Updating the heart of your home

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Tips for an efficient kitchen remodel

Dear Pat: My family is planning to remodel our kitchen. The remodel will be pricey, but we hope to incorporate energy-efficient features that will help reduce our energy costs. What are some things we can do to make sure our kitchen is as energy-efficient as it can be? — Carlos

Dear Carlos: Undertaking a remodeling project in any part of your home gives you the chance to make a space work better for your needs. For many households, the kitchen is the heart of the home, so incorporating energy-efficiency measures here can have a real impact on your energy bills.

Before starting a remodel, consider having a home energy audit completed by a certified professional. This energy assessment can help you identify major efficiency issues in your kitchen that you can address as you remodel. The audit can also identify other large efficiency investments your home may need. For example, upgrading your heating and cooling system and ductwork during the same time as your kitchen remodel could be more cost-efficient than completing two separate projects.

Here are some additional tips and thoughts to consider while you go through 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.

The design phase of your project is also when you will decide on placement of your major appliances and kitchen features. Also think about heat sources in your kitchen and how they will affect your refrigerator — placing your refrigerator in a very sunny spot or next to your oven will make it work harder and use more energy.

Appliances

Look for ENERGY STAR-certified refrigerators, dishwashers and freezers to help save energy. In particular, 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, don’t move your old refrigerator to the garage where it will continue using energy inefficiently.

Lighting

Many remodeled kitchens incorporate lots of windows to ensure a bright, naturally lit kitchen. Using natural light can make your kitchen feel more open and reduce reliance on overhead lights, but beware of overheating the room in the summer.

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. Throughout your kitchen, install ENERGY STAR-rated light fixtures and bulbs.

Kitchen ventilation

Increasingly, homeowners are installing professional-looking hoods above stoves in their remodeled kitchens. Be sure to pick a high-efficiency model sized for your needs and install it so that 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.

Overall comfort

Because the kitchen is often a family’s gathering place, installing zonal heat in this space could make sense — you could turn up the thermostat for the kitchen without warming the entire home.

Other ways to ensure that the kitchen is a comfortable room for your family are to address any building envelope issues noted in your energy audit.

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About Author

Partick J. Keegan

Patrick Keegan writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives. He brings over 30 years of energy-related experience at the local, state, national, international, and non-profit level. His experience spans residential and commercial energy efficiency and renewables.

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