Grilling Safety

Tip 1: Barbecue only outside

Firing it up in your home, trailer, tent, or any partially enclosed area is dangerous. If the carbon monoxide doesn’t kill you, your neighbors might, especially if you set off your building’s sprinkler system by grilling on your covered balcony.

Tip 2: Grills heat up to 650 degrees or higher

Always place your grill or hibachi on a non-flammable surface. For additional protection, place a heat-resistant pad or splatter mat beneath the cooker. And FYI, plastic has an average melting point of 150 degrees.

Tip 3: Protect your home and family

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, you should barbecue at least 10 feet away from your house or any structure. Children and pets should stay at least 3 feet away from the grilling area. Just in case you need a little convincing, this visual should drive the point home.

Tip 4: Lighter fluid can be dangerous

Before starting a fire, soak coals with an accelerant made for charcoal. Never use lighter fluid on hot briquettes. Doing so causes the fluid to vaporize and become explosive. The result could be a charbroiled yard and home.

Tip 5: Proper grilling attire

Take a cue from this grill master: Don’t wear loose or baggy clothing while flipping burgers. This includes aprons, especially when your back is turned.

Tip 6: Utensils are not toys
Of course you want to keep your guests entertained at your next barbecue, but remember, playing with sharp utensils can be dangerous. You could poke an eye out or skewer a feathered friend.

Green Clean Your Refrigerator 3 Cool Ways

We all love the look of stainless steel refrigerators—until they’re plastered with greasy, grimy fingerprints. Inside, the problem is less about shine than it is about fragrance, namely foul food odors that linger long after the food is gone. And then there are the sticky shelves. Fortunately, you can green clean your refrigerator safely and effectively using environmentally safe cleaning products you make yourself.

Green clean your refrigerator’s exterior

Commercial surface cleaners can run upwards of $10 a bottle, especially those designed specifically for stainless steel appliances. Commercially sold green cleaners are no cheaper. Try this solution instead: Add a few drops of a natural dishwashing liquid such as Mrs. Meyer’s ($4.50 for 16 ounces) or Method ($4 for 25 ounces) to warm water. Use the solution to wipe away refrigerator fingerprints, remembering to follow the steel’s natural grain.

Green clean your refrigerator’s inside

To green clean the interior of your refrigerator, whip up a batch of non-toxic solution by combining equal parts vinegar and tap water. To boost the solution’s cleaning power, warm it in a glass bowl in the microwave. At $4 for a 64-ounce jug of food-grade vinegar, you can mix up big batches for just pennies. In contrast, commercial green cleaner like Seventh Generation sells for about $5.

Keep the inside smelling fresh

You can’t top good old baking soda, aka sodium bicarbonate, for absorbing nasty food odors. The naturally occurring substance in baking soda neutralizes the odor-causing acids in the air, rather than simply mask them. At about a buck a box, it’s tough to beat. Save money by buying the baking soda in bulk. You should plan on swapping out the box every three months.

10 Tips for Saving Energy in the Kitchen

Spending less money on utility bills doesn’t mean you need to rush out and purchase a whole new suite of Energy Star appliances. With occasional light maintenance and good habits, you can greatly improve the energy efficiency of your large kitchen appliances — up to about $120 annually — without sacrificing convenience.

Refrigerator/freezer

Energy-efficiency experts tell us to focus our efforts on the biggest energy hogs in the house, and that definitely includes the fridge. Because it cycles on and off all day, every day, the refrigerator consumes more electricity than nearly every appliance in the home save for the HVAC systems. The average refrigerator costs about $90 per year to operate, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

1. Adjust the thermostat. By setting the thermostat colder than it needs to be, you might increase your fridge’s energy consumption by as much as 25% on average. Adjust the refrigerator so that it stays in the 37-40 degrees F range. For the freezer, shoot for between 0-5 degrees F. You could save up to $22 per year. If your model doesn’t display the current temps, invest in two appliance thermometers (one for the fridge, one for the freezer).

2. Clean the coils. As dust accumulates on the condenser coils on the rear or bottom of the fridge, it restricts cool-air flow and forces the unit to work harder and longer than necessary. Every six months, vacuum away the dust that accumulates on the mechanism. Also, check to see that there is at least a 3-inch clearance at the rear of the fridge for proper ventilation.

3. Use an ice tray. Automatic ice makers are a nice convenience, to be sure, but it turns out the mechanisms are energy hogs. An automatic ice maker can increase a refrigerator’s energy consumption by 14% to 20%, according to Energy Star. By switching off the ice maker and using trays, you can save about $12 to $18 off your annual electricity bill. Most units require little more than a lift of the sensor arm to switch them off. To reclaim the space remove the entire unit, a simple DIY job on many models.

4. Unplug the “beer fridge.” Many homes have an extra fridge that runs year round even though it’s used sparingly. Worse, these fridges tend to be older, more inefficient models. By consolidating the contents to the main fridge and unplugging the additional unit, you eliminate the entire operating cost of a fridge. The second-best solution is to make sure the extra fridge remains three-quarters full at all times. The mass helps maintain steady internal temps and lets the fridge recover more quickly after the door is opened and closed, according to the California Energy Commission.

Ovens and ranges

“Green” cooking all comes down to proper time and space management. By using gas and electric stoves more effectively, you can painlessly save a few dollars a year.

5. Cut the power early. As anybody who’s ever bumped a burner on an electric stove can attest, those heating elements stay hot long after they’ve been switched off. Put that residual heat to work by shutting off the burner several minutes before the end of the cook time. The same technique can be applied to the oven. The savings can add up to a couple bucks every month.

6. Match the burner to pan. When a small pan is placed on a big burner you can practically see the money disappearing into thin air. By matching the burner to the pan, electricity won’t be squandered heating the kitchen rather than the food. The reverse is true, too. A small burner will take considerably longer to heat a large pan than would an appropriately sized burner. For gas stoves, don’t let the flames lick the sides of the pot. Follow these tips and watch the utility bills shrink by a few dollars a month.

7. Do away with preheating. You can save about $2 a month by not preheating your oven (20 cents per hour to operate electric oven; eliminate 20 30-minute preheats a month). Many cooks agree that the practice is wholly unnecessary for all but a few recipes, namely baking breads and cakes. This approach may add a few minutes to the overall cooking time, but it eliminates all that wait time on the front end.

Dishwasher

As with washing machines, most of a dishwasher’s energy needs go to heating the water. Still, says Lane Burt, an energy policy analyst with The Natural Resources Defense Council, a 10-year-old dishwasher can be made nearly as efficient as a newer model simply by knowing when and how to run it.

8. Manage the load. Most dishwashers use the same amount of water and energy whether they’re run full or half-full. You can cut your operating costs by one-third or one-half by running the machine only when it’s full. It costs about $54 to run a pre-2000 model dishwasher per year, based on government data.

9. Activate energy-saving features. A dishwasher’s heated dry cycle can add 15% to 50% to the appliance’s operating cost. Most machines allow the feature to be switched off (or not turned on), which can save $8-$27 per year, assuming an operating cost of $54 annually. If your dishwasher doesn’t have that flexibility, simply turn the appliance off after the final rinse and open the door.

10. Use the machine. Many homeowners believe they can save water and energy by hand washing dishes. The truth is that a dishwasher requires less than one-third the water it would take to do those same dishes in the sink. By running the machine (when full), you can cut down the operating time of the hot water heater, your home’s largest energy hog. Not only will you save a buck per month, you won’t have to do the dishes.

10 Tips for Saving Energy in the Laundry Room

Get the Most From Your Washer

Ninety-percent of the cost of running a washer goes to heating water. Only 10% goes to electricity needed to run the motor. Here’s how to save money while getting your clothes clean.

1. Use cold water. You can save a bundle by washing your clothes in cold water, which is a perfectly efficient way to clean most clothes. Washing a load in cold water costs only about 4 cents, compared to washing in hot/warm water for 68 cents. Annually, you’ll save $40 with an electric water heater and $30 with a gas water heater.

2. Run full loads. It takes as much electricity to wash a small load as it does a full one, so you’ll save money by only washing full loads.

3. Update your machine. If you don’t already have an Energy Star-certified washer, it’s time to get one. These energy-efficient machines use 15 gallons of water per load, compared to 23 gallons for a standard machine. If a gallon of water costs you a penny (the U.S. average), you’ll save $24 a year.

4. Buy a front-loading machine. They use two-thirds less water than top-loaders, reducing water and heating costs.

Get the Most From Your Dryer

5. Spin faster. The faster you spin clothes in the washer, the less time they’ll need in the dryer. If you have the option, chose a faster spin cycle.

6. Clean lint filters. Remove lint after every load, and clean ducts annually. Your clothes will dry faster, using less energy.

7. Warm it up. If possible, locate your dryer in a warm laundry room rather than in a cold basement. The warmer the air coming into the dryer, the less energy your machine will use to heat it up.

8. Go gas. Drying a load of laundry in a gas dryer generally costs 15 to 33 cents less per load than an electric dryer (32 to 41 cents).

9. Keep it full. Dry only full loads, and try not to mix fast and slow-drying clothes — a practice that wastes energy by continuing to dry clothes that are no longer wet.

10. Let nature help out. When the weather is warm, cut your energy costs by drying clothes outside on a clothesline. If HOA regulations don’t allow you to set up a clothesline outside, then use a stand-alone drying rack inside.