Monday, July 25, 2016

Improving Energy Efficiency in Your Current Home: Appliances and Equipment

Our July feature of greener choices around the home kicked off with a special guest post on improving the energy efficiency of an existing home with small changes and targeted renovations/enhancements.  This week, we're going to take a closer look at the energy efficiency of operating appliances and equipment around the house. What are your top tips for user-based energy efficiency?  What have you tried and loved?  Tried and hated?  Want to try in the future?  What would you install in your dream green home if you could?  We'd love to hear from you!

Using more efficient appliances or upgrading electronics to a better energy-rating is an "easy" way to reduce consumption without changing habits, but using existing equipment smarter doesn't require replacement investment. In some cases, the upgrade may be worthwhile, but perhaps there are more cost effective options.  In other cases, you might just be looking for near-term efficiency gains on older existing appliances while saving for future incremental upgrades when the time/budget is right.

Clean appliances will run more efficiently, and that's a no/low cost adjustment that you can make today. Cleaning air inlets (aka fur magnets!) and ensuring adequate ventilation gaps will help things run efficiently. Don't forget the out-of-sight-out-of-mind jobs...and remember that just because an appliance is for cleaning doesn't mean it keeps itself clean...sadly! All of those traps, filters, seals, etc benefit from regular cleaning, as unpleasant a task as that can sometimes be.  If your freezer isn't automatically frost-free, keeping it routinely defrosted will help to keep it chilling efficiently.

In your laundry, try to take advantage of economy/eco modes, if your appliances have them, and run full loads where feasible If you can customise the default settings, set it to your most efficient cycle so that you need to opt up when needed by exception instead of always remembering to opt down. If you can't adjust the default for your washing machine, get cheeky if your family is "forgetful" about cold washing and shut off the hot water at the wall. As a bonus, it will help to reduce the risk of accidental shrinkings.  Clothes dryers are power hungry and can be hard on your clothing, so line or rack drying is a win-win whenever possible. I'll share some tips in a future post for how we are managing (sometimes with difficulty!) to keep dryer-free here in rainy New Zealand.

In the kitchen, use the same eco/full principles with your dishwasher, if you use one. You can't argue the convenience factor, but they're also pretty green if you look at the pros/cons of dishwashers vs. handwashing from an green perspective

Image credits: You might have guessed from the outlets, but this is not my own photo - it's a freebie from PixaBay, as are the plugs below.

Set your refrigerator and freezer to appropriate temperatures and keep them well-organised to reduce thermal losses through open door (and food waste too!). Freezers operate most efficiently when at their fullest, however full yet organised is better so that you can quickly access what you need and reduce the likelihood for food waste as well.  Fridges also benefit from organisation, but need a little more room for air circulation and not all storage spaces are equal so place food into suitable zones.

Capacity applies when cooking as well, from pairing the right pot/pan to stovetop element size or choosing a specialised appliance for frequent tasks. If you frequently bake small meals, consider using a toaster oven instead of your full-sized oven.  A typical toaster oven uses one-third to one-half the energy of a full size oven and you can fit much more in than you might think.  This appliance gets a heavy workout at our place! We bought a convection toaster oven when renovating (no working kitchen for a LONG time...) and it quickly became a favourite for smaller jobs.  It heats up much faster, performs very well, and is way easier to clean - excellent.  On the flip side, when you can, take advantage of cool weather for bulk baking and reap the benefits of a little extra ambient warmth. If you frequently dehydrate foods in your oven (e.g. lower temperature over long times, often with the door ajar and/or fan operating), consider whether a dehydrator might be a worthwhile addition to your appliances. As mentioned in our recent preserving post,  I never expected to use mine so much, but I use it for flowers, herbs, food, but I love it best of all for making healthy homemade dog treats.

Of course, where feasible, using what you need only when you need it is always a way to cut consumption.  Electronics can be sneaky about consumption, so switching off at the wall (I love that individual outlet switches are the norm here!) or using a switched power-board is an easy win against "power vampires". Where powering off isn't feasible (or not manufacturer recommended), try to use standby and sleep options were available to save power when not in use.

Image credit: This is a stock photo a freebie from PixaBay. Their downloads are "100% free" but credit where credit is due. :).

And now, since this is the last Monday of the month, it's time to power down our July feature topic, but we're always keen to hear from you, especially if you have ideas and suggestions to suare with us an our readers!  What are your top tips for user-based energy efficiency?  What have you tried and loved?  Tried and hated?  Want to try in the future?  What would you install in your dream green home if you could?  You never know...we may just build one someday.  We'd love to hear from you!

Our July feature topic is greener choices around the home. This month's Monday features explore home energy efficiency, with a focus on "doable" changes for real life improvements in your existing home and budget. 

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