10 Sneaky Ways You’re Wasting Money in the Kitchen

You bought your kitchen appliances on sale. Bonus: they’re Energy Star, so you’ll save money in water and energy costs.

But did you ever think that the way you use your appliances can really affect your utility bills?

Here are 10 energy-wasting choices to avoid:

1. Making your dishwasher heat up cold water

Run hot tap water before you run your dishwasher it doesn’t have to heat up the water as long.

2. Setting your refrigerator and freezer too cold

Your fridge section should be set at 37 degrees to 40 degrees, and your freezer section should be set at 5 degrees. A deep freeze should be set at zero degrees.

3. Using an uncovered pot to boil water

Think of all the heat  — and time — lost without a cover on  a pot of heated water. Instead, a cover traps the energy in.

4. Selecting “Heat Dry” on your dishwasher

If you don’t wash a lot of plastic dishes, or lots of dishes in general, choose the “Air Dry” setting or simply prop your dishwasher door open after the rinse cycle.

5. Leaving foods uncovered in the refrigerator

Uncovered foods release moisture, causing the compressor to work harder. Instead, cover all liquids and foods.

6. Prewashing your dishes

Not only will it decrease the effectiveness of your dishwasher detergent, prewashing your dishes is unnecessary and wastes water. Just scrape off the big pieces of food.

7. Ignoring the gasket on your refrigerator

Close your refrigerator door over a piece of paper or dollar bill so it’s half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull it out easily, your door seals aren’t airtight.

Try moistening the gasket with a thin layer of Vaseline, which should create a better seal. If that doesn’t do the trick, you might need to replace the gasket altogether.

8. Cooking with dirty burners and drip pans

Clean burners and drip pans will reflect the heat better, cooking your food faster and saving you energy.

9. Placing small pans on bigger burners

Match pans to the size of the element. Otherwise, you’re using energy to heat a bigger burner only to let it escape around the sides of the smaller pot or pan.

10. Barely stocking your refrigerator

It seems backwards, but a full refrigerator holds temperature better than a poorly stocked refrigerator. Just don’t pack food so tight as to block the airflow.

Laundry Efficiency Tips

Did you know that Energy Star washers use 25 percent less energy and 33 percent less waster than their counterparts?

Don’t stop there, though. These guidelines will help you save energy, water and money:

Don’t Use Too Much Detergent

You’re only helping Procter & Gamble when you pour in those heaping cups of laundry soap. The owners’ manual provides instructions on the proper amount of soap to use. Using too much soap also can shorten the life your clothing, which could get expensive.

Keep Venting Dry and Clear

We recommend cleaning your dryer vent a few times a year (see Dryer not drying? Check the vent). Otherwise, it could get blocked up, causing your dryer to take longer to do its job. And remember to clean your lint filter after every use.

Try Cold Water Washing

About 90 percent of the energy used for washing clothes in an average washer is for heating the water. Need we say more? If you have tough, oily stains, even switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load’s energy use in half. Otherwise, you’d be surprised how well cold water cycles clean these days.

Don’t Overdry Your Clothes

Instead, use a moisture sensor (if you have one) to automatically stop the dryer once it’s finished. Note: Separate towels and heavier cottons from lighter weight clothes to ensure proper drying when using a sensor. If you don’t have a moisture sensor, use the cool-down cycle to finish drying clothes using the residual heat.

Wash and Dry Full Loads

Full loads of laundry mean fewer loads of laundry, which mean less energy, water and money used, too. If you must wash a small load, remember to set the water-level to match.

What are your tips for saving money on laundry?

Creating an Outdoor Kitchen

We’re a Midwest company, which means we long for the months of the year when we can enjoy patios, rooftop bars and outdoor kitchens. If you want to create an outdoor kitchen of your own, take this advice from Susan Serra, CKD, author of The Kitchen Designer.

Outdoor living is moving to the next level! An outdoor kitchen is just one piece of many activities that take place outdoors. When planning an outdoor kitchen, here’s what you need to consider:

Outdoor Kitchen Size

Are you looking forward to entertaining large groups or cooking quiet, intimate dinners? Something in between? Visualize how you will use an outdoor kitchen…the frequency of use, the conveniences required, and the type of cooking (ambitious or simple) you’d like to plan for. Will others cook along with you or will one or two be responsible for outdoor cooking? Do you need separate cooking stations for prep or meal stages? Now’s the time to dream, imagine, and visualize the flow you’d love to have in your outdoor kitchen.

Outdoor Kitchen Location

Consider the lay of the land. Can an existing deck be used? A terraced section? A gazebo to house a separate kitchen? Is the topography of the land level? How close to the house would you like the outdoor kitchen (watch out for heat/smoke/noise issues if an outdoor kitchen is desired to be just outside the house.) What other outdoor activities will impact on the location of the kitchen? Make a list of expected activities (including lounging) to be sure an important activity (Bocce ball anyone?) is not forgotten.

Another factor in outdoor kitchen design is the weather. The weather will play a role in the wear of outdoor kitchen surfaces and your own desire to brave the elements while cooking up a storm!

Outdoor Kitchen Style

Of course, this is the fun part! What is the style of your house? Of your gardens, your outdoor living space? Outdoor kitchens can be designed in any way: modern, traditional, rustic or eclectic. All elements of your outdoor room builds on one another, even as one walks into and out of the house. Be style-conscious!

Outdoor Kitchen Appliances

One of today’s No. 1 hot buttons in outdoor kitchens, an explosion of outdoor appliances, tempts us to want it all: the ice machine, the beer station, the cocktail station, cooktop burners, warming drawer and so much more! Appliances are a large part of the fun of an outdoor kitchen, but consider what is really expected to be needed and used frequently.

Outdoor Kitchen by Regions

Midwesterners often have severe weather in each direction – very hot and very cold! Is your chosen spot sheltered from heat, cold, and wind? With spring storms racing through the Midwest, and extreme temps, consider sheltered outdoor kitchen designs for people, and sun and heat exposure protections for your materials and surfaces as well.

Southerners – It’s all about shade! Consider shade cast by trees, buildings, or other structures/plantings. Note the sun’s exposure at your desired site for an outdoor kitchen. An optimum design would have the kitchen situated in a northern exposure.

What time of day will the outdoor kitchen be mostly used? In a southern climate, each meal can easily be enjoyed outdoors. The sun’s path over your desired location will either be a help or a huge hindrance.

Westerners – Of course, the weather in the western portion of the U.S. varies greatly from warm/temperate southern California to zone 5 in Colorado, so Westerners can take tips from other parts of the country.

One difference is the much lower humidity level, which is more tolerable and will allow a southern exposure in some areas that would otherwise be prohibitive in the deep South. For certain parts of the west — given a large area to work with and a beautiful, temperate climate — you have my OK (if it works for your lifestyle) to GO LARGE, as your outdoor kitchen may well be used year-round (Southerners take note!).

Easterners – The varied zones from the mid-Atlantic region to upper New England has a wide spread in temps as well. Lower to upper New England may wish to seek out western exposure (if the kitchen will be used late in the day) and southern exposure. The size of the outdoor kitchen should be seriously considered due to short outdoor seasons (mountainous Westerners take note).

City cats – What are your true priorities for outdoor cooking? I have family members in New York City who crave the simplest tabletop grill to put on their terrace and to serve their purpose. Many who wish to grill in an urban area are passionate cooks who want the grilled taste and texture and want to cook in a healthy way. For those people, any type of grill appliance will do! For those with a larger space, or a home in an ex-urb community with a small patch of yard, consider a larger grill or even a combination grill/burner/refrigerator appliance that has it all.

Some grills have integral countertop pieces that extend. Otherwise, small tables or built-in brick columns are small but can double as counter space.

Outdoor Kitchen Trends

Choosing environmentally friendly materials in outdoor kitchen design is a strong movement, but one must look for durability as well. Energy efficiency in appliances is ever-progressing. Pinpoint cooking technology in appliances offers the same control as the best in-home appliances do. The style of outdoor kitchens now is a warm, soft, natural look — perhaps rustic, perhaps modern with clean lines, but connected to the style of the outdoor room in a natural, organic way.

Having a sink in an outdoor kitchen is one of the best elements one can design into an outdoor kitchen! The sink handles prep, cooking, entertaining and cleaning tasks and is ready for duty exactly when needed. Outdoor plumbing takes on a whole new meaning when considering where and how to plumb a sink. Do you need hot water at the sink for cleaning? Consider a small undercounter water heater. A shut-off valve is a must to drain the system before the winter. A stainless steel sink is a natural choice, but cast iron has good looks and durability. Just cover the sink to avoid a home/play area for small animals! And, stone sinks are definitely a natural!

Faucets serving multiple functions may be useful and most durable in a tall gooseneck style – perhaps in stainless steel, with a simple design to withstand the elements and keep its good looks.

I’m a believer in mixing metal finishes. I would not recommend mixing metal finishes with abandon, as the balance and proportion of the colors and finishes within the kitchen as a whole should be thought through.

Can you mix a black or dark brown/bronze faucet with a stainless sink? In some cases (sink surrounding a speckled granite countertop for example), YES. Look at other metal finishes such as lighting, metal furniture and other finishes for a guide.

In my view, mixed finishes make for the most natural of interior or exterior rooms. But — as with any other designed area — it has to make sense in the context of color, texture, proportion and balance.

That said, have fun experimenting and exploring your vision, definitely!

Warners’ Stellian Recycles Styrofoam

Appliance and cardboard recycling have been a part of our mission for many, many years – but we wanted to do more. “We’re moving beyond recycling pop cans. Whatever we generate that we can recycle, we’re doing,” says Warners’ Stellian President Robert Warner.

This includes:

  • cardboard
  • paper
  • wood (many appliances still come with wooden pallets)
  • plastic shrink wrap (a local nonprofit hauls it to sell for reuse. Win-win!)
  • plastic/metal banding (miles of it, seriously)
  • screws

And now we even recycle polystyrene, otherwise known as Styrofoam. Our densifier  grinds up the bulk Styrofoam from appliance packaging and converts it into a form that can be reused as another product, while reducing it by a 20:1 ratio. Waste Management used to haul off our 40-yard waste roll-off container about every four days. Now, we’re down to about once per month!

The process is EXTREMELY labor intensive. The Styrofoam must be completely clean for the densifier to work properly. This means no tape, no staples and no cardboard pieces.

“It’s very labor intensive to sort, and it’s not a profitable endeavor – especially at this point – for us,” Robert Warner says. “But the motivating factor is doing the right thing.”

Why do front-load washers take so long?

Many customers seem confused when we explain that front-load washing machines need an hour minimum for a normal wash cycle.

Luckily, for times when I can't wait an hour and a half for a clean outfit (sports uniforms, anyone?), I have the 18-minute wash, 18-minute dry feature from Electrolux (though my laundry room looks nothing like this). In a word: lifesaver.

But front-load laundry machines profess great water and energy savings. How does a longer cycle reconcile with such efficiency?

First, front-load washers don’t fill deeply with water, only to dump it all out a short while later. Rather, they pump in a minimal amount of water (some models use sensors to determine the size of the load).

Water continuously filters in and out throughout the cycle, meaning the water stays clean the entire time. Top-load washers fill with water until the clothes float, and then the clothes just sit in that water for the entire cycle.

Also, heating the water often takes longer in a front-loader. A sanitation wash cycle takes about two hours. But you can be assured the hotter temperature eliminates all the cold and flu germs and dust mites congregating in your clothing and linens.

The good news is laundry still takes the same amount of time because dry times have been cut in half. We used to wait for the hour-long drying cycle to finish long after the washer was done. But now, because front-load washers extract so much water during the spin cycle, the average dryer cycle lasts only about 30 minutes.

Or for me, the skinny jeans (which I refuse to put in the dryer because they may get a bit too skinny) I hang on a drying rack easily dry by morning.