How to Save Energy and Money by Grilling
July 20, 2015
Cooking in the summer causes two of the biggest energy-consuming appliances to be working at once: HVAC (air conditioning) and the oven. (If your oven is electric, it’s a particularly heavy energy consumer.) Cooking in the oven and on the stove uses energy and warms the house—and you might be inclined to turn up the AC to cool off your the house. One solution to this problem is grilling. Grilling is, of course, fun and seasonal—one of the joys of summer. But by doing it properly, you can also decrease your energy consumptions—and save money.
The first choice when it comes to grilling is the energy source: gas or charcoal. If you have a grill, you’ve already made this choice. If you’re considering buying a grill, you still have time to consider. As you likely know, when it comes to cooking, gas is more convenient—just open the gas line and light the burners—but it lacks the distinctive grilled flavor that charcoal provides. Many grilling purists prefer charcoal grills for that unique grilling flavor—and the experience of working over hot coals.
Calculating the cost of grilling can be difficult—and it depends on several things: the type of food you’re grilling, how much food you’re grilling, and how long you’re grilling The cost to refill a 20-gallon propane tank will be between $15-$20. An eight-pound bag of charcoal is about $10. But the real question is how much these two energy sources cost. A good estimate is about $1 an hour for gas. An eight-pound bag of charcoal can be used for about 5 grilling sessions of two hours each—also coming out to about a dollar an hour. So the two energy sources cost about the same amount.
Tips for Maximizing Energy
Whether you’re using gas or charcoal, there are a few things you can do for each type of energy source to maximize its use.
- Get the food ready. To make sure you’re not letting the grill sit and warm up—and thus wasting energy—don’t start the grill until you have the food ready to put on it. Once you do, you’re ready to start the grill.
- Shorten the warm-up time. One of the easiest ways to waste energy when grilling is to let the grill heat up for too long. This is more problematic for charcoal, which takes time to heat up and catch fire. In general though, allowing twenty minutes for the coals to light, until they’re all burning, is an ample amount of time. For gas grills, that warm-up time might be as short as 5 minutes.
- Use only what you need. This goes for both gas and charcoal grills. For gas grills, use only the burners you need. If you’re grilling only a few items, you might need to use just two—or maybe only one—burner. For charcoal, if you’re grilling a small amount, half a chimney of charcoal might get the job done.
- Shut off the grill. Like warming up the grill, a big energy waster in grilling is letting it sit after you’ve finished grilling. Once you’ve taken the food off the grill and you know it’s done, stop the grill. For a gas grill, that’s just a matter of turning off the burners and the gas. For a charcoal grill, that means putting on the lid and closing up the vents to stop the charcoal from burning. The gas or charcoal you save you can use for future barbecues.
Whether you’re using gas or charcoal, rely on grilling as a fun, social, and energy efficient way to cook in the summer. You’ll enjoy being outside, keeping the heat out of your house, saving some money.
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