Let’s face it: a well-loved kitchen is the centerpiece of a home. But it can also be the centerpiece of your energy bills. Energy experts say refrigerators and freezers can account for 20 percent of a home’s electricity alone.
In a March 2021 Modernize survey, 40 percent of homeowners said they are actively pursuing home improvement projects to save money on their utility and electric bills. The kitchen presents a huge opportunity to reduce energy expenditure, and in turn cut energy and utility bills.
Fear not, Modernize is here to help you reduce energy-related costs in your home. Here’s a guide for what to consider when it comes to your energy-efficient kitchen remodel.
Why Do Energy-Efficient Kitchen Appliances and Fixtures Matter?
Your kitchen sees some of the heaviest energy use when it comes to wattage in a home. Dishwashers alone use 1200 to 1500 watts annually on average and ovens use an average of 2150 watts. That’s why it’s a good idea to invest in energy-efficient kitchen appliances when you’re considering a kitchen remodel. Energy-efficient kitchen appliances can help minimize the amount of energy and water you use, and in turn, bring your bills down in the long-term.
It can also help in the long run with equity. Experts say replacing at least one kitchen appliance during a remodel with an energy-efficient kitchen appliance can contribute to a large return on investment. Certain models of appliances with high-efficiency ratings, such as ENERGY STAR products, could also be eligible for tax credits and rebates as well.
About ENERGY STAR Kitchen Appliances
ENERGY STAR is a government-backed label that is placed on energy-efficient products. It not only helps you to save money, it helps you to protect the environment. The symbol was established to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and diverse pollutants brought about by the ineffective use of energy. It makes it easy for people to identify and buy energy-efficient appliances which help them to reduce their utility bills without forgoing comfort, performance, and advanced features.
ENERGY STAR qualified products are 10%-50% more energy-efficient than their counterpart appliances. They also adhere to strict technical specifications which are continually updated. For example, dishwashers with the ENERGY STAR label have lower energy consumption and minimal water use. Some offer great performance and do not make a lot of noise.
Energy-Efficient Appliances and Fixtures
There are several areas of the kitchen where it is possible to reduce energy expenditure, and therefore slash energy and utility bills over time. We will focus on four main kitchen appliances and fixtures where you can reduce energy.
Kitchen lights are among the most-used lights and fixtures in a household. That’s why when it comes to energy-efficient lighting, it’s important to prioritize heavily-used areas — like overhead kitchen lights — over replacing a seldom used closet bulb.
Any light fixture can become more energy efficient with the help of an energy-efficient bulb upgrade, but that’s just the beginning. Replacing light fixtures with an energy-efficient light fixture will help bulbs distribute light more efficiently and cut down on energy by 70 to 90 percent compared to a regular fixture. A good tip is to look for ENERGY STAR certified fixtures, which come in hundreds of designs to match any style.
For your kitchen remodel to start yielding the energy-efficiency benefits, a good place to start is with your refrigerator.
Refrigerators manufactured before 1993 weren’t made with the same efficiency considerations today’s fridges and freezers are made with because of inefficient cooling and lighting systems. And while upgrading may come with an added sticker expense at the forefront, in the long run a new, energy-efficient refrigerator will cost half as much money to run.
ENERGY STAR estimates that outdated fridges can cost homeowners nearly $5 billion in utility fees. Buying a fridge with the blue ENERGY STAR label guarantees that it will exceed United States Environmental Protection Agency standards for efficiency.
Other elements to consider when it comes to buying a new refrigerator include:
- Ice-makers and dispensers: These accessories, while convenient, can increase your energy use as well as the cost of the unit by 14-20%.
- Size: As a general rule, the bigger the fridge, the more work it takes to run. Choose a refrigerator that is about 16-20 cubic feet.
- Standalone freezers. Chest freezers tend to be more energy-efficient than upright freezers.
With their wattage use and water waste combined, an old dishwasher can be a huge energy-guzzler. Models more than 20-years-old can waste as much as 10 gallons of water per cycle. But these appliances have come a long way.
New ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers by law are required to use a maximum amount of 4.25 gallons of water per cycle, making them 10-50 percent more energy-efficient than their counterparts. They also cost an average of only $35 per year to run!
Along with saving money and energy, new dishwashers come with more advanced features — from soil sensors to rack systems and filtration methods — all in the name of cost-saving and clean dishes. They’re also typically quieter and able to run cleaning cycles with less detergent than older models.
According to ENERGY STAR, an energy-efficient dishwasher can save a homeowner about $1,300 in energy and water compared to hand-washing dishes. Other tips the initiative suggests when choosing the right dishwasher include:
- Choosing the right size: A standard-capacity model can hold more than eight place settings and six-serving pieces. If that feels like overkill, a compact-capacity model might be better. But take note: if you have to use a compact model more often, over time a standard model might be the better fit.
- Look at wash cycle options: When choosing the right model, look for a dishwasher that has cycle options that fit your lifestyle best. For instance, a light-cycle for only slightly dirty dishes can use less water. In addition, a no-heat air dry cycle can save in energy.
Finally, an appliance you should take care in choosing is a new stove. Energy-efficient options include induction cooktops or gas-powered stoves versus their coiled or electric-powered counterparts. Electric stoves use up less energy those that use gas, which add between 25%-39% carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide to the air.
The option that is best for you will boil down (pun intended) to your lifestyle and cooking style. Induction heating elements can only be used with metal cookware — so depending on your existing kitchenware it might not be the right choice for you. Conversely, gas-powered stoves can become costly if your home doesn’t already have a gas line installed. Modernize recommends discussing your kitchen remodel options and efficiency goals with a contractor.
Here are some additional tips when it comes to choosing the right energy-efficient stove:
- Make sure you have the right cookware: Not only does an induction stove require metal cookware, but all stoves need the right size cookware to take full advantage of the energy expelled. Using the right size cookware on a burner can save between $18 and $36 annually.
- Keep your burners clean: for gas-powered stoves, if the flames are blue, it indicates good combustion levels. But if the flames are yellow, it could indicate that the gas is burning inefficiently.
- Doors and lights: When shopping for ovens or ranges, opt for models with LED lights and glass doors to help with energy loss.
When looking at your kitchen remodeling options, it can be tempting to opt for the lower prices. But remember, a cheap price up-front may mean a bigger burden down the line with high expenses associated with keeping everything running.
Modernize encourages homeowners to consider maintenance, operation and repair costs before purchasing any appliance. Ultimately, energy-efficient kitchen appliances will help save you money and save the planet!