Some quick kettle facts for you: modern ones use 3,000 watts (about 300 energy saving bulbs), 28 per cent of us overfill them and the average Brit drinks 27 cups of tea or coffee every week. In other words, our crap tea-making skills are emitting a lot of pointless carbon. I've been guilty of overfilling in the past, which is why I've recently been living with three different 'green kettles' that stop you from wasting water and electricity: (from l-r in the picture)the £64 Tefal Quick Cup, £35 Eco Kettle, and £60 Plunger Kettle. Click through to see how they square up.
Tefal Quick Cup - 'the instant hot water one'
This is the newest, smartest-looking and fastest-boiling kettle out of the trio - and it's also jointly the most expensive. To prevent you overfilling, it uses a big, detachable and easily refilled resevoir at the back, and 'instantly' boils a cup's worth of water using the same sort of tech at your local coffee shop. A single cup of tea takes around 15 seconds to boil. By dispensing water downwards (where the Tefal logo is in the photo, left) it side-steps the weight and lifting issues of the Eco Kettle and the Plunger Kettle. There's even enough space under the spout for fairly large saucepans too. Right now, this machine is the one I'm using daily, as it's simply very easy to operate: you just press the red button on the top and let it pour. If you're wondering if it'll work for your elephantine or miniature cups, fret not - it will. You can prorgramme it to change the 'standard' cup measure. Like the Plunger Kettle, this one also has the added bonus of a built-in water filter.
Eco Kettle - 'the affordable one'
If you're solely interested in a green kettle for saving cash, there's no doubt this is the one to go for. Its rivals are twice the price and - in a utilitarian fashion - this one does exactly the same job. The other good stuff is a simple combo of boiling chamber and resevoir (hold the button down to fill up the right amount) and the fact that it's lighter than the Plunger Kettle (good for the elderly or anyone wimpish, like me). The bad: the price shows in the product design, which is more NHS ward than cool contemporary kitchen. It's also bigger and heavier than a typical kettle. Boiling times are on a par with the Plunger Kettle, both of which are fractionally slower than the Tefal. There's no water filter.
Plunger Kettle - 'the stylish filter one'
This is the first eco kettle I bought, and I'm still a big fan, though the kettle does have its critics. I've had emails from people before complaining of the weight of the thing when full of water which is a fair complaint: it is heavy. The size can also make it tricky to get into the sink to refill. Like its brethren, this one uses the concept of a resevoir that you fill up and then pump through to the boiling chamber when ready - one pump theoretically equals one cup, though it's usually two in my experience. Thanks to its handsome design and the inclusion of a water filter, this used to be my favourite eco kettle. But then the Tefal came along and claimed my heart (a phrase I never thought I'd write about a Tefal product) by being a tad quicker and easier to use. I've written a whole lot more about the Plunger Kettle here.
If money's no object, plump for the Tefal: even Homer Simpson could operate it without overfilling. If you're on a budget, try the Eco Kettle, which is about double the cost of an average kettle but is almost guaranteed to save you electricity and cash. If the Energy Saving Trust's tests are anything to go by - and the EST is independent - you should use 31 per cent less energy than a normal kettle.