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Energy and Resource Consumption and Conservation in the Kitchen


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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.

At least the chickens are eating it. I don't consider that a waste at all. We do the same with things that are slightly "off." Not a lot, but it's a good trade for eggs.

EDIT -- And Linda, we live in Las Vegas, a fairly dense urban area. And my mother in law keeps chickens. Despite HOA rules against them. Luckily, the hens aren't very vocal.

The leftovers go to the chickens. The guano goes to the garden. The eggs are eaten. And the shells go back to the chickens. Nice little eco-circle.

Edited by ScoopKW (log)

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

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I think the issue of kitchen waste in terms of throwing away food that would have been good but was not used is a recurring and obviously huge issue. What is that old expression? - "Your eyes were bigger than your stomach"

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  • 3 years later...

What do you do to save energy when cooking?  Any special cooking gear that you use, or ways that you use the oven or burners?

 

I use my Mini Breville Smart Oven as often as possible, although I've not actually tested it against my regular oven.  Also, when making soup, I'll often turn off the heat before cooking is finished and let the soup cook on the residual heat from the electric burners.  A side benefit to that is that my soup veggies are no longer overcooked.

 

I never boil more water than I need, and always do so with the lid on the pot.

 

I don't always preheat my oven, and often let certain items finish cooking on residual heat.  It's not always appropriate to use these techniques, but there are times they are just fine. 

 ... Shel


 

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In Ontario, many households, including ours, are on Smart Meters for electricity.  This means that between certain hours during winter hours and then somewhat altered hours during summer hours we have three levels of cost for electricity.  I could try to use this scheme for cooking and baking...but I don't.  I work in the kitchen during peak hours and don't see that I really have a lot of choice.  We didn't choose to have Smart Meters either. 

 

So when you get down to it...I don't do much if anything to save energy in the kitchen I guess.  Which isn't exactly what you asked for, is it? :raz:

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Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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In Ontario, many households, including ours, are on Smart Meters for electricity.  This means that between certain hours during winter hours and then somewhat altered hours during summer hours we have three levels of cost for electricity.  I could try to use this scheme for cooking and baking...but I don't.  I work in the kitchen during peak hours and don't see that I really have a lot of choice.  We didn't choose to have Smart Meters either. 

 

We have Smart Meters here, too.  When our utility first installed them, a lot of people were upset.  I didn't care one way or another, but now I find the meter is helpful in my keeping track of electricity costs.  I go online and see what my usage is shaping up to be, and can even check the cost for cooking a meal (we get our usage broken down into 15-minute segments).

 

We also have a similar tiered system for energy costs, although it's of little concern for me as my usage is really bare minimum.  In the almost two years I've lived here, the most I've payed for electricity in a month was $6.19, which was in February of this year when I did a lot of cooking and made a big Valentine's Day dinner for Toots.

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 ... Shel


 

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Another interesting aspect to this question might be the cost of electricity in the various States and Provinces.  Our Hydro (what we call it in Ontario) bills are usually between $181 (lowest in 2014) and $272 (highest in 2014).  We keep our heating thermostat lower than anyone else we know in winter and don't have central A/C.  I would not call myself a prolific cook.

 

We lived in Utah for 6 months in 2008/09 and were stunned by the low cost of electricity there.  We paid about $30.00 a month for living and cooking in approximately the same way.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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I find cooking sous vide is a big saver on electricity. Once the bath is up to temperature, my circulator uses less power than a standard light bulb.

 

Hmmm ... I was always of the opinion that cooking SV would be more expensive than that.  What  do you consider a "standard light bulb" to be?

 ... Shel


 

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60-75 Watts.... My circulator has a 1000W element, but once it reaches temperature for most foods (in the 140-160F temp range), with the bath covered, the heater uses less than 10% power. Cooking things at higher temps (like doing confit at 170-180) will use slightly more power to maintain temperature.

When cooking something like salmon (I cook it at 115F), once it's up to temp, the heater uses less than 5% power.

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An interesting topic, and one apart of a book a family of member of mine is working on.

 

One of the themes is that when you are using an oven, in our case Gas, you are taking significant energy to heat it up, instead of just using it to cook whatever is needed at that moment in time - plan ahead.  What else do you have that can benefit from a quick roast, or a slow one with the residual heat?

 

Garlic Confit, Onions, Roasted Root Veg perhaps to throw in soup later?  Ideas are as endless as the imagination.

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I have a toaster oven and a single induction top in the garage that get used frequently. Not only does this keep the cooking smells out of the main living areas but also keeps the AC from kicking on as often in the warmer months. During the cold months I have found reasons/excuses to use the main oven, and the waste heat warms the kitchen, and the furnace kicks on just a bit less. Zero sum there probably...

 

Installed an 110v 2.5 gallon glass lined tank under the kitchen sink in series with my gas water heater. No more waiting 20-30 seconds for the water to warm up. I get very hot water in 1-2 seconds. Saves on the gas bill for sure in the winter.

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All of my lightbulbs (except for the one inside the oven, which must be incandescent)  are LEDs. I switched over, at my old house in 2007, and when I bought my current house in 2010 I set it up entirely LED. (except the oven) The LEDs use a LOT less energy, and have the added benefit of not giving off much heat, so I don't run the air conditioning so much, which, in AZ is a pretty big deal.

 

At my old house, we had halogen track lights in the kitchen and when you turned them on, they would really heat up the kitchen. I used my TempGun and discovered that they were running at 430°. I went around the house and temped my various compact fluorescents (18-30 watts) and they ranged from 212° to 260°. I had just read about LEDs and bought one to run tests on, 8 watts to replace a 50 watt halogen, it temped at 108°, so I bought more. After changing all the lightbulbs, we saw about a $20/month reduction in the electric bill. You can find calculators online which will demonstrate LED cost savings. Most bulbs pay for themselves within 3 years, and, since they last 15-20 years, save a lot of time and hassle of replacement.

 

I have solar panels, so, I produce most of the energy I use -at least in the daytime.

 

I conserve energy by planning out my oven use. For example: if I make a pizza for dinner, I also prepare some sheet pans of veggies to roast afterwards in the residual heat of the turned-off oven. This way, I have pre-cooked ingredients like roasted garlic bulbs, or eggplant slices ready in my fridge which really speeds up dinner on workdays.

 

I load my dishwasher carefully, and plan when to run it.

 

I also make sure to use lids when I cook. They really do make a difference that adds up over time.

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For my kitchen and for my entire house, I intalled tankless water heaters (had them installed).

 

Either gas or electric tank-type water heaters WASTE a lot of energy by reheating the same water over and over  and if you need to do several loads of wash or take long showers or have multiple folks showering, you RUN OUT OF HOT WATER.

 

My gas consumption has been HALF what it was when I had the tank-type water heaters and I don't have to worry about the tanks "silting up" which happens rapidly here where the water contains a lot of dissolved minerals that precipitate out with heat.

 

The last tank-type water heater that was removed when the tankless was installed, took two men to lift it - only one needed when it was installed 4 years before.

The effective life of tank-type water heaters here is 4-5 years before they become so full of silt that they don't heat the water efficiently and there is less water for use. 

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"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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All of my lightbulbs (except for the one inside the oven, which must be incandescent)  are LEDs. I switched over, at my old house in 2007, and when I bought my current house in 2010 I set it up entirely LED. (except the oven) The LEDs use a LOT less energy, and have the added benefit of not giving off much heat, so I don't run the air conditioning so much, which, in AZ is a pretty big deal.

 

At my old house, we had halogen track lights in the kitchen and when you turned them on, they would really heat up the kitchen. I used my TempGun and discovered that they were running at 430°. I went around the house and temped my various compact fluorescents (18-30 watts) and they ranged from 212° to 260°. I had just read about LEDs and bought one to run tests on, 8 watts to replace a 50 watt halogen, it temped at 108°, so I bought more. After changing all the lightbulbs, we saw about a $20/month reduction in the electric bill. You can find calculators online which will demonstrate LED cost savings. Most bulbs pay for themselves within 3 years, and, since they last 15-20 years, save a lot of time and hassle of replacement.

 

I have solar panels, so, I produce most of the energy I use -at least in the daytime.

 

I conserve energy by planning out my oven use. For example: if I make a pizza for dinner, I also prepare some sheet pans of veggies to roast afterwards in the residual heat of the turned-off oven. This way, I have pre-cooked ingredients like roasted garlic bulbs, or eggplant slices ready in my fridge which really speeds up dinner on workdays.

 

 

We installed solar at Toots' place, and when the current water heater gives out, we'll install a tankless system.  They are great!

 

My apartment is filled with only fluorescent or LED bulbs, except for one in the bathroom.  Except for the bathroom bulb, the largest wattage bulb in my apartment is 15 watts.  When the fluorescents burn out, they'll be replaced with LEDs.  I'd love to replace them all right now with LEDs, but I can't bring myself to discard a good bulb.

 ... Shel


 

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I'm also pricing on demand water heaters. HD has one for $699. Another 300 or so for the kit etc... Will look online when the time comes near. maybe get a contractor to do it.

 

Worth it though. Water heating has to be the bulk of my gas bill.

 

And the dishwasher is super efficient energy saver as well- using only a few gallons in a normal cycle. Takes forever though.

 

However, saving water has little impact on my bill as it is about 60% fees and taxes. If I use another couple thousand gallons it's nothing at $1.12 per 1k gallons.  :hmmm:

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I'm also pricing on demand water heaters. HD has one for $699. Another 300 or so for the kit etc... Will look online when the time comes near. maybe get a contractor to do it.

 

Worth it though. Water heating has to be the bulk of my gas bill.

 

And the dishwasher is super efficient energy saver as well- using only a few gallons in a normal cycle. Takes forever though.

 

However, saving water has little impact on my bill as it is about 60% fees and taxes. If I use another couple thousand gallons it's nothing at $1.12 per 1k gallons.  :hmmm:

When I got my tankless water heater I still had a commercial dishwasher (Hobart undercounter model) - 90 second cycle.  Sounded like a 747 taking off but as the sound was over quickly, it never bothered me.

After I had a fracture in my spine, I had difficult shoving the removable trays in and lifting them out when they were loaded, especially with crockery.  So my friend, who owns a bakery cafe and wanted an efficient "sanitizing" dishwasher for the cafe, took the Hobart and paid for a new Bosch for me. 

After having the commercial unit for so many years, it was often frustrating that the cycle took so long.  It is an "energy saver" unit and is supposed to save water too.

"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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60-75 Watts.... My circulator has a 1000W element, but once it reaches temperature for most foods (in the 140-160F temp range), with the bath covered, the heater uses less than 10% power. Cooking things at higher temps (like doing confit at 170-180) will use slightly more power to maintain temperature.

When cooking something like salmon (I cook it at 115F), once it's up to temp, the heater uses less than 5% power.

 

For long cooks I use an insulated cooler. I haven't measured power use, but would imagine this brings it closer3 to the LED bulb range.

Notes from the underbelly

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Water, heat and hot water is covered by my rent, so not much I can do there.   My fridge is low energy for its time and it isnt old, I think they said 5 years max, they change fridge and freezes here every 10 years because a new  fridge freezer  is much more economical for every one involved.  My  stove is also low energy for when it was put in, that I think is 6 years old but I am not sure. All light bulbs are LED or  Energy saving bulbs,

 

I turn on the light as late as possible and turn it off when I leave the room, yes most of our apartment is in darkness at night.

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Cheese is you friend, Cheese will take care of you, Cheese will never betray you, But blue mold will kill me.

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I turn on the light as late as possible and turn it off when I leave the room, yes most of our apartment is in darkness at night.

 

Likewise ... why light up rooms and spaces with nobody in them?

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 ... Shel


 

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1.  I heat mostly with wood; I have a wood heatstove and a wood/coal cookstove.  When either of them is fired, I try to cook and reheat on them, rather than on the electric or gas ranges. 

 

2.  I keep my refigerator in a cool pantry.

 

3.  I wash kitchenware by hand using wash- and rinse-tubs.  I add surplus hot water from my kettle to the tubs.

 

4.  I maximize use of manual tools/minimize use of electrics.

 

5.  I use fewer lights.

 

6.  Everything gets air dried.

 

7.  I minimize use of the vent hood, maximize open windows.

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Whenever I turn off a burner on my electric cooktop stove, I cover it with a lidded pot of water.  The passively-heated water is then used to hand-wash dishes.  Likewise, I do the same when I've finished using the oven.  Not only do these pots of "free" hot water save wear and tear on my water heater, but they serve to remove heat from the kitchen in hot weather.  

 

After seeing a WIlliams-Sonoma staffer recommend doing so, if I remember, I soak dry pasta in tap water for 45-60 minutes before cooking it.  It dramatically reduces cooking time.  A lasagna pan is convenient for soaking long shapes like spaghetti.  

 

From a friend, I learned that pasta cooks just fine if you don't continually boil it, and you can use less than half the generally-recommended amount of water.  For a pound of dry pasta (unsoaked), bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.  Stir in the pasta (give long strands a minute to soften and submerge), put the lid on, turn off the heat, and add 3-5 minutes to the cooking time recommended on the package.  Especially for stranded pasta, you might want to quickly lift the lid and stir once midway through the "steeping" time.  An added plus is that this method eliminates boil-overs.

 

I keep my refrigerator and freezer quite full, as the thermal mass conserves the cold so the unit does not need to run as much.

On the rare occasions when there is open space in the freezer, I fill it with containers of water,  If the weather forecast sounds like the risk of power outages is increased, I make sure to have these DIY "ice blocks" in the freezer.  If the power fails, I quickly transfer one from the freezer to the top shelf of the fridge, then shut it and don't open either door until the power is restored.  A few years ago when the Halloween snowstorm hit New England, I had no power for 106 hours.  The only thing that spoiled was an opened container of cream that was on the verge of curdling before the storm arrived.  

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