We had seven visitors this Memorial Day weekend for what’s become an annual rite—my wife’s family runs in the Burlington Marathon. With the extra people, and the need to keep them fed, including with the pre-race, pasta-fueled, carbo-loading, I found myself thinking how to stay cool in the kitchen. And how to save energy. [If I can brag a bit on my daughter, this is also now an issue since she has embraced baking and is doing amazing things. Her baking is also impacting my waist size!]
Even in the heat of the summer, you can cook, stay cool, and minimize the fighting the air-conditioner has to do. There are a few simple strategies. Reduce the heat you produce. Remove the heat you do produce. And chip away at the other energy-savings via efficient lights, appliances, and behaviors as you would elsewhere in the home.
Don’t generate as much heat in the first place.
If you don’t heat up the kitchen, you don’t have to cool it down. Here are some things you can do, none of them hard, all of them useful.
- Grill outside. People love this! And if keeps you from heating the stove, oven, and room!
- Try to limit pre-heating the oven. You can’t do this which some baked goods where rising might be impacted. However, you make find that getting the oven up to temperate doesn’t take as long as the recipes might suggest. And if you’re cooking that baked macaroni and cheese, you don’t really need to wait for the oven to heat all the way up—although you may have to leave it in a couple minutes longer.
- Don’t “peek” if you don’t need to. Opening the oven door dumps heat into the room, drops the oven temperature, and increases cooking time.
- Shut the oven off a few minutes early. An oven will retain the heat for a while after you shut it off, and the food will continue to cook.
- Check the oven door seal, and clean it with a bit of degreaser if needed. A good seal keeps the heat where it should be.
- Boiling water for that pre-race pasta? Keep the cover on! And as tempting as it is, the don’t peek rule applies here. The water will boil faster AND you’ll reduce the amount of steam and hot water vapor you dump into your house. Speaking of pasta, you may be able to get good results reducing the amount of water you use, as suggested in the NY Times article. Some folks even suggest turning the heat off after adding the pasta and returning it to a boil. I’ve done this with rice with good success.
- On the stove top, match the pan to the element. Don’t use a small pan on a large element because much of the heat just goes into the room. (Induction stove users—you’ve got an advantage here!)
- Sometimes a small toaster oven will do as well as a large oven—and require less energy and dump less heat in the process.
Evacuate any extra heat if you can.
- Here’s where an exhaust fan with a good range hood comes in handy. If it is vented to the outside—as it absolutely should be if you have a gas stove or oven—you can remove the heat and cooking-related moisture from the house. Remember, as you suck air out of the house, you’re bringing in air elsewhere, and you don’t want to do that if the air is hotter and more humid that you like. In this case, though, it’s well worth the trade. [BTW, this same principle applies in the shower—get the steam out rather than using your A/C to cool in and remove the humidity.]
- Safety first. Any time we’re talking about exhaust fans, I like to remind people that they be vented outside and NOT into the attic. And you should make sure you test your combustion equipment (including water heater and furnace) to make sure the exhaust fan doesn’t impact proper venting.
Other smart things–they add up.
- Kitchens often have a lot of lighting, including recessed lights and track lighting. Incandescent, including halogen lighting, actually use most of their energy creating heat, not light. A kitchen full of mini-space heaters disguised as lights will be harder to keep cool. Switching this to CFL or LED lighting (see previous posts on the CREE CR6, for example!) can move a huge difference.
- Run your dishwasher only when it’s full, and don’t use the “Rinse/Hold” feature for just a few dirty. It uses several gallons of hot water each time you use it.
- Do the dollar bill test—the seal on your refrigerator door should snug hold a dollar bill in place when closed. If not, the seal may need to be replaced.
- Mom was right. Don’t stand with the refrigerator door open FOREVER. Minimize the time with the door open and the number of times you open it. This saves energy in its own right. And remember, refrigerators don’t magically create “cool”. They remove heat from inside the compartment, and dump it—and waste heat—outside, which just happens to in your kitchen.
- You probably don’t have a lot of flexibility with your current appliance locations, be it generally makes sense to keep the refrigerator out of bright sunlight and away from the stove—remember, you’re trying to keep it cool. Keep it in mind if you’re remodeling, though.
- And at new appliance time, think Energy Star!
You can also explore more general cooling tips for not just the kitchen, but your whole house.
And to really find the trouble spots in your home — and to be sure they’re addressed with the right solutions, we recommend that you get a comprehensive home energy audit.