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Avoid Headaches at the Holidays and Throughout the Year by Saving Energy in the Kitchen

As families around Ann Arbor prepare for the bustling holiday season, it's important to remember that maintaining large kitchen appliances is a key element to peace of mind. The last thing you need while preparing for a party or holiday feast is a problem with your refrigerator or dishwasher, in addition to the worry of overspending on your energy budget! With occasional light maintenance and good usage habits, you can avoid hassles throughout the year. Here are a few tips for keeping your large kitchen appliances in perfect working order (and saving money in the bargain):

Refrigerators and Freezers

  • Adjust the thermostat. Because it cycles on and off all day, your refrigerator consumes more electricity than any appliance in the home (aside from the heating and cooling system). When you set the thermostat colder than it needs to be, you could be increasing your fridge’s energy consumption by as much as 25%. Adjust the refrigerator so that it stays in the 37-40F range. Try to keep your freezer between 0-5F. If your model doesn’t display the current temps, invest in two appliance thermometers (one for the fridge, one for the freezer).

  • Clean the coils. As dust accumulates on the condenser coils on the rear or bottom of the fridge, it restricts cool-air flow and forces the unit to work harder and longer than necessary. Solve the problem by vacuuming away the dust that accumulates (every six months or so). Also, make sure there's at least a 3-inch clearance at the rear of the fridge for proper ventilation.

  • Use ice cube trays. Automatic ice makers are a nice convenience, but it turns out the mechanisms are energy hogs. They're also prone to frequent problems. By switching off the ice maker and using trays, you can avoid potential problems, while saving about $12 to $18 on your annual electricity bill. Most units require little more than a lift of the sensor arm to switch them off.

  • Unplug the extra fridge when it's not in use. Many homes have an extra refrigerator that runs year round, even though it’s used sparingly – a real dollar waster. To save energy, and get the most mileage from the unit, make sure the extra fridge remains three-quarters full at all times. This helps maintain a steady internal temperature, and lets the fridge recover more quickly after the door is opened and closed.

Ovens and Ranges

  • Cut the power early. If you've ever bumped a burner on an electric stove, you know that those heating elements stay hot long after they’ve been switched off. This is an especially prevalent mishap during the holidays, when everyone wants to help out in the kitchen. Put the residual heat to work by shutting off the burner several minutes before the end of the cook time. Do the same with your oven.

  • Match the burner to the pan. By matching the burner to the pan, electricity won’t be squandered heating the kitchen rather than the food. The reverse is true, too. A small burner will take considerably longer to heat a large pan than would an appropriately sized burner. For gas stoves, don’t let the flames lick the sides of the pot.

  • Stop preheating. Experts agree that unless you're baking breads or cakes, this practice is completely unnecessary. You may need to add a few minutes to the overall cooking time, but it eliminates all that wait time (and energy waste) on the front end.


  • Activate energy-saving features. A dishwasher’s heated dry cycle can add 15% to 50% to the appliance’s operating cost. Most machines allow the feature to be switched off (or not turned on), which can save $8-$27 per year. If your dishwasher doesn’t have that flexibility, simply turn it off after the final rinse, and open the door.

  • Use the machine. Many homeowners believe they can save water and energy by hand washing dishes. The truth is that a dishwasher requires less than one-third the water needed to wash those dishes by hand. Run the machine, and you can cut down the operating time of your hot water heater. Plus, you'll avoid the frequent occurrence of accidents with knives and glassware.

Enjoy a relaxed holiday season in your Ann Arbor home! Martin Bouma - your Ann Arbor expert – can help you find the perfect piece of Ann Arbor real estate. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, the Bouma Group can answer any questions you have about real estate in Ann Arbor. Thinking of settling down in Washtenaw County, Saline, or a specific Ann Arbor neighborhood? Call the Bouma Group today! And don’t forget to check out our Condo Hotline – we know the Ann Arbor condominium market better than anyone.

Posted Tuesday, December 07, 2010 by Martin Bouma