Sunday, November 9, 2014

This or That: Kitchen Edition

Have you ever wondered whether a decision you make at home on auto-pilot is the right one? I do, and have decided to stop guessing by...asking my husband Mark to figure it out. It started with the
dishwasher. We have two (remember: eight kids).

What cycle uses the least amount of energy and water? Here's how it goes:
  • Smartwash (no heat)--best
  • Smartwash (heat)
  • Normal (no heat)
  • Normal (heat)
  • 1 hour (heat is not an option)--worst
Sigh. I've only been doing that wrong for about three years. Has to do with how hot the water has to be and for how long to get the dishes clean faster, and how much fresh water is needed when you don't have time to filter. These results were specific to our Kenmore models but are pretty consistent across models.

Bad news for the environment: The drying cycle only adds another 9% onto the energy used per cycle. This seemed miniscule to me, especially since the dishes are wet and my dishwasher gets moldy when I go days and weeks without using the "heat dry," as I stoically do. I didn't mean to, but the first time I used the dishwasher after hearing the "9%" I used the heat cycle, and now I'm up to using it about half the time. I figure I'm still ahead if I lay off the 1-hour wash.

So we moved to clothes washers and dryers. We have a top-load model in the basement (no pictures down there, please) and a front-load model in the kitchen. The front-load is newer and hanging in there, 9 years old and churning out 3 loads a day minimum, partly because Mark has become an amateur appliance repair man for obvious reasons. So I already know our upstairs model is more efficient (hallelujah) but USA Today's recent comparison of top and front loading models of the same year did the comparison. They say front loaders save money in the long run (because they're more efficient) but cost more up front so you need to use them a lot and keep them a long time to make the savings significant.


Of course I always use the hottest, shortest drying cycle, for the same reasons I use 1-hour wash, or run through the rain hoping to get less wet: a less-is-more fixation with Time. Only the hot, fast cycle keeps up with the wash cycle. So I'm not looking this one up, folks. I don't want to know.

We move onto stoves. I use my natural gas stove instead of my electric stove whenever I can so I hoped this was smart because I really hate my electric stove. Not that my electric won't get plenty of back-up use for the holidays, but we've had it for almost 15 years, since before we had a gas line installed, and the imprecision of the burners is explained here on How Stuff Works.  Gas stoves use three times less energy than electric before you even consider the cost difference. 


Now to fridges. I can't do a comparison of different kinds because mine are the same except for the icemaker. One has through-the-door ice and water, the other doesn't have an auto ice maker at all and this turns out to be the significant difference>Listings from EnergyStar

  • Top mount freezer (w/o  ice)--best
  • Bottom mount freezer (w/o ice)
  • Top mount freezer (with ice)
  • Side-by-side (w/o ice)
  • Side-by-side (with ice)--worst
So if you thought having the icemaker on the outside of the fridge saved energy from the opening and closing, you are apparently wrong. That's not why we got it (it was a Brady Bunch thing, I always wanted one, and notice how nicely I keep the orange but skip the avocado color scheme) but keep in mind the differences in energy use are slight, about 13 dollars/year between the most and least efficient kinds of fridges, when comparing similar model years and are affected more by how cold you keep them both than what type you have. 
Brady Bunch kitchen from Brady Bunch Blog

Still, I'll probably get a top freezer model when one or both of these crash and burn. I kind of miss the big, open spaces. I can't even fit a big pizza box in my fridge or freezer, jeez. And the slimy water tray for the icemaker and water supply that always needs to be bleached? Changing the water filter? re-sealing the rubber to make sure that when one side closes the other doesn't pop open? I'm over the side-by-side thing. 

But a little concerned how a top-model will look next to a side-by-side, and what to do when we only need one fridge. What else would I put in there? 

I have other this-or-that dilemmas chasing their tail in my brain, about how much energy the twinkle lights all over my house (and yard) use, but I'll save investigation for closer to Christmas, when it's relevant to sane people who only string them up then. 

Or maybe not investigate at all.

Love, Lisa


  1. My husband just texted me:

    "10 strands of led xmas lights will use $1.96 from Thanksgiving till new years. Do it. Your Winkle lights cost you 2 dollars a month per 10 strands. Very cheap. 1 one hundred watt bulb would cost you 8 dollars a month. 2 for a led bulb."

    Now that's love.

  2. Lisa, our whole neighborhood would be in mourning if we could not see all the wonderful lights in and out of you home every day. Your home is a ray of sunshine. Please don't ever second-guess yourself. Love, Mom (your next door neighbor)