cooking · Energy Efficiency · Energy Star

4 ways to cook more efficiently

No, I’m not offering tips on expediting meals with mise en place. I’m talking about ways to save energy when cooking.*

Stoves, cooktops and ovens aren’t Energy Star rated, because most models use about the same amount of energy. But there are certainly ways to use less gas or electricity when cooking.

Here are 4 tips to help you become a more energy-efficient cook:

1. Keep your burner caps and drip pans clean
Maintaining a tidy cook surface isn’t just about impressing company (or your cat).

Dirty surfaces don’t reflect heat as well as polished surfaces, thus wasting energy and potentially your time. Read my manageable daily cleanup plan.

2. Match pots and pans to the size of your burners
Unless you’re using an induction cooktop or range, you’re heating a lot of air while you try to heat your food. Induction cooking is 20% more efficient than electric and 70% more efficient than gas.

To mitigate energy loss, choose the appropriate sized pot or pan for the size of burner you’re cooking on (i.e. don’t put a 1-qt saucepan on a ginormous “power burner”).

3. Cover your pots while boiling water
When you think about it, it makes no sense to boil water in an uncovered pot. Using a cover helps water boil faster while creating pressure and preventing evaporation.

4. Skip preheating
Unless you’re baking and require precise temperatures, you don’t need to wait till your oven reaches 350 degrees to throw your food in.

I start cooking my casseroles as soon as I start my oven, and not only do they still turn out, they often turn out faster than if I wait for the oven to heat up! Better yet, shut off your oven a few minutes early and let residual heat finish off your dish. Even better yet, make two pans to freeze leftovers and reheat in the microwave later.

*If you’re trying to cook faster, use the microwave (coincidentally, using the microwave as an alternative to the oven cuts energy use in half).

Appliance Design · cooking · Cooktops · Energy Efficiency · Innovative Features

Burner-less induction cooktop senses the shape and location of cookware to heat anywhere on surface

Induction cooktops, already the hottest way to cook, just got hotter.

The new Thermador Freedom Induction Cooktop heats up your cookware wheverer you place it - no burners.

No more being limited to four or five burners of the same shape.

The new Thermador Freedom cooktop lets cooks place their cookware anywhere on the cooking surface — even oddly shaped items like griddles or roasting pans (think of the gravy making possibilities).

The cooktop will intelligently recognize the cookware size, shape and position to deliver heat without boundaries.

If you’re wondering, ‘What is an induction cooktop?’ Induction cooking rivals gas cooking’s responsive temperature control while being much more efficient, safer (the surface stays cool to the touch) and the smooth surface naturally is easier to clean.

If you’re really into specifics, here’s more info from Thermador:

  • 48 individual 3-inch induction heating elements translates to a 63-percent more effective cooking area on the surface by eliminating the conventional standard of predefined elements.
  • A 6.5-inch, full-color touchscreen display that recognizes pot shape, size, and controls power setting and cooking time
  • Surface area to accommodate a 21-inch x 13-inch pan with the largest cooking surface in the industry
  • A range of 4,600-watt maximum power output with Boost feature and 15-watt minimum power output

But what would a super innovative product be without a color touchscreen these days? The obligatory touchscreen doesn’t just control temperature but shows the position of all cookware.

The Thermador Freedom Induction Cooktop will be available July 2012 with a MSRP of $4,949.

About Warners' Stellian · Budget-wise · Cash for Appliances · Energy Efficiency · Energy Star

Water heater tax credit 2011

If you bought a water heater this year — or think yours should be replaced soon — this post could be worth $300 to you.

KSTP reported last night that taxpayers have until the end of 2011 to buy energy efficient products to qualify for incentives, such as a $300 water heater tax credit. See the website for full details on what qualifies and the maximum amounts you can receive.

Also if you for replace your water heater with an energy efficient model, local utility companies such as Xcel and Centerpoint both offer water heater rebates (about $40-$200) , which you can find on the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

Budget-wise · Cash for Appliances · Energy Efficiency · Refrigerator · Sustainability

Xcel will pay you $70 to retire your beer fridge

Xcel wants your beer fridge. And if you’re a residential customer in Minnesota, Xcel will actually pay YOU $70 to come pick it up and recycle it.

Usually, Xcel pays $35 (I did this back in January; shame I didn’t wait), but the retirement reward is double now through the end of November 2011.

To qualify, it must be a functional, second refrigerator, capable of making ice.

Now, just imagine the happiness you can buy me with that $70.

Don’t be greedy, that’s my commission. You’ll agree once you hear how much a beer fridge costs to run.

Not an Xcel customer? Minnesota Power offers up to $85 to pick up old, working refrigerators. Here’s a list of energy providers with similar programs.

Budget-wise · Cleaning · Energy Efficiency · laundry · Washer

Cold-water washing? People aren’t buying it

New York Times photo

In this thinly veiled puff piece for Procter & Gamble’s Tide Coldwater, The New York Times reports that despite the efficacy and saved money/energy of cold-water washes, consumers are still hesitant to give up hot-water washes:

Procter officials said they were encouraged by company surveys that showed more consumers were washing in cold water. When Tide Coldwater was introduced in 2005, just 30 percent of laundry loads were washed in cold water; now, it’s pushing 40 percent.

“We have people moving from warm to cold,” said Dawn French, the company’s director of North America laundry products research and formula design. “But hot-water loads have remained very steady.”

Currently, about 7 percent of white laundry loads are done in cold water, compared with 22 percent for lights and 57 percent for darks, according to company studies.

Many of us do probably wash our colors in cold water, but I’ll admit I usually still do my whites in hot water. Though after reading this article I’m reminded how frivolous that likely is.

And expensive (according to the article, energy savings isn’t really a big selling point with Americans, yet).

About 90 percent of the energy used for washing clothes in an average washer is for heating the water. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load’s energy use in half.

It really is a no-brainer, given current technology.

One possible issue associated with only washing in cold water: smelly washers. I’m sure that cold-water detergent is formulated to fully dissolve — making residue less of an issue — but remember to keep your washer open between loads, wipe your gasket clean occasionally and run a washer cleaner through as needed.

Appliance Design · Energy Efficiency · Energy Star · Refrigerator · Sustainability · Washer

ENERGY STAR appliances add ‘Most Efficient’ category

(At the risk of sounding pretentious) My beloved theory of chase and flight posits a privileged class of people whose behaviors and tastes subordinate others “chase,” thus motivating the former to run — fast.

What does this have to do with appliances? Think of commercial-grade appliances and then look at the stainless steel kitchen package we sell for $1499 (through Sept. 5!).

Same goes for energy efficiency.

ENERGY STAR was created by The Man in 1992 to encourage the purchase and manufacture of energy-efficient home products through a voluntary program labeling the most-efficient products.

Think Studio 54 for dishwashers.

But now that ENERGY STAR is old enough to vote and buy cigarettes, entry to the club is less exclusive; 75% of dishwashers qualified as ENERGY STAR by 2009 standards.

Says Consumer Reports:

It’s good news that products have become more energy efficient. But when many or most of the products in a category qualify for the Energy Star, it makes it harder, not easier, for consumers to identify the truly exceptional products.

It would seem the manufacturers won this chase, until ENERGY STAR’s Most Efficient program was launched this year.

The 2011 efficiency clique calls out the best in four categories, including clothes washers and refrigerators.

Here’s a sampling of the best washers and refrigerators:

LG 3.9 cu. ft. True Steam Washer in Cherry Red (#WM3360HRCA)

Not only is it sexy, this LG washer kills allergens, can maintain cleaning performance without heating the water and has a 15-minute wash option for us procrastinators. And it’s also on sale through Labor Day.

Frigidaire 4.2 cu. ft. Affinity Washer with Ready Steam (#FAFS4272LW)

This Frigidaire steam washer offers a little more capacity, NSF certified cleaning power and power saver cycle that apparently reduces energy use by 60%.

Frigidaire Affinity 4.4 cubic foot washer with Ready Steam (#FAFS4474)

This Frigidaire washer is the big sister to the previous (more capacity) plus an allergen cycle.

Electrolux 5.1 cu. ft. Perfect Steam Washer (#EWFLS70JSS)

This Electrolux steam washer also is NSF certified plus it fit the most clothes in one cycle and it has the fastest wash and dry time (if you have the dryer: 15 and 14 minutes, respectively).

And refrigerators: there were only two and there’s practically the same, save for depth. One will stick out from your cabinets, the other will sit back in line with them and set you back an additional $400.

LG cabinet-depth French-door refrigerator (#LFC21776ST)
LG's French Door Refrigerator (#LFC25766ST)
Dryer · Energy Efficiency · Energy Star · laundry · Washer

The Great Minnesota Appliance Sale

While we might not be “at” the Fair — as far as having a booth or being in the Grandstand — Warners’ Stellian annual State Fair appliance sale, Savings on a Stick, is a big one for us.

Not only do the Warners have a storied history with the Minnesota State Fair, but we also have some of our best deals (through Labor Day).

Because I’m a notorious spiller (and when are stains more apropos than during fair time?), I’m going to play favorites and talk laundry.

You can replace your washer and dryer for as little as $699 (which includes delivery, re-installation and recycling of your old units in the Twin Cities metro) with this Amana laundry pair.

But the smartest move is to upgrade to a front load washer and dryer — which tend to offer more capacity while using less water and energy. Energy Star washers can make up for the cost of the dryer in energy savings over their estimated lifetime. Plus, this Frigidaire washer and dryer pair is $300 off right now.

My personal favorite laundry feature, though, is steam. You can get the cleaning power in you washer (plus some more capacity) and the refreshing capabilities in your dryer for a few hundred more, starting with this Frigidaire steam washer and steam dryer.

If you happened to see us at the Eco Experience building in the Common Cottage exhibit on Sunday, you probably were lucky enough to score a $50 off coupon. In fact, there might still be some left if you hurry…