Heating and cooling appliances may be the biggest guzzlers of energy in Australian households, but kitchen appliances can use a surprising amount of energy, too.
The biggest offenders are the kitchen appliances that simply aren't energy-efficient, and those that are switched on all day, every day.
We crunch the numbers and look at some of the most and least energy-hungry appliances, and CHOICE experts share their advice on saving money and energy in the kitchen.
Because fridges and freezers need to be plugged in and running all the time, they're the most energy-hungry appliances in your kitchen and account for around eight percent of an average home's energy use.
But there are ways you can reduce the amount of electricity that your fridge guzzles.
Do you really need a big fridge?
CHOICE whitegoods expert Ashley Iredale says bigger fridges will use more energy because of the larger space they have to cool – so ask yourself whether a huge French-door fridge is really necessary for a household of two.
When we review appliances, we calculate the running costs over 10 years to give you an idea of how much you'll pay for electricity over the lifetime of the appliance.
For fridges, the most energy-hungry model will cost you $1950 over 10 years. The most efficient will cost you just $570 – that's a whopping $1400 difference!
We found a whopping $1400 difference between the most and least energy-hungry fridges
But to give you a better idea of running costs, we need to compare apples with apples. So let's take a look at the energy costs of similarly sized fridges:
Least energy-efficient extra large fridges
LG GF-D706MBL (706L)
- RRP: $5039
- 10-year running cost: $1950
LG GF-V706MBL (706L)
- RRP: $5639
- 10-year running cost: $1950
Most energy-efficient extra large fridge
This Mitsubishi is comparable in size to the two LG models above, but costs much less to buy and $660 less to run over the 10-year period.
Mitsubishi Electric MR-L710EN-GSL-A (710L)
- RRP: $3599
- 10-year running cost: $1290
Rethink the second fridge in the garage
It's a mainstay in garages across the country – the second fridge, usually reserved for beer or other beverages. It's handy if you're short on fridge space in the kitchen, but you pay a premium for the convenience.
"In many cases people will replace their existing fridge, and move the old one into the garage to use as the beer or entertaining fridge," says Ashley.
"But these 'second fridges' could be around 10 to 15 years old by the time they're moved into the garage, which means they won't be as energy-efficient as the latest models. And it will be working extra hard to keep your drinks cool as garages aren't insulated as well as homes."
If you can't give up your second fridge, Ashley suggests only plugging it in when you're entertaining.
"Most of the time they're only used for big gatherings, so there may be no need to keep it plugged in all year," he says.
The big energy guzzlers are the kitchen appliances that simply aren't energy-efficient, and those that are switched on all day, every day.
More fridge energy-saving tips
Whichever fridge you buy, there are a few extra things you can do to keep it from using more energy than it needs.
"Set your fridge's temperature to 3–4°C and your freezer to -18°C," says Ashley. "This increases its energy efficiency without compromising on food safety."
Limit the number of times you open your fridge door. Whenever cool air escapes, the fridge will use more energy to replace it. "Grab everything you need in one go," Ashley adds.
Don't overfill the fridge, as the cool air still needs to be able to circulate
It's also worth checking the seals and replacing any that are faulty or damaged as they can let cool air leak out.
And keep your fridge fully stocked. "A full fridge has a higher thermal mass, which means your compressor won't cycle as often, leading to a small reduction in energy use," says Ashley.
But don't overfill the fridge, as the cool air still needs to be able to circulate.
These labour-saving devices are also more energy- and water-efficient than washing by hand. But not all dishwashers are created equal when it comes to energy efficiency.
Looking at our latest dishwasher reviews, the model with the highest running costs will set you back $1607 over 10 years. The least energy-hungry model will cost you just $467 over 10 years. That's an $1140 difference!
Again, let's compare apples with apples and look at standard-sized dishwashers to see how much energy you could save by choosing a more energy-efficient model.
Least energy-efficient dishwashers
- RRP: $629
- 10-year running cost: $1607
- RRP: $2199
- 10-year running cost: $1584
Most energy-efficient dishwasher
This Kogan dishwasher is comparable in size to the two models above, but costs around $900 less to run over the 10-year period.
- RRP: $900
- 10-year running cost: $690
More dishwasher energy-saving tips
"Use the eco mode function on your dishwasher," says Ashley. "It will save you energy and if you use a good-quality detergent it should still do a good job of cleaning your dishes.
"And wait until it's full before you run it – this will save on water too."
There are multiple factors to take into account when choosing the right oven for your needs.
But if you're looking at reducing your energy in the kitchen our wall oven reviews show which ones are the most and least expensive to run over 10 years.
Least energy-efficient oven
Fisher & Paykel OB60SL11DEPB2
- RRP: $2399
- 10-year running costs: $505
Most energy-efficient oven
This Ikea oven is comparable to the Fisher & Paykel model, but costs $177 less to run over 10 years.
Ikea FXJM6 MATTRADITION
- RRP: $649
- 10-year running costs: $328
More oven energy-saving tips
Fiona Mair, CHOICE's kitchen expert, also suggests baking or roasting on multiple trays to save on time and energy.
"Anything that cooks at roughly the same temperature is ideal," she says. "Such as a tray of potatoes while your chicken roasts, or cooking one tray of muffins and another of biscuits."
You can also lower your energy use by minimising the number of times you open the oven door, only preheating your oven when a recipe says to, and replacing any broken seals that are letting heat escape.
Air fryers can cook meals in a shorter amount of time than an oven.
Kitchen appliances (including ovens and cooktops, but excluding fridges and dishwashers) are responsible for about five percent of your home's energy use.
Smaller appliances generally use less energy than larger ones. So instead of turning on the oven, consider using slow cookers, microwaves and air fryers instead.
Instead of turning on the oven, consider using slow cookers, microwaves and air fryers
"Slow cookers use very little energy, and air fryers can cook meals in a shorter amount of time," says Fiona.
Microwaves will cook or reheat food faster than an oven, but there can still be a difference in energy use between models. Looking at the models in our latest microwave reviews, that difference can be as much $15.45 in yearly running costs.
Other appliance switches you might consider are using a toaster or sandwich press instead of a grill, or a kettle instead of boiling water on the cooktop. "And only boil as much water as you need in the kettle," says Ashley.
Use a plug-in power meter
You can find out how much energy your kitchen appliances are using by plugging them into a power meter and use that knowledge to either run them when prices are low (if you're on a flexible pricing plan). Alternatively, it could be the justification you needed to buy a more energy-efficient model.
Standby for switch-off
Many kitchen appliances are only plugged in at the point of use (food processors, blenders, stand mixers etc), so don't use much if any standby power.
But for others such as kettles, toasters and coffee machines, you may want to switch them off at the power point when they're not in use. It won't necessarily lead to huge energy savings, but every little bit helps, plus it's better for the environment.
Of course, it's not always practical to switch off every kitchen gadget – not having to work out how to reset the clock on your microwave every time it's switched on is surely a small price to pay.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.