If you’re looking to replace those kitchen energy hogs that you’ve been meaning to update since Ronald Reagan was in office, you might be overwhelmed by today’s choices. Modern kitchen appliances have more convenience features than ever before, but one of the most important decisions you can make when revamping your kitchen is that of energy efficiency.
The Energy Star program, set in place by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, helps inform you about money-saving ways to protect the environment with energy-efficient products. At least 20% more efficient than the minimum federal standard, these products are available at every major appliance retailer. To make things easier for you, Energy Star has developed handy savings calculators to help you figure out the total savings in most categories of appliances. You can find them in the sidebar for each appliance type.
So let’s take a look at your best green kitchen appliance choices.
1. Liebherr CS 1611 or 1660 refrigerator
Price: Roughly $4,000
Buy it: Liebherr CS 1611 from Amazon, Liebherr CS 1660 from Amazon
Total capacity: 15.4 cubic feet
Annual energy use (kWh): 379
Annual cost to operate: $41
Estimated lifetime cost to operate: $496
Savings over average conventional unit: $19/year
Sixty years ago, refrigerators were known as iceboxes because they literally were wooden boxes cooled with a block of ice. We’ve come a long way toward proper food preservation since then, and thanks to improved compressors and insulation, modern refrigerators are much more efficient than those purchased even 10 years ago. But even these modern units use more total energy than any other kitchen appliance because they’re always running.
Extra accessories such as ice makers and water dispensers might be convenient, but they actually take away from the efficiency of the refrigerator because they use more energy. Freezer placement does matter. Top-mounted freezer units are usually more efficient than bottom-mounted freezers or side-by-side combos.
If you find yourself with too much empty room in your refrigerator or freezer, don’t be afraid to downsize to something smaller; you’ll save the most energy by having less space to cool. And if you do need that extra space for certain occasions while leaving it empty all other times, you can always fill the unused portions with frozen water jugs. Liebherr, which makes everything from construction equipment to aerospace components, manufactures models CS 1611 and CS 1660, two of the highest ranked refrigerators on Energy Star’s 2012 list for mid-sized units.
2. GE Profile PHP900DMBB Cooktop
Price: Starts at $1,360
Buy it: From Amazon
Heating type: Induction
Energy usage: 3,700 watts on highest setting
Savings over average conventional unit: $28/year
While refrigerators use the most total energy in your home, ovens actually use the most energy at one time. Luckily, advancements have been made to cut that power consumption dramatically, and there are steps you can take to cook more efficiently. Preheating your oven can waste tremendous energy, and unless you’re baking an elegant soufflé or homemade bread, it’s a practice that can be ignored. Using your oven’s broiler can also save money, because there’s no preheating involved.
Self-cleaning ovens are more efficient because of their increased insulation, although the actual self-cleaning feature itself wastes entirely too much energy. It’s interesting to note that Energy Star doesn’t rate ovens because of their inherent inefficiency. Electric ovens are more popular, but gas ovens are more efficient — just make sure to get one without a pilot light as electronic ignition models reduce your oven’s gas usage by 30%!
Induction ovens are the latest in green appliance technology, but be prepared to pay for it. With induction cooking, the heating elements work much like a microwave oven, focusing electromagnetic energy to heat only the pan and not the surface of the stove. This allows less heat to disperse into your kitchen, and cooking surfaces stay safe and cool. GE’s Profile PHP900DMBB is a wonderful induction cooktop that’s not only efficient but also reliable, ranking high among customer satisfaction reviews.