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Turkey Tracks

When you’re basting that turkey in preparation for a house full of guests on Thanksgiving, one of the last things you’ll probably think about is energy. No arguments there. But did you ever wonder how much energy you use for cooking in general and how to conserve?

For most of us, cooking makes up a pretty small portion of a home’s energy use. On a day like Thanksgiving, when a home might use an oven for 4 hours and the range for another 3, you’re looking at somewhere around $1 in cooking expenses (higher for electric and lower for gas).

Over the course of  year, a home that uses an electric range and electric oven for an average of 2.5 hours/week each plus a microwave and toaster for an average of 1 hour/week each will use about 600 kilowatt-hours (kWh) in total. In Colorado, this would cost a little over $60. With current low natural gas prices, using a gas oven in place of an electric one could save this home about $20/year.

From the environmental standpoint, each kWh we consume in Colorado emits about 1 pound of CO2 equivalent. Therefore in an all-electric cooking household, cooking emits about 600 pounds of CO2e per year. For perspective, a study of people on various diets in the United Kingdom found that the diet of meat eaters is responsible for 5,700 lbs. of CO2e/year, while vegetarians are responsible for 3,059 lbs. of CO2e/year. It would take not cooking for 4 years to equal the emissions reductions from a single year of vegetarianism. So when it comes to your environmental impact, it’s not so much how you cook it, but what you eat!

Tips to reduce your energy use from cooking:

  • Minimize opening the oven/toaster during cooking
  • Right size pans to burners
  • Use microwaves and toasters in place of ovens and ranges when appropriate
  • Don’t “overclean” with self-cleaning ovens
  • Preheat only when necessary
  • Use the residual heat after an electric stovetop is turned off to complete your cooking

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