When purchasing an automatic dishwasher, a useful feature is a booster heater. The booster heater raises the temperature of the water entering the dishwasher to 140 degrees F, allowing you to maintain a lower temperature in your water heater. A booster heater typically adds $30 to the cost of a dishwasher, but pays for itself in water heating energy savings in about 1 year - if you reduce your water heater temperature.

Other useful features in dishwashers are short cycle and air dry selections. Short cycles use less hot water and are suitable when dishes are not very dirty. Air dry selectors shut off the heat during the drying cycle, reducing energy use up to 20%.

For full loads, automatic dishwashers use less water than doing dishes by hand. Run only full loads and don't waste water by pre-rinsing dishes. Most newer dishwashers simply require the plates to be scraped off and liquids emptied. If you do pre-rinse, use cold water. Small amounts of dishes can be hand washed efficiently by first scraping the dishes, then plugging the sink for washing and rinsing. The water should be turned on just for the final rinse.


When purchasing a refrigerator, choose the right size model to fit your needs. Too large a refrigerator will cost more to purchase, use more energy, cost more to operate, and will take up extra space. Too small a refrigerator will lead to an increased number of shopping trips. When figuring out what size refrigerator you need, remember that you should keep the refrigerator and freezer fairly full (food retains cold better than air.)

Refrigerators with the freezer on top are typically more efficient than side-by-side or models with the freezer on the bottom. Side by side refrigerators typically use about 35% more energy than models with the freezer on top, costing more per year to operate.

To avoid making your refrigerator work harder, locate it away from the stove and dishwasher and out of direct sunlight. Make sure air can circulate around the condenser coils.

The condenser coils should be cleaned at least once a year. You can wipe them down, use a vacuum or brush.

Check the temperatures inside your refrigerator using a thermometer. The refrigerator compartment should be between 38 degrees and 42 degrees F, the freezer should be between 0 degrees and 5 degrees F. Adjust the temperature controls to keep the refrigerator within these ranges. Running it 10 degrees colder can increase energy use up to 25%.

Check the door seals; they can deteriorate over time. Check the seals by inserting a piece of paper between the door and the cabinet, then closing the door. It should take some effort to pull the paper out. Do this at several spots along the door. If the refrigerator is leaking cold air, or not sealing correctly, replace the door seals.

Purchasing Appliances

When you buy an appliance, there are two types of prices you pay. First is the obvious purchase price. The second price is the cost to operate the appliance over its lifetime. The second cost, the operating cost, is significant and should be considered when selecting an appliance. For example, running a refrigerator for 15-20 years typically costs two to three items as much as it costs to buy it.

Energy efficient appliances are so called because they run more efficiently, thereby using less energy. Purchasing energy efficient appliances can reduce your annual energy bills. So, look for energy efficiency as well as good purchase prices.

When evaluating the cost of appliances, consider not only the annual costs, but the cost of running the appliance over its full lifetime, the "lifecycle cost." The Lifecycle Cost is:

Purchase Price + Lifetime Energy Cost = Lifecycle Cost.

For example, let's say the refrigerator mentioned above cost $700 and its average annual operating cost is $70. If you expect to own it for 20 years, its lifecycle cost will be:

$700 + ($70/yr x 20 yrs) = $2,100

Once you purchase your appliances, keep them in good working order. Follow manufacturers' suggestions for proper operation and maintenance. Manufacturers' service departments may have toll-free numbers; phone toll-free directory assistance (1-800-555-1212) to find out.


Ranges are not labeled with energy guide labels, so you need to look for energy efficient features instead. For gas ranges, choose one with an electric ignition, which uses about 40% less energy than a pilot light. This will save about $25-30 per year.

Convection ovens cook more efficiently, allowing for lower cooking temperatures and shorter cooking times.

Induction cooktops heat food using magnetism and reduce energy consumption by 10-20%. They are also easier to control than electric cooktops. However, they are currently very expensive and can only be used with steel and iron pans. At present, the cost of an induction cooktop is not justified by its energy savings.

When cooking small quantities of food, it is more efficient to use a microwave, toaster oven or crock pot. Microwaves generally use 1/3 to 1/2 as much electricity as conventional ovens for cooking the same amount of food. For soups and stews which require long cooking periods, crock pots consume a lot less energy than a stovetop.


When defrosting food, plan ahead. Don't use water to thaw food. Allow food to slowly thaw in the refrigerator. The coldness contained in the food will also help keep the inside of the refrigerator cool with less work for the motor.

Use only the amount of water necessary. Too much water increases cooking time and energy usage. For example, do not use a full pot of water to cook vegetables, use only enough water to cover them. You can use the water to make soup stock.

When water will be used for boiling, such as in cooking pasta, use warm water to fill the pot. Less energy will then be needed to heat the water to boiling.

On electric stovetops, use pots and pans with flat bottoms for the most efficient heating.

When preheating a conventional oven, don't preheat longer than necessary. Ten minutes is usually sufficient. Preheating is not necessary for roasting or broiling - only for baking.

Don't open the oven unnecessarily. Not only is heat lost each time the door is opened, but the food will take longer to cook and the loss of heat can affect browning and baking results. Use timers and the oven door window instead.

Kitchen Hazardous Products - Alternatives

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