Sunday, April 22, 2012

A few more green tips

Hope you all had a nice Earth Day today. Here are a few more tips and links to conclude this week's blogging marathon. You can access all these posts by clicking the Green Your Kitchen tab at the top of this blog.

Origin and Nature of your Food
Many factors contribute to the energy bill of the food we eat:

  • The type of food it is (Livestock consumes a lot more energy than fields of vegetables for instance) 
  • The way it is produced (Is the food produced organically or with the use of petroleum products for instance?) 
  • The distance it travels before reaching your kitchen 
  • The type of transportation used and the quantity transported on each trip 
  • The amount of processing involved in producing the food
  • The type of packaging used

Although some of these variables are difficult to determine, keeping them in mind and being as well informed as you can will help you choose healthy, tasty, and eco-friendly foods. (This is true for drinks too, including water.)

Cooking Methods
The judicial use of cooking methods and appliances can have a positive impact on your energy use. Here are a few tips:

  • Before cooking: thaw food in the refrigerator to shorten the cooking time, and avoid preheating your oven.
  • While cooking: avoid heat loss by using pots and pans sized for the amount of food being cooked and for the diameter of the burner, using lids, and avoiding peeking. Use energy-efficient cooking methods (such as pressure-cooking).
  • After cooking: use the residual heat of your oven to start cooking another dish or warm up your home. (And eat raw food, such as salads, on hot summer days, to keep your house cool.)
  • Double your recipe and save half for later.

Dish Washing
Using a built-in dishwasher is generally more efficient than washing the dishes by hand. However, you can further reduce your water and electricity usage by doing the following:

  • Scrape dirty cookware and plates rather than rinse them. 
  • Run full dishwasher loads. 
  • Use the "light wash" and "air dry" (non-heated dry) settings of your dishwasher.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Unplugging small appliances

There is time for one more post before Earth Day tomorrow. This week I have told you about freezer and refrigerator temperatures, hot water temperature, and energy-efficient lighting. Let's talk about one more way to save electricity.

Most electric appliances consume energy as soon are they are plugged in, whether they are actively used or not. The power is drawn from digital clocks and displays, remote controls, or voltage regulators, and can be as high as 10 to 15 watts. This standby power is sometimes called "phantom load."

How to measure your energy usage
You can use a wattmeter to measure the electric power of any device plugged to an outlet. (Some public libraries lend wattmeters.)
  1. Plug the wattmeter to the electric outlet.
  2. Plug the device to the wattmeter.
  3. Read the power usage in watts when the device is running.
  4. Read the power usage in watts when the device is in standby mode (that is, plugged in but not performing its main function).
You can then compute the yearly energy usage of your appliance with the Energy Usage Calculator provided below.

When the appliance is in use, the wattmeter indicates how much power is needed to run the appliance. This allows you to compute how much energy you consume by using your appliance and encourages you to think of a less powerful appliance to use or to use it for shorter periods of time.

When the appliance is in standby mode, the wattmeter indicates its phantom load. This allows you to compute how much energy is wasted by keeping your appliance plugged in when not in use.

Energy Usage Calculator
Daily Appliance Usage:
Measured Power (in Use):
Measured Power (Standby):
Electricity Rate:
Yearly Energy Usage:
Yearly Energy Waste:
Percentage of Energy Wasted:
(Numbers are shown as an example. Enter your own data.)

When your coffee maker is in use, the wattmeter reads 800 watts. The coffee maker is in use for 30 minutes (or 0.5 hours) every day. Your yearly energy usage is 145.6 kWh/year. At a rate of $0.12233 per kWh, brewing coffee costs $17.81 per year.

When your coffee maker is in standby mode, that is, when you aren't brewing any coffee but the digital display is on, the wattmeter reads 3 watts. If the coffee maker is plugged in around the clock but you actively use it for only 30 minutes every day (that is, it is in standby mode 23.5 hours per day), the energy wasted in a year is: 25.7 kWh/year, which translates into $3.14 per year.

In this example, 15 percent of the energy consumed by the appliance is due to phantom load, and is thus wasted.

Friday, April 20, 2012

CFL vs. LED vs. Incandescent Light Bulbs

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.

Light emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) seem to be even more attractive, as they use the same amount of energy as CFLs, but last at least 15 times longer than incandescent bulbs. They may eventually replace CFLs as their price goes down.

Replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFLs or LEDs
A CFL or LED bulb will produce the same brightness, or light output, as an incandescent bulb, while requiring less power. Use the Energy Savings Calculator provided below to determine the power and energy savings obtained for each light. The energy savings depend on how long the light is turned on during the day.

Energy Savings Calculator
Old Bulb Power:
New Bulb Power:
Daily Bulb Usage:
Electricity Rate:
Power Savings:
Yearly Energy Savings:
(Numbers are shown as an example. Enter your own data.)

You replace a 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a 13-watt CFL. You are saving 47 watts of power.
Your lamp is turned on 4 hours per day. Your energy savings are 68.4 kWh per year.
At a rate of $0.12233 per kWh (check your electricity bill to find out your own rate), changing a light bulb is saving you $8.37 per year.

Multiply that by the number of lamps you use in the house, and by the number of houses in your city, etc., and these small savings will quickly add up.

Other tips for saving energy
Remember to turn off the light when leaving the kitchen, and make good use of daylight.

Buying guide
CFL and LED packages indicate the wattage of incandescent bulbs with an equivalent light output. For example a 13-watt CFL package will indicate that it is as bright as a 60-watt incandescent bulb. CFLs and LEDs come in various sizes, shapes and color temperatures.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

How much water comes out of your tap?

To continue this week's Green Your Kitchen series, I will show you how to measure your kitchen faucet flow rate.

Your faucet's flow rate indicates how much water passes through your faucet during a given amount of time. In the U.S., it is often measured in gallons per minute (gpm). The bigger the flow rate, the more water you consume.

The recommended flow rate is 1.5 gpm or less, which ensures proper pressure while minimizing water consumption. However most fixtures have a flow rate of 2.2 gpm or more, according to Energy Savers.

Recommended water flow rate: 
1.5 gallons per minute or less

How to measure the water flow rate
To measure your faucet's flow rate, follow these simple steps:
  1. Open the faucet completely.
  2. Collect cold water in a graduated container for an exact period of time (for example 4 seconds).
  3. Measure the amount of water collected.
  4. Convert your measurement to gallons per minute.
Use the Water Flow Rate Calculator provided below to convert your measurement in fluid ounces to a flow rate in gallons per minute.

Water Flow Rate Calculator
Amount of water collected:
Measurement duration:
Water Flow Rate:
(Numbers are shown as an example. Enter your own data.)

For example, in the following video, I collected 17 fluid ounces of water in 4 seconds. My faucet's flow rate is hence 1.99 gpm.

Other tips for saving energy
Many little habits can help you save water. For instance, you can water your plants and garden with the water you use while cooking, whether it is the water you rinsed your vegetables in or the water you cooked them in and that you allowed to cool down.

Buying guide
If your faucet's flow rate is higher than 1.5 gallons per minute, buy a kitchen faucet aerator at your hardware store. An aerator will put air bubbles in your water flow, decreasing the volume of water flowing through, while maintaining the pressure of the stream.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Is your hot water too hot?

Now that you have tuned up your refrigerator and freezer temperatures, how about tuning down your water heater?

Heating water accounts for 19 percent of a household's energy bill. Hot water should be set to no more than 120ºF to avoid scalding and heat loss.

Recommended water temperature: 120ºF (48.9ºC)

How to measure the water temperature
Measure the hot water temperature at the faucet that is the closest to your water heater, that is, where the hot water travels the shortest distance from the water heater.

Pour hot water in a container, plunge a water-proof thermometer, and wait until it stabilizes before reading the temperature. If you have to dial down the water heater's setting, wait 24 hours before performing a new measurement.

Other tips for saving energy
Providing adequate insulation around your water tank and pipes will help you keep hot water hot.

Buying guide
If you are about to buy a new water heater, you should consider one of the following options, as recommended by ENERGY STAR:

  • Whole home gas tankless water heater
  • Heat pump water heater
  • Gas condensing water heater
  • Solar water heater
  • High-efficiency gas storage water heater

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Is your freezer too cold?

To continue this week's Earth Day special Green Your Kitchen series, let's talk about refrigerator and freezer temperatures.

Your refrigerator and freezer account for about 5 percent of your household's energy usage. By setting them to the optimal temperatures, you can save substantial amounts of energy.

Recommended temperature settings:
Freezer   0ºF   5ºF   
Refrigerator   35–38ºF42ºF
1.7–3.4ºC   5.6ºC
1 Best temperature settings for energy efficiency
2 Highest temperature allowed for food safety

How to measure the temperature
To measure the temperature in your refrigerator or freezer, follow these instructions:
  1. Place a refrigerator thermometer in the center of your refrigerator or freezer, between two packages or food items.
  2. Close the door and wait for at least 20 minutes until the thermometer stabilizes.
  3. Read the temperature as soon as you take the thermometer out of the cold.
If you change your temperature settings, wait 24 hours before performing a new measurement.

Other tips for saving energy
The best way to keep the temperature constant is to keep your refrigerator or freezer always full. Fill it with water jugs when there is no food. (This is also a good way to keep emergency water handy.)

If you use two fridges, try to see if you can combine their contents and unplug the oldest or least energy-efficient one (you know, the one in the garage that you seldom use anyway).

Buying guide
The following recommendations from ENERGY STAR can help you improve the energy efficiency of your refrigerator and freezer:

  • Choose an ENERGY STAR model.
  • Choose a top-mounted freezer.
  • Purchase an appropriately-sized refrigerator.
  • Avoid ice-makers and dispensers.

(You must have noticed that the picture I took in my freezer tonight is a counterexample of what I just described—the thermometer is hanging in the void and the temperature is too high. Do as I say, not as I do...)

Earth Day Challenge

This Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day. A day dedicated since 1970 to mobilizing "people of all nationalities and backgrounds [to] voice their appreciation for the planet and demand its protection." I appreciate our planet, so for the occasion of Earth Day, I will blog all week about the "little" things you can do in your kitchen (and around the house) to save energy and water. Little things with a big impact!

I hope you will find these tips useful. I would love to hear about your own precious Earth-preserving tips. You can leave comments on this blog, on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

So let's get started...

Day 1—Introduction

Green Your Kitchen 
Over 20 percent of the energy used in the United States is consumed in residential houses1. In addition, over 3.8 billion gallons of water are used in residences every day2. If we combine our efforts, saving energy and water at home will have a huge positive impact on our environment.

This week's blog posts will help you reduce your energy and water consumption in the kitchen. You will learn how to measure your current consumption and how to perform simple upgrades, such as how to set your refrigerator temperature optimally. Additional tips will guide you in adopting environmentally friendly behaviors, such as unplugging your unused kitchen appliances.

Be green in 21 days — Washing your hands in cold water, turning off the water while washing the dishes, switching off the lights when you leave the kitchen, and recycling are small steps that will soon add up. New habits—good or bad—only take an average of 21 days to form3. If you can make a conscious effort to reduce your use of energy and water for three weeks, chances are you will keep behaving that way effortlessly for the rest of your life.

Five Upgrades You Can Perform in Minutes 
  1. Set your refrigeration and freezer to the optimal temperatures 
  2. Turn down your hot water temperature setting 
  3. Reduce your faucet flow rate 
  4. Use energy-efficient lighting 
  5. Unplug unused electric appliances 
I will blog about these and other tips and resources in the coming days. Stay tuned...

1 U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Review 2009
2 U.S. Geographical Survey, Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2005
3 Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics, 1960