A well-planned kitchen includes energy-saving appliances and a mix of natural, overhead and task lighting to maximize function and efficiency.
Photo by Flickr/angryfrench
Q: My family is planning to remodel our kitchen with features that will help reduce our energy costs. What can we do to make sure our kitchen is as energy efficient as possible?
A: Any home-remodeling project gives you the chance to make a space work better for your needs—including reducing your energy use. For many households, the kitchen is the part of the home used most, so incorporating energy-efficiency measures here can have a real impact on your energy bills.
Before starting your project, consider having a certified home-energy auditor (resnet.us) conduct an energy assessment to identify major efficiency issues in your kitchen, so you can address those as you remodel. The audit might also suggest other efficiency improvements you could complete at the same time. For example, upgrading your heating and cooling system and ductwork while remodeling your kitchen could be more cost efficient than two separate projects.
Below are some additional thoughts to consider for your kitchen remodel.
Kitchen layout and design
During a remodel, homeowners often want to expand the kitchen. However, bigger isn’t always better—and enlarging the footprint of your kitchen will likely mean higher heating and cooling bills. Consider whether a more efficient layout in your kitchen could substitute for expansion.
The design phase is when you will decide on placement of major appliances and kitchen features. There may be opportunities to shorten plumbing runs for more efficient hot-water delivery to your sink and dishwasher or to insulate plumbing to reduce heat loss. Also, think about how heat sources in your kitchen can affect your refrigerator. Placing your refrigerator in a very sunny spot or next to your oven will make this appliance work harder and use more energy.
If you are replacing appliances, look for Energy Star-certified refrigerators, dishwashers and freezers to help save energy. Refrigerators that are Energy Star-certified will use about 10 percent less energy than standard models—and up to 40 percent less energy than a refrigerator from 2001. Once it is replaced, resist the temptation to move your old refrigerator into the garage, where it will use even more energy.
Lots of windows and natural light can make your kitchen feel more open and reduce reliance on overhead lights, but beware of adding windows that may overheat the room in summer. Consider your home’s climate and orientation and how to use natural light strategically.
In addition to overall lighting, a kitchen needs bright task lighting. Installing individual task lights on separate switches can help minimize the energy you use for lighting. Energy Star light fixtures and bulbs are certified for energy savings, high quality and performance.
Many homeowners like to install professional-looking hoods above stoves in their remodeled kitchens. Pick a high-efficiency model sized for your needs, and install it so it vents directly to the outside. Remember that running a hood exhaust fan more frequently than needed can make your heating and cooling system work harder, as conditioned air is pulled outside.
The kitchen is often a family’s gathering place, so consider installing zonal heat in this space—you could turn up the thermostat for the kitchen without warming the entire home.
You can help make your kitchen a more comfortable room by addressing any building-envelope issues noted in your energy audit—for example, increasing wall and attic insulation, addressing duct- and air-sealing needs, investing in efficient windows, and installing window coverings that help block hot summer sun and blustery winter wind.
Send questions to Energy Q&A, South Carolina Living, 808 Knox Abbott Drive, Cayce, SC 29033, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fax (803) 739-3041.