to, but those spring to mind. A lot of it is habitual, now.

As others have already noted, the relative amount of energy consumed in the kitchen is only a small fraction of overall consumption, but it's a good place to start, and once the habit of this attitude is established, it spreads to other areas too (e.g. car or bike? if a car, which car? and so on).

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Just eat sushi and salads. No cooking. :laugh:

Just kidding. It is very important to consider energy/resources use in everything, not just cooking.

I have a small hole drilled just above the trap under the sink, and silicone glued a vinyl tubing to direct water to a big bucket. I collect the sink water to water my garden. It takes about 10 minutes to do this.

When I don't need water from the sink (after heavy rain falls) I just use a little clamp and bend the tube. It stops the collection of water.

dcarch

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As others have already noted, the relative amount of energy consumed in the kitchen is only a small fraction of overall consumption, but it's a good place to start, and once the habit of this attitude is established, it spreads to other areas too (e.g. car or bike? if a car, which car? and so on).

I just checked back in and am happy to see so many good thoughts by people but, for now, want to get back to cooking being a small percentage of household energy use - which Dave the Cook first brought up, and is true when it comes to, say, monthly consumption.

But there's also "demand", especially electric demand, to consider. Rather than being measured in kWh (kilowatt hours), as in a monthly bill (consumption), demand is measured in kW (kilowatts) and is the load being placed on the grid at any moment.

In periods of high demand this is what causes problems for electric utilities in that the generation has to meet demand, or voltage starts dropping. And as demand increases the less efficient (and more expensive and more polluting) generating stations have to be brought on line. If all the generation resources aren't enough to meet total demand then "brown outs" (voltage drop) happen, followed by rolling black outs where all electricity is lost in some areas in a sort of rotating plan. (Hopefully it's planned.)

I hope that isn't too confusing, but I wanted to try to explain how it works because even though cooking, and other energy consumption in the kitchen, is a small part of total household use, what goes on in the kitchen plays a large part when it comes to demand issues. Especially if the kitchen has an electric range and hot water is provided by an electric water heater. Quite often an electric system peak happens around supper time, and the more that can be done in the kitchen to reduce demand when that's happening, the better things will be.

Utilities have "demand charges" for industrial and commercial customers, as well as many gov't facilities, and when demand exceeds a set figure an additional charge is applied to the bill. Some districts, and states, are considering applying demand charges to residential customers, so this is worth learning about.

Here's a link to a utility that has apparently instituted demand charges for high use residential customers and included is a table that shows demand for a range of typical home electric appliances - as well as probably explaining demand better than I've done.

I hope the above helps and next time I'll get into some of the other good points brought up in earlier posts.

Now go back up to the top and read what Mjx wrote. She's right.

Edited by Country (log)
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Like other posters, we have solar panels which generate more electricity than we need much of the year. We also have a thousand gallon cistern that captures rainwater from the roof and its use theoretically reduces power consumption because our well pump is much lower in elevation than our cistern pump. I say theoretically because the water flows past a UV light contraption before it gets to any faucet and I don't really know how much electricity that unit consumes. In the kitchen, cistern water is used for dishwashing and handwashing, but not cooking or drinking. We also use it for showering and clothes washing.

I ordinarily use water out of the tap on our rain barrels to wash my root vegetables from the garden and that requires no electricity (although that process can be quite uncomfortable when the outside temperature is low). During the growing season, I use any scalding water left over from cooking to kill weeds that grow in the cracks of the brick patio.

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It seems pretty extravagant to fire up an oven to cook a few slices of bacon.

There is or was a cooking show from the people at Oster that claimed the use of small cooking appliances was more energy efficient than firing up the big 220V oven. This of course is a way of showcasing their line of products. I suppose there's some sense to this but I doubtg a dozen or so small dedicated appliances is an environmentally sensible way to go.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Country, what a good topic. My first thought is, unplug the "energy vampires" like the instant-on toaster and the microwave unless you're ready to use them. I unplugged almost all the standby appliances in my house several years ago, and I saw the difference in my energy bill. This method is most effective with older appliances. I understand new appliances have strict limits on their use of standby power.

Another possibility--using the residual heat in the oven after you've cooked something else in it. In the traditional village wood-fired ovens, for example, people know to cook their breads and other items that require high heat, then pop a casserole in the oven as it cools down, to take advantage of all the fuel. I've thought about this, but I haven't yet figured out how to work it. For example, if I make pizza, which requires a very hot oven, then shut off the oven & put in a casserole, will the heat be sufficient to thoroughly cook the meat in a casserole? I have to experiment with this.

Although household cooking may be small compared to other energy uses, I believe in doing what one can. After all, our wasteful energy consumption is a lot about habit. Why not change the bad habits?

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Another possibility--using the residual heat in the oven after you've cooked something else in it. In the traditional village wood-fired ovens, for example, people know to cook their breads and other items that require high heat, then pop a casserole in the oven as it cools down, to take advantage of all the fuel. I've thought about this, but I haven't yet figured out how to work it. For example, if I make pizza, which requires a very hot oven, then shut off the oven & put in a casserole, will the heat be sufficient to thoroughly cook the meat in a casserole? I have to experiment with this.

My variation of this is: preheat the oven once, bake at least two things. It's not taking advantage of residual heat but, as much as possible, avoiding the cost/energy use of preheating the oven.


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We're card-carrying members of the "greener-than-thou" club. We use less than 10,000 kwh per year, living in the Mojave desert. Our gas bills are similarly low. All told, we spend less than $2K per year on electricity, gas, water and trash collection.

I don't own a gasoline internal combustion engine. (My wife does, but it gets 45mpg.) We grow a lot of our own food. The rest is sourced as locally as possible. I know the rancher who sells us our beef. The eggs come from backyard chickens. We shop at the local farm/orchard. (No smirking, it's a good farm.) We participate in CSAs. We compost everything. We recycle everything. Most weeks, we don't have any trash at all on collection day.

I'll bake my bacon, and fire up the oven to cook something small if I feel like it. I think I'm doing more than my fair share, so I don't mind splurging, just a little, carbon-wise.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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We use less than 10,000 kwh per year, living in the Mojave desert. Our gas bills are similarly low. All told, we spend less than $2K per year on electricity, gas, water and trash collection.

I don't own a gasoline internal combustion engine. (My wife does, but it gets 45mpg.) We grow a lot of our own food. The rest is sourced as locally as possible. I know the rancher who sells us our beef. The eggs come from backyard chickens. We shop at the local farm/orchard. (No smirking, it's a good farm.) We participate in CSAs. We compost everything. We recycle everything. Most weeks, we don't have any trash at all on collection day.

SkoopKW, that's really very impressive.

I put out two 75L bags of trash a month and often remind my neighbors now how easy it is (without being a knob, I think). I'm considering a low-tech old-school root cellar in the yard where I'm pretty sure I can maintain 5-10C year round. As Dave the Cook pointed out, refrigeration can be costly. Are there things like this in the desert?

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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We use less than 10,000 kwh per year, living in the Mojave desert. Our gas bills are similarly low. All told, we spend less than $2K per year on electricity, gas, water and trash collection.

I don't own a gasoline internal combustion engine. (My wife does, but it gets 45mpg.) We grow a lot of our own food. The rest is sourced as locally as possible. I know the rancher who sells us our beef. The eggs come from backyard chickens. We shop at the local farm/orchard. (No smirking, it's a good farm.) We participate in CSAs. We compost everything. We recycle everything. Most weeks, we don't have any trash at all on collection day.

SkoopKW, that's really very impressive.

I put out two 75L bags of trash a month and often remind my neighbors now how easy it is (without being a knob, I think). I'm considering a low-tech old-school root cellar in the yard where I'm pretty sure I can maintain 5-10C year round. As Dave the Cook pointed out, refrigeration can be costly. Are there things like this in the desert?

No, we don't have root cellars. It's very unusual for anyone to have a cellar, basement or any other below-ground-level space. The ground around here has the consistency of badly-mixed and set concrete. So, most of my $1,000 annual electricity budget goes toward refrigeration -- got two of them. While I can leave a package of crackers open on the counter for a month and they won't get stale (no moisture), the dry air does not help fresh fruits and veg. Even things that normally prefer a root-cellar environment do better in the 'fridge. There's more moisture in there. The ambient air in the pantry is not unlike a dehydrator.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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All told, we spend less than $2K per year on electricity, gas, water and trash collection.

Wow--I hadn't realized how vastly energy costs varied across the USA, and how cheap they must be in my area. I just did the math for my 2-person household in the deepest South, and we spend just under $2K for elect/gas/water/trash in an average year. (And our water/sewer/trash is wildly overpriced compared to surrounding areas.) No solar, no extreme water saving measures (low flush toilets but standard water heater), A/C runs 10 months out of 12, one fridge, one big chest freezer...and the usual complement of home electronics.

Regarding energy conservation in the kitchen, I use a natural gas stove & oven, though I bake significantly less in summer (and do so when the outdoor temps are lowest) to reduce a/c needs.

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During the winter, I place hot pots of beans and soups destined for the fridge outside to cool. Does that count? It always pains me to hear the fridge click on during the winter when it's cold outside. At least it heats the house.

I don't worry about my cold water usage. We have more than enough for now here in the Northeast.

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During the winter, I place hot pots of beans and soups destined for the fridge outside to cool. Does that count?

Yes. Yes. Yes. It counts a lot. It's a commonsense thing to do - and one of those things we should use to our advantage. It costs nothing, and saves energy and money.

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Wow--I hadn't realized how vastly energy costs varied across the USA, and how cheap they must be in my area.

We have lived in only one state: Utah, and I was amazed at how low the costs of power and gas bills were. Compared to what we pay in Ontario...they were peanuts.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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1. My diet is almost entirely vegetarian and has been for 25 years. From the carbon footprint calculators I've used, it seems this is a much bigger carbon savings than almost anything else I do in the whole rest of my life.

2. I have an induction cooktop, which is vastly more efficient than any other type of cooking surface.

3. I'm a big fan of the pressure cooker. A pressure cooker combined with an induction cooktop is incredibly efficient. I also do a lot of stir-frying. I hardly ever use the oven--not with energy conservation in mind, though. It's just the way I happen to cook.

4. I live in the frozen north. I'm rich in cold. Anything that needs cooling gets thrown out on the deck or in the front vestibule.

5. I keep a few laying hens, and they eat everything we don't, and give it back to us in eggs. Their manure goes into our garden. I don't know if keeping a garden does anything for the environment (it certainly doesn't save any money, the way I do it), but at least all the food scraps are getting used very efficiently and don't have to be hauled to a landfill. And I have a LOT of food scraps. Which leads me to . . .

My biggest sin: I waste a ton of food. It's shameful how much I waste. I travel a lot and it seems I can never use up what's in my fridge before I leave. So much food has just a brief rest in my fridge before making the trip out to the chicken coop. I really think that food waste is probably the single biggest energy waster in my kitchen, and in most people's kitchens. Not that we shouldn't also pay attention to everything else as well, but this is the number one issue that I want to get a handle on.

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My biggest sin: I waste a ton of food. It's shameful how much I waste. I travel a lot and it seems I can never use up what's in my fridge before I leave. So much food has just a brief rest in my fridge before making the trip out to the chicken coop. I really think that food waste is probably the single biggest energy waster in my kitchen, and in most people's kitchens. Not that we shouldn't also pay attention to everything else as well, but this is the number one issue that I want to get a handle on.

Oh, I completely relate to this. I've worked hard to conquer the habit of buying too much (especially during summer when farmers market bounty beckons). For those of us who live in dense urban areas and can't compost or keep chickens, this is important. I know every week when I take out the trash (or not) how well I've done.


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