10 - 2007

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.

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).

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