Over the weekend we bought a new item for the countertop in our kitchen. My wife being British, this is something that the average Brit knows all about, but Americans still seem unaware of almost altogether. The item is an electric Kettle. It is a safe, and economical way to heat water for your instant coffee or cup of tea, and it is bound to become common in American culture.
When I left America to go live in Britain almost nine years ago, one of the things that surprised me was the way everyone heated water for the ubiquitous cup of tea. Everyone knows the Brits love tea, but did you know they don’t use many stovetop kettles? Instead, I found a plastic device in our kitchen which plugged right into the wall, and heated water to boiling, then shut itself off. The act of shutting itself off at boiling is one feature that prevents overuse of electricity. Another energy saving feature is that it only uses around 1,000 watts of electricity, where the electric stove can be expected to use four times as much! Over the course of weeks, this can really add up!
Another way of saving money with an electric kettle, or any stovetop kettle for that matter is to mind the fill line. Only fill what you need, and no more. That means the kettle will heat faster, and use less energy to produce your hot cup of Darjeeling, or Lapsang Souchong, or whatever brew of coffee you need to get going, or to relax you at the end of the day. At the end of the month, you will have saved some money, and added a little to the savings you are trying to achieve when you remember things like keeping the fridge door closed, or shutting off unneeded lights.
Our Particular model is made by Rival, and we bought it at Wal-Mart for about $15. The window on the side makes it easy to see how much water is in there, and the measuring index allows us to fill only to the needed capacity with no troubles and no guesswork! Ours is white, but as these become more popular here, I expect they will be like the ones found in Britain, which come in many designs and colors, and have even got lights which light up the contents of the kettle with pretty colors, making it easy to use without having to switch on the kitchen light! Or if nothing else, making it look just that much cooler to use than ours does.
The normal configuration for an electric kettle involves a base which plugs into the wall, which the kettle sets on, making it easy to pour drinks without the interference of the cord while you do. There is also some sort of switch which resets itself to the off position once the kettle reaches boiling temperature. All you have to do is fill it up and hit the ‘on’ switch, and it does the rest while assuring the kettle won’t be forgotten and left on should you leave for a surprise date!
The real saver is the element inside, or sometimes under the bottom, which is smaller than the stovetop element, and which requires less power! The element in our kettle submerses in that water, making it that much easier for it to heat it, and that much more efficient as it transfers heat directly to the water, rather than to a glass surface, the bottom of a kettle, and then to the water.
Okay, so you never thought I could come up with so much to say about a $15 appliance, did you? It is not a new game station, so the selling feature is not fun and excitement, admittedly. But I do want you to have a well rounded idea of the advantages of one, so should you spot one while shopping one day, you don’t think of it as just some gimmicky device designed to pry even more money from your wallet. It is actually built to help you save money over time. There are troubles that come along with these, just like any other appliance. We used to have one which shorted out in water on the worktop. It just stopped working when the bottom was wet, which happened from time to time as the only place we had to put it was next to the sink. I have seen them occasionally stop working properly because for whatever reason the switch fails to shut off at boiling. That is something to be aware of! And there is the lime scale problem. If you have this problem with your water, then it is already something you are used to dealing with, and you probably already know how to descale your stovetop kettle.
That is pretty much much it! The electric kettle, found all over Britain, and I am sure other parts of the world, and on its way to take America too by saving money one kettle-full at a time.
This is the separate base station that the kettle sits on, designed so you cannot touch the electrical bits and get shocked!
The Prospering Peasant