As the area of the home where we cook, do laundry, wash dishes, and just spend lots of time, it tends to be one of the areas where we use the most gas and electricity. Therefore, it also offers the greatest opportunity to reduce it.
All of these activities are vital to everyday life, so we are not going to tell you to stop making hot food or stop washing your clothes, but there are ways that don’t necessarily have too much of a negative trade off that can make a big difference in your energy usage. At a time of spiralling energy costs this is something that we should all be thinking about.
Here are 10 ways we can do this. Some are concerned with appliances, and many are more about changing our behaviours and getting into new habits. Once they are imbedded, you will wonder why you ever did it differently.
Ovens can use quite a large amount of energy to make a meal but often you can choose alternative cooking options that will produce the same results for much less power. Use smaller appliances such as the microwave or air fryer if you have them. A slow cooker will also use less energy. Even though it’s on for long periods, it emits low heat and draws very little energy.
Joints of meat that you slow roast in the oven are delicious but the high price of meat, coupled with the cost of having the oven on for hours at a time will make that a very expensive meal. Smaller cuts of meat that cook faster, or plant based options of course, can be just as tasty (plus you don’t have to wait as long for your meal!).
A stacking steamer can be used to cook several elements of a meal (for example, potatoes in the water at the bottom, vegetable above, and fish or chicken at the top) but only require one ring of the hob to be used. Steaming is also super healthy.
Cooking big batches of dishes like stew, chilli, or Bolognese don’t use much more energy than cooking single batches. You can then portion and freeze it and just warm through in the microwave. This reduces cooking workload as well and you’re still eating wholesome, home cooked food.
We’re definitely not going to tell you to start hand washing your clothes, after all, it’s actually more efficient to use a washing machine, but make sure you only put the machine on for full loads as you will use the same amount of energy washing a full load as a partial one (and you’ll end up having to do more loads with the latter). Many modern machines have eco settings and/or offer fast options so the cycle is shorter and uses less energy. When it’s time to replace your machine, get one that has a high energy efficiency rating.
Being mindful about how often you change clothes is helpful too. We tend to think it’s unhygienic to wear clothes again but if they’re not dirty, it’s fine; especially when people are working from home more. Avoid spills by eating at the table!
Winter weather can make it difficult to get clothes dry outside so we often rely on tumble dryers. While you can buy energy efficient dryers, they still use a fair bit of electricity and there’s the risk of shrinking and damaging clothes to consider. It’s better to find an alternative, such as a heated clothes airer with a cover. However, don’t be tempted to hang clothes on radiators. This will just block heat from the room, which is counter-productive in an energy crisis, and can also make your walls damp.
We can save quite a bit of energy by not boiling the kettle when we don’t need to. How often do we put it on and then forget about it, boiling it several times before actually making a cuppa? Only boil the volume of water that you actually need and make your drink straight away. To avoid this issue, switch to an instant hot water tap or appliance that just heats the water you need as you need it.
The kitchen can be a warm room due to appliances being on and people occupying it. You may, therefore, not need the radiators to be as high in this room as in other rooms (or even on at all). Retain heat by keeping internal doors closed, closing blinds or curtains as soon as the sun goes down, and even using good old fashioned draught excluders.
It’s not uncommon to stand and stare into the freezer looking for inspiration for a meal or snacks. However, this causes it to lose cooling and therefore use more energy to bring it back down again when you close the door. Think about what you need before you open the door so you can take it quickly. Also, when you pack your shopping in the supermarket, put all fridge items together in one bag. This will allow you to unload it into the fridge more efficiently.
The same principles apply for the freezer too. Where possible, keep it full as a full freezer is more efficient than a half empty one. Obviously, food is expensive now so we’re not suggesting filling it with sirloin steak, but your batch cooking comes in useful here and loaves of bread are a good way of filling space as it’s bulky, relatively inexpensive and it’s always useful to have in.
A kitchen tends to be a hub of appliances and devices, but does everything really need to be plugged in all the time? Anything that’s plugged in and on at the socket will still be drawing some power, even if the device is not in use. It’s not using an awful lot per item but when you add up multiple sockets in the kitchen, that can really start to escalate and you’re paying for something that you’re getting no actual benefit from so turn off what you can. OK, so it probably doesn’t make sense to be crawling round the back of the washing machine, but you can certainly turn off the sockets to the toaster, microwave, and even kettle as they tend to be easy to access near the appliance. Also make sure there aren’t any phone chargers left plugged in as these can be one of the biggest culprits.
These measures are useful to adopt for the long term, and not just during the immediate cost of living crisis. Reducing consumption is important for combatting climate change so we can feel good about our actions, as well as benefit from the cost saving.