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Fridges, refrigerators - big and small, energy saving

Appliances are one of the major expenses in a kitchen. Although we now take the fridge (formerly known as refrigerator), dishwasher, hob, oven and microwave oven for granted, they used to be luxury items. A room that is completely dominated by appliances will of course have no worktop space left. This is the dilemma of the modern kitchen.

Energy saving is important in fridges as they are one of the major energy using devices in your house. This is because they are switched on all the time, and also add heat to the room via the cooling areas (back or sides) which is not really wanted in the summer, as you will then turn on a fan or AC (air con, air conditioning) to cool down a bit. Ventilation design is important, we have other articles on this topic.

Of course in the olden days people used pantries or cool cupboards to store things in, and bought perishable items more often.

Appliances are actually microcosms of the kitchen itself, and therefore should be in scale.

Appliances, like kitchens, can be fitted or unfitted. In a small space, there may not be any room for a dishwasher. A lot of flat-dwellers may agonise about this. It seems obvious to say it, but you need space to make space.

Small kitchens may have undercounter fridges in order to have a worktop above it. On the other scale, large kitchens can have American-style fridge freezers which you could practically live in.

Some people, like my mother, even now buy fresh food every couple of days. This eliminates the need for a huge fridge. However, you would still need a freezer to put cooked meals into chilled storage. If you assess your needs and your habits first, you can establish how much fridge vs freezer space you need. For other people like UK TV's Ad Fab pair Patsy and Edina, a champagne fridge with a glass front may just be necessary and not just for showing off.

Kitchen appliance insurance

Insurance of your appliances should come under your contents insurance. Some things such as fridge contents might be under your building insurance - in case of a power cut.

You can take out kitchen appliance insurance if you do not have cover in other insurance, or if you run a commercial kitchen. This would also be needed if you run a sandwich or lunch business out of your home kitchen, or even make cakes for sale, which a lot of women do for side income.

If you have ten cakes and all the specialist devices and ingredients, and had a fire in your kitchen, the insurance assessors might not agree this was domestic use only! The local council might also be interested as your are running a business. The plot, as well as the sauce, thickens...

Kitchen appliances cooker microwave fridge refrigerator cupboards worktop

Above: Kitchen appliances - cooker, microwave, fridge (refrigerator), cupboards, extraction hood, worktop

Hobs, ovens and cookers

Hobs and ovens are so varied in design these days. You don't need a chef to tell you gas hobs are preferable to electric. Actually gas hobs are just very sophisticated versions of the humble camping stove, which works just as well. Again, it depends on the sort of cook you are. If you only eat baked beans and eggs, there is no need for anything more fancy than an electric ring. The minimum number of gas rings would be two, if you are truly short of worktop space.

Extraction hood

An extraction hood is required these days but a lot of old kitchens do not have them. The hood prevents smells and damp building up, by sucking the air up above the cooker, and sending it out of the building. They can be very noisy, and usually have 3 settings - loud, louder and loudest.

Gas cookers and gas rings

Families tend to use five or six gas rings, especially if they are indeed cooking for the entire family. The old rule was one ring per member of household. My mother used to have the hob as well as the camping stove outside to heat up the dog's dinner, and a charcoal burner in the courtyard for making traditional Chinese soups which takes several hours. Sometimes she has all of these 'appliances' on at the same time, and only once burnt the dog's dinner. The kitchen was very small. All the worktops were loaded with other cooking utensils and of course all manners of very lovely food.

Microwave and electric ovens

For busy people these days, a microwave and electric oven is quite a useful combination. Some very busy people have a dishwasher rather than an electric oven under the worktop, so as to save the space. This is because if you are really not into cooking, there is no need for an oven.

Today's cook can choose from an extensive range of free-standing and fitted ovens. Some are even referred to as 'semi-professional', as though it's a person. Some look heavy duty and look like a restaurant kitchen's. But beware. These good looks are seductive and they may be unsuited to your own priorities and lifestyle. Your priorities these days should be energy efficiency and cost efficiency.

For example, a separate oven and hob always works out more expensive, even though convenient, because they count as two appliances. Another example: if you have an Aga and you turn it off in the summer, you will still need a back-up oven and hob, otherwise a lot of energy is wasted.


Sometimes, a dishwasher may not even be necessary. We have a dishwasher that is only used when people are staying and at Christmas.

Dishwashers can be normal or slimline. This all depends on the size of a typical wash. Dishwashers are claimed to be more 'green' than normal washing up as they use less water. This does not take into account the 'embedded energy' of the whole manufacturing and delivery process.

They certainly make life easier if you have a lot of washing up. For small amounts they are not really useful as the pots and pans and plates etc will dry up while waiting for a full load to accumulate. Or you will use a lot of energy and soap pellets washing tiny amounts.


A dedicated breadmaker (small oven with preset controls to make bread) is a good idea for many reasons. Fresh bread, the smell of baking bread, the chance to try out new varieties - olive bread, seed bread, rye bread, and many more. Save money too! A breadmaker makes a great present as well.

Kitchen appliances provide cooling or heating. There are many other devices for the kitchen so keep an eye out for our new kitchen articles.

See also:

Kitchen appliances

Ovens - cookers - microwave, steam, conventional, convection, combination >

Hobs - cooktops - cooking on gas, electric, induction, halogen, ceramic >

Extractor hoods - free-standing, chimney, island units, integrated >

Kitchen design and DIY >

Kitchen design layout advice >

Kitchen worktops and floors info and tips >