Eco-quandary: Should I buy an electric kettle?

tea kettleWe’re tea drinkers. Generally we heat up the teapot on the stove at least once a day.

Lately, in talking about using the best energy we can, we’ve discussed the idea of using an electric kettle. These are supposed to be more efficient, faster ways to heat water. But there are pros and cons.

The bad:

  1. More plastic: Another plastic implement.
  2. More stuff. Adding another appliance to our lives is unappealing.
  3. More money. The purchase of a kettle that looks any good would be over $40 ($50 minus 20% off coupon at Linens-N-Things, plus tax).
  4. If I look for a better deal than that one, more time shopping online — the last thing I need.

The good:

  1. Would use electricity instead of natural gas. Our electricity is 100% wind power, a renewable resource where natural gas isn’t.
  2. Supposedly heats water faster – 5 minutes for a pot.

However:
We usually use only half a pot or less. In our tea kettle (an $18 item purchased at H-Mart, stainless steel with an aluminum heat-conducting core) on our stove’s “power burner,” water boils in 5 minutes – the same as the electric kettle.

The cost analysis:
I broke this down by our energy cost. The electric kettle (1,500 watts) would cost $0.01 for a 5-minute use — and in rounded numbers, that’s the same as our power burner (14,000 BTU). The kettle’s cost per hour would be $0.13, and the stove burner’s cost per hour would be $0.18.

This means that if we boil water via either device for 5 minutes per day, 30 days a month, our monthly cost with the kettle would be $0.32; our monthly cost with the kettle would be $0.32; our monthly stove burner cost would be $0.45.

In percentages, that’s a big deal — the kettle would save 29%.

But in energy costs … uh, no. The kettle, at $40, would take 307.69 months to pay for itself, or more than 25 and a half years. With today’s appliance design, I highly doubt that an electric kettle will last long enough to pay for itself, while our stainless kettle just might (except for the wild-card plastic handle).

So, although a new one would burn cleaner energy, I’m not sure the savings are sufficient to offset the new plastic item. I’m going to stick with our old combo water heater/plant waterer (and, thankfully, not add another object to our home).

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Eco-quandary: Should I buy an electric kettle?

  1. JPCK says:

    In Australia, every hostel, hotel, apartment we’ve stayed out has had an electric kettle there. I’m not sure of the cost-savings aspect, but Australians seem to be pretty keen on being green, so….
    Good luck on making a decision!

  2. L'an says:

    Electric kettles are great… in certain circumstances. (We have one at the office which people often use for heating water for tea, oatmeal, cup-o-noodles and the like; that said, I suppose using the microwave might work equally well?) BUT I’ve definitely noticed that the lifespan of the average electric kettle isn’t terribly long: about two years for our office. (Whereas my stainless steel kettle is… um… at least 11 or 12 years old; gulp!)

    BTW, do you know what the energy expenditure is for using a microwave as compared to using a gas range? And/or how would I go about figuring that out?

  3. cheaplikeme says:

    Many microwaves are 1,000 watt, and the electric kettles I was looking at were 1,500 watt, so I guess the microwave actually would be *more* efficient if the time was the same (or sometimes faster, I think).

    I found this link was helpful in figuring out the cost: http://tristate.apogee.net/lite/lecoeuc.asp

    It is surprisingly difficult to find out the energy expenditure for different appliances. My gas range has a label inside the drawer at the bottom (where model/serial numbers are) that also lists BTUs for each burner. But your utility will charge you by the therm. One therm = 100,000 BTU.

    I’m not sure how you compare kilowatts/watts to therms/BTUs, though …

  4. Emme says:

    If you were to purchase anything, would you consider an electric burner? Then you could cook other items and not just heat up water…. Also, try storing your heated water in a thermos – thus you could have heated water longer through the day. 🙂

  5. cheaplikeme says:

    Hmm, that’s the second reference to a thermos in as many days! Guess I ought to dig that thing out! 🙂

    Emme, any thoughts on when buying either item new “pays off” in environmental terms for the “cost” of its manufacture? I’m not sure if buying something new is worth it. We already convert a lot of cooking and baking energy to cleaner electricity using items we already own or have acquired used — toaster oven, crock pot, bread machine.

  6. agm says:

    I bought this model in 2003 for around $10 (price hasn’t increased):

    http://www.shopping.com/xPO-Toastmaster-Toastmaster-TMHP2-Hot-Pot-White

    and have used it at least once per day since. It still works just fine, and enough water for 1-2 cups of tea takes 2-3 minutes to boil. The lid comes off and the inside is easy to clean, so I’ve also used it many times to cook ramen, tortellini, etc, especially while living in a college dorm. The spout has a grating, so you can use the lid to drain pasta. Another use is boiling small amounts of water to add to a large pot on the stove, which can save a lot of time.

    So, your analysis showed that the energy savings aren’t that great, but at least this particular kettle isn’t a big investment, and depending on your kitchen setup could be very convenient.

    I keep checking Wal-Mart and Target for a second one to leave at my office, but they only seem to carry the $30-$40 ones you’ve seen.

Comments are closed.