On average, electricity and gas use creates about a quarter of all carbon emissions from our homes, with more than half of our fuel bills related to providing heating and hot water in a typical UK household. One of the simplest ways to ensure you are being energy efficient in the kitchen – as in every other room in your house – is to ensure you’ve got a modern energy efficient boiler and heating controls. We have more information about updating the heating in your home on our site.
Beyond heating and hot water, the major kitchen food-based activities involve cooling things down (in fridges and freezers) and heating things up (with kettles, ovens and hobs). Cooking typically accounts for 13.8% of electricity demand in UK homes, with freezing or cooling food requiring a further 16.8% of electricity used on average.
Wet appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines are also energy hungry, accounting for around 10% of household energy bills. See our tips on being energy-efficient when you use your washing-machine.
Kitchen energy-saving advice
In studies of household energy use, there’s a clear correlation between the size of the household and the amount of energy used. Unsurprisingly, single person households use less energy than a family of four. But a single person will not use half the amount of energy as a couple – it’s more energy efficient, not to mention sociable, to cook for more than one person at a time, as you can see from the table below from the 2011 Powering the Nation report.
And it’s not just cooking our fridges and freezers use the same energy to cool food, irrespective of how many people are at home.
But we can’t always have people over to dinner if we live alone. So how do we ensure we’re energy efficient in the kitchen?
1. Choose energy efficient products
One major step is to ensure we choose energy efficient appliances. The 2011 Powering the Nation report studied energy use in homes across the UK. At the time of the study, the households studied owned an average of 41 different electrical appliances – with some owning up to 85. Entertainment appliances such as iPads, TVs or laptops do not usually have energy labels but white goods, such as dishwashers, fridges and ovens, must display their energy efficiency rating by law.
The highest possible rating is A+++, the lowest for certain appliances will be F or G, with a considerable energy saving difference between them. In many cases, appliances such as cookers will all be rated A+ or higher. But older appliances are likely to be considerably less energy efficient. Watch our video for more information:
The Energy Saving Trust Register is an extensive database of energy efficient appliances. You can also check TopTen UK, which is a consumer platform that assesses the most energy-efficient products on the market.
2. Use the right size of appliance for your needs
Kitchen appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, fridges, kettles and cookers have become more energy efficient over the years, with the best models using less energy than 10 years ago. However, increases in size of the average fridge, fridge-freezer and washing machine drum have cancelled out some of the possible energy savings.
If all you keep in your fridge is a bottle of champagne and a lemon (yes, I’m looking at you) do you really need a full size fridge-freezer?
3. Don’t leave appliances on standby
While fridges, fridge-freezers, upright and chest freezers are traditionally the largest single consumers of electricity in the home because they’re always on – you can save energy by turning off other electronic appliances.
Your dishwasher, microwave, washing machine, tumble dryer and electric oven will all eat up electricity when left on standby. Try to get into the habit of turning them off at the plug to save energy.
4. Save energy when you cook
Obviously you need to ensure your food preparation methods don’t affect the quality of your meal, but there are some simple ways to save energy when cooking.
Think about how you heat your food – using a microwave is far more energy efficient than cooking on a traditional gas or electric hob when you’re heating up small amounts of food.
- heat water in a kettle, rather than on the stove. You can transfer it into a pan once it’s already boiled
- only use as much water as you need – boiling extra takes more time and energy
- always cover your pots and pans – the water will boil faster and use less energy to heat your food
- turn off the heat a couple of minutes before your food is fully cooked – particularly if you’ve got an electric hob, as they take some time to cool down and will continue to cook your food
- don’t open the oven door repeatedly – you’ll let out hot air and waste energy. If you can, take a look through the glass door instead
5. Save energy when you freeze food
In addition to using an appropriately sized fridge or freezer, you can save energy by ensuring it works effectively.
- never put hot food directly into the fridge or freezer, allow it to cool on the side first
- defrost your fridge or freezer regularly
- don’t hold the door open for extended periods of time, as it’ll have to work harder to cool the temperature afterwards
- keep your fridge at 5 degrees Celsius or less. On average, we keep our fridges at 7 degrees Celsius, which means our food goes off sooner
- ensure there’s at least a 10cm gap behind your fridge to let heat flow away more easily
A final area to consider is lighting. This typically accounts for a further 15% of electrical demand throughout the home. So it’s worth changing to LED light bulbs and remembering to turn lights off in rooms, when they’re not in use. We’ve got more advice on our page about energy efficient lighting.