With utility costs continuously on the rise, it's no surprise that energy efficiency tops the list of considerations for many consumers when it comes to investing in new kitchen appliances, and the ENERGY STAR rating has become a guiding light in helping us make smart, eco-friendly purchasing decisions that meet our needs.
There's just one problem. If you've dipped your toes into the world of energy-efficient appliance shopping, you may have noticed a few significant absences from the lineup of ENERGY STAR-rated products….where are the stoves, ranges, and microwaves?
Indispensable tools in our weekly meal prep, these appliances are notably missing from the ENERGY STAR database — but why? And without the ENERGY STAR stamp of approval, how can we ensure we're buying the product that will save us the most money on our energy bills?
Here's everything you need to know.
Before we dive into why stoves, ranges, and microwaves *aren't* ENERGY STAR rated, you might be asking yourself, what exactly is an ENERGY STAR rating anyway?
An ENERGY STAR-certified product is a product that meets a set of strict criteria outlined by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These products are designed to work the same, if not better, than their traditional counterparts, with the critical difference being that they use less energy to get the job done. Their increased efficiency helps us save money on our utility bills while also helping the planet by reducing harmful emissions produced by power plants.
Some of the most common ENERGY STAR-rated appliances include refrigerators, freezers, laundry machines, and dishwashers, and to earn the ENERGY STAR certification, they must meet the following criteria established by the EPA:
So why are stoves, ranges, and microwaves left out of the mix?
A large part of the answer comes down to technology.
Today's stoves, ranges, and microwaves are already about as energy-efficient as current technology allows. While factors like tighter fitting doors and additional insulation can cause slight variations between the efficiency of different models, the reality is these differences are minor.
It’s a factor that makes it difficult to effectively differentiate between different options when it comes to energy use and issuing that ENERGY STAR rating.
The Impact of User Behavior
The other significant factor to consider when questioning why stoves, ranges, and microwaves aren't ENERGY STAR-rated is the impact of user behavior.
Remember earlier, we mentioned that when issuing an ENERGY STAR rating, the EPA must be able to measure and confirm a product's energy consumption levels and performance through testing.
Well, calculating consumption and performance is pretty easy for a dishwasher or refrigerator because, for the most part, we all use them the same way. But cooking appliances are a bit more complex.
Our cookware choices, usage patterns, and how we choose to cook all greatly impact how much energy our cooking appliances consume. For instance, cast iron cookware retains heat much better than stainless steel options, convection baking is more efficient than a traditional bake setting, and a pot with a lid boils faster than one without.
Because we use stoves, ranges, and microwaves so differently from person to person, it's challenging to calculate average consumption levels and establish the benchmarks needed to set up an ENERGY STAR rating system.
Still, there are a few things you can look for to ensure you're making the best possible energy-saving purchasing decision. Check out the following tips!
Check For A Convection Setting
Look for a convection setting when shopping for a new stove, range, or microwave!
Convection cooking methods use a fan to circulate warm air around the appliance’s internal cavity, allowing food to heat more quickly and evenly while using a lower temperature setting. It's a process that uses 20 percent less energy than traditional oven settings!
Seek Out Self-Cleaning
In addition to looking for that coveted convection setting, you'll also want to check that any new oven you purchase has pyrolitic functionality, also known as self-cleaning capabilities.
While the ability to self-clean is convenient in and of itself, pyrolitic ovens are also better insulated than their non-pyrolitic counterparts (thanks to their need to withstand extreme heat levels during the cleaning process).
It's a feature that can contribute to greater efficiency overall!
Opt For Induction
For cooktops, induction is the way to go if you're looking for the most efficient option.
Induction cooktops use a process of electromagnetism to deliver heat straight to your cookware, ensuring that 80-90 percent of the heat generated is captured. This is a *massive* difference compared to the 70 percent captured by electric options and only 38 percent captured by gas alternatives.
The downside? They come with a higher price tag, and you need to ensure you have cast-iron or stainless steel cookware for them to work — but it's an investment that will pay off in the long term with energy savings!
On the whole, microwaves are already more energy-efficient than your oven or cooktop, so if you can sub your microwave in when heating leftovers or contributing to meal prep, you're already on the right track to energy savings!
But, if you're looking to purchase a new microwave, they're all much the same, so the difference in energy consumption is generally negligible. One thing you can consider, though, is size!
Smaller microwaves tend to use less power than larger ones, so consider your needs and cooking habits when deciding which size is right for you to maximize on savings!
While stoves, ranges, and microwaves remain outside the ENERGY STAR database, it doesn't mean they will be forever. Technological advancements may enable these appliances to be more easily measured down the road. In the meantime, why not check out our Ultimate Cooktop & Oven Energy Use Guide for more energy-saving tips?