Wednesday, September 30, 2015

5 Tips to Make Your Refrigerator More Efficient

Today, we're looking at ways to make your refrigerator run a little more effectively in order to keep those bills down. These are simple tips that should help any home!

1. Vacuum the Back

The idea of pulling your refrigerator away from the wall isn't exactly at the top of anyone's to do list, but it can help so much. So much dust and dirt gets trapped behind your refrigerator (especially if you have pets) and this collects on the condenser coils. Once you've cleaned them off, the heat from your refrigerator will be able to be carried away without as much resistance, making your cycles run for a shorter period of time.

2. Check the Door Seal

Use a thin piece of paper or dollar bill to check whether your seal is losing air. Hold it up next to the closed refrigerator door and see if it flutters at all. The rubber or plastic door seal on your refrigerator can be easily replaced and although it might seem like a pain, we promise it's not. No one wants to pay to refrigerate their entire kitchen, especially when it's only a few bucks for a new gasket!

3. Cover Everything

Unless you're keeping crackers in your fridge, most foods in there contain moisture. When left uncovered, foods will leach this moisture into the air and the compressor in your refrigerator will have to work twice as hard to remove it. (Plus, most foods will suck up smells of other foods and that just gets weird.)

4. Let Your Food Cool Before Putting it Away

So you made a big batch of soup and you're really tired. Sleep needs to happen ASAP, and you just don't want to wait up any longer. Sure, you can toss it in the fridge, but your refrigerator will have to pull double duty to cool it down. Try to let foods sit as long as possible (without bacteria cooties growing) before putting them in the chill chest. 

5. Fill Empty Space with Water

Using empty soda bottles, juice containers, or even store bought water jugs can help keep your fridge full when you aren't packing it to the gills. It helps keep things cold so your refrigerator doesn't have to work as hard. As an added bonus you will always have water for the zombie apocalypse.

Have you found any other ways to keep your fridge running efficiently?

Monday, September 28, 2015

5 things to check on your appliances (part 1)

1. Verify your oven door has a tight seal
Without a proper seal, your oven can lose more than 20 percent of its heat. The result is that food takes longer to cook or cooks unevenly. To check the seal's condition, open the oven door and locate the rubber or fiberglass gasket around the perimeter of the door. Feel for any broken, torn, or deformed areas, and close the door to see if you can find any leaks. If you do, replace the seal.

2. Clean or replace dirty range hood or downdraft vent filters
Wash metal-mesh grease filters by hand in soapy water, or run them through the dishwasher. Charcoal or paper filters should not be washed. Replace them instead.

3. Clean stovetop drip bowls
Remove drip bowls from underneath your burner elements and presoak them in a cleaning solution for five minutes. Then hand wash and replace. Remember to clean drip bowls immediately after spills. If spills burn into the bowls, you might need to replace them.

4. Clean coils in your refrigerator
Dirt, dust, and pet hair can clog up refrigerator coils, restricting air flow and causing the refrigerator to work harder to keep cool. Once or twice a year, use a handheld vacuum to clean the coils and suck up any loose particles. The location of refrigerator coils varies by model, but most can be found either behind the kick plate (the front panel near the floor) or at the rear of the fridge.

5. Change your refrigerator water filter
Filters that don't efficiently remove contaminants and impurities could expose you to harmful water. Instructions for changing the filter vary by model, but most are as easy as turning the filter a quarter inch and popping it out or locking it in place. Perform this simple task every three to six months, depending on water usage.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wrap your meat for an efficient freezing

This is an illustrated guide to wrapping meat in freezer paper for an airtight seal. It's not hard to learn, as the major trick is folding and re-folding the creases to push out the air, along with keeping the fold tight while you tape it off. Once you've mastered the "drugstore wrap," you'll get better-quality reheats, frostless meat, and a lot less guilt at freezer-cleaning time (as you end up tossing fewer arctic-frosted cuts).

Foods of highest quality, properly prepared for freezing, can lose color, flavor, texture and nutritive value if packaged improperly.
Proper packaging methods mean:
Using moisture-vapor-proof paper or containers
Removing as much air as possible from package
Carefully sealing tightly wrapped package
Labeling package for usage within recommended storage time.

1. Place meat on paper.

Tear off enough paper to go about one and a half times around meat, put shiny side next to meat (if using wax coated paper). Lay meat on center of paper and allow ample paper at sides.

2. Bring ends together.

Start folding ends of paper together over center of meat. Turn edges over to make a fold about an inch deep. Run your fingers along fold to make a good crease.

3. Fold to meat.

Keep turning paper over and crease each fold. The last fold should pull paper tight around meat. You want to get all the air out of package to prevent “freezer burn”.

4. Fold ends.

Press paper down close to sides of meat. Press out all the air you can to make a tight package. Fold in each of the four corners of paper. This will make a point at each end.

5. Turn under ends.

Turn pointed ends of paper under package. Then fold under about an inch at each end of package. You have made a tight package that will keep air out and moisture in.

6. Seal and label.

Seal with tape (you can use masking tape or freezer tape). Label each package with kind and amount of meat and date you put into your freezer. Now it’s ready to go into freezer.

This method of meat wrapping is also known as “The Drug Store Wrap“.

Tip: Store wrapped items seam side down to protect seal. You can double wrap meat if the freezer paper you’re using isn’t the best quality (or use one layer aluminum foil or plastic wrap then cover with freezer paper).

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Refrigerators are, despite advances in their design, terribly inefficient. Every time you open the door, the cold air comes cascading right out onto the floor. Chest freezers don't suffer from this draft effect, and can be converted into super-efficient refrigerators.

How super-efficient? Energy usage with a chest-freezer-turned-fridge is barely 0.1kWh a day. Modern stand-up refrigerators use around 1kWh a day.

Tom Chalko, an extremely energy-conscious Australian, modified a chest freezer into a refrigerator to cut down on the pull a standard refrigerator would place on the solar/wind system that runs his home. He started off with a simple thermostat to control the on/off cycle of his chest refrigerator, but after becoming dissatisfied with the cheap—and sometimes dangerous—quality of the products, he built his own thermostat timer.

For more information about his journey towards an ultra-efficient, off-the-grid refrigerator, check out his website here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

10 Simple Freezer Tricks to Save You Time and Money (part 2)

It's that time of year again, when our freezers are filled with the summer's bounty in preparation for the long winter months ahead. Get the most out of your freezer, and learn a few of its other uses, with these great tricks.

Freezers are hard working appliances that can do more than just keep your bagged veggies chilled. Try on one of these 10 ideas below and see if you can make it pull double duty, or at least keep it running a little more efficiently:

6. Save Your Hard Drive in the Freezer

A hard drive that is left in the freezer for 24 hours and then quickly inserted back into your machine can make a recovery. Or at least long enough to back things up before it says adios forever. 

7. Tame Freezer Burn to Keep Food Tasty

Freezer burn can get the best of everything in your freezer. To make sure it doesn't happen as frequently, try keeping your freezer at a more steady temperature and keeping out as much air as possible.

8. Make Freezer Jam as an Easy Alternative to Canning

Freezer Jam is an easy way to use up remaindered fruits and doesn't even require a waterbath or any other canning know-how. Just a little pectin. 

9. Convert a Chest Freezer into a Super-Efficient Refrigerator

Chest freezers use 1/10th of the energy that an upright refrigerator does. With the addition of a thermostat, a chest freezer can end up being the ideal place to keep things cool, without freezing them.

10. Frost-Proof Meat with "Drugstore Wrap"

Zip top bags and Seal-a-Meal systems can be time consuming and inefficient. Try kicking it old school and wrap your meats in freezer paper for a frost free freezer experience. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

10 Simple Freezer Tricks to Save You Time and Money (part 1)

It's that time of year again, when our freezers are filled with the summer's bounty in preparation for the long winter months ahead. Get the most out of your freezer, and learn a few of its other uses, with these great tricks.

Freezers are hard working appliances that can do more than just keep your bagged veggies chilled. Try on one of these 10 ideas below and see if you can make it pull double duty, or at least keep it running a little more efficiently:

1. Can I freeze that?

More often than not things can be saved from expiration date, mold or for a later use, by freezing them. But how do you know what can be frozen and how long it keeps? The National Center for Home Food Preservation has done the dirty work for you and made a list!

2. Unstick Plastic Wrap in the Freezer

Plastic Wrap loses it's static cling when placed in the freezer. It will attach to any bowl or plate that needs covering, but eliminates it sticking back on itself.

3. Freeze Ground Meat in Small Portions with a Chopstick

The extra 10 minutes it takes to thaw ground meat in the microwave is time you could have spent doing something else. Eliminate it by pressing a chopstick into the meat on the outside of a zip top bag. It will allow you to break off as much as you need without thawing the entire amount.

4. Preserve Surplus Summer Herbs for Winter Use
Fresh herbs bought from your local grocer can cost more than buying an entire plant. Try chopping and covering them with water, stock or oil before freezing. They'll be ready for any dish, all winter long.

5. Make Your Freezer More Efficient
Freezing used plastic bottles or jugs (milk and orange juice work great) full of water will help keep your freezer at a level temperature and use less energy to maintain it.