Q&A: Single-slice toaster

Q

I read your article on household appliances ‘It’s in the Stars’, but what about the humble toaster? Every morning in households across Australia and worldwide, power is wasted because, if you only want to toast one slice of bread, both elements fire up if you are using a two-slice toaster. If you are using a four-slice toaster and want to cook one or three slices, again an unneeded side of the element will switch on.

It shouldn’t be too hard for toaster manufacturers to design a more energy-efficient unit with independent elements. Small individual savings like this can add up to significant savings in energy use. There must be lots of ways savings can be achieved. It just needs someone to develop the ideas.

We can’t rely on our governments to make all the right decisions on the important subject of climate change and carbon footprints. I believe that it is up to the individual as well to make an effort to keep their energy use down to a minimum if we are going to make a difference and survive this crisis.
—Jo Prendergast

A

Very few toasters are designed for just one slice. There are single-slot toasters designed for two slices side by side, but, of course, when toasting one slice, the elements are effectively larger than needed and so there is still wasted energy.

There was a toaster designed in Japan that just does one slice, but it is only available for 100V supplies and it doesn’t get good reviews. However, Dualit’s two-slice classic toaster (www.dualit.com/products/2-slice-newgen) has the ability to turn off one slot for toasting just one piece, so that would be the best option. They are also designed to be repairable, another plus.

The downside is price; they are around $400, although they can be found cheaper if you look around. The energy saving would never pay for the difference between these and a cheap toaster, but given the Dualit is designed to last a lifetime (although there are reviews to the effect that they have early failures as well), then it might be worth the investment. There may be other, lower cost toasters with a single-piece capability but I couldn’t find them after about 10 minutes of searching and checking reviews.

Overall, the energy wasted by a toaster is pretty small as it only runs for a few minutes at a time. While it does add up to a lot across the whole country (or planet), other inefficient appliances can waste a great deal more. For example, if a toaster is running an unnecessary 500 watts of element for three minutes, that equates to 25 watt-hours, or the same amount of energy wasted by a small plugpack drawing just one watt or so continuously—not much in the scheme of things. Indeed, a 3 kW solar power system would produce this much energy in just 30 seconds.

So, while all energy savings are important, there needs to be enough to provide an incentive to actually manufacture a more energy-efficient device, and I suspect that in this case, there just isn’t enough incentive to do so for most manufacturers.
—Lance Turner

Read more Q&A in ReNew 135.

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