Boosting the Efficiency of Your Existing Refrigerator or Freezer
From an energy standpoint, you will save the most by replacing your existing refrigerator or freezer with a new more efficient model. If your current model is more than about 15 years old, it may be so inefficient that a new one would pay for itself in energy savings in just a few years. If your present unit is working fine and a new purchase doesn’t fit your budget, follow these tips to boost energy efficiency and performance of your existing refrigerator or freezer.
Check Door Seals
Check the door seals or gaskets on your refrigerator/freezer. These can deteriorate over time, greatly increasing heat gain and decreasing energy performance. Put a dollar bill in the door as you close it; if it is not held firmly in place, the seals are probably defective. With newer magnetic door seals, this test may not work. Instead, put a bright flashlight inside the refrigerator and direct the light toward a section of the door seal. With the door closed and the room darkened, inspect for light through the crack. You will have to reposition the light as you move along the perimeter of the seal. Use a mirror to check the seal at the bottom of the door. If you don’t see light, the seals should be in good shape. The dealer you purchased the refrigerator or freezer from should be able to install new seals. New seals aren’t cheap, though. If the seals are bad, you might want to evaluate whether it’s time to buy a new high-efficiency model.
Check the Temperature
Check the temperature inside your refrigerator and freezer with an accurate thermometer. The refrigerator compartment should be kept between 36°F and 38°F, and the freezer compartment between 0°F and 5°F. If the temperature is outside these ranges, adjust the thermostat control. Keeping temperatures 10°F lower than these recommended levels can increase energy use by as much as 25%.
Move the Refrigerator to a Cooler Location
Take a look at where the refrigerator is located. If it’s in the sunlight or next to your stove or dishwasher, it has to work harder to maintain cool temperatures. If you can move it to a cooler location, you’ll boost energy performance. Also, make sure that air can freely circulate around the condenser coils. If that airflow is blocked, energy performance will drop.
Check Power-Saver Switch
Many refrigerators have small heaters built into the walls to prevent moisture from condensing on the outer surface — as if the refrigerator doesn’t have to work hard enough already! On some units, this feature can be turned off with an energy-saver or power-saver switch. Unless you have noticeable condensation, keep this switch on the energy-saving setting.
Minimize Frost Buildup
Manual defrost and partial automatic defrost refrigerators and freezers should be defrosted on a regular basis. The buildup of ice on the coils inside the unit means that the compressor has to run longer to maintain cold temperatures, wasting energy. If you live in a very hot, humid climate and don’t use air conditioning, defrosting may be required quite frequently with a manual defrost model. After defrosting, you might be able to adjust the thermostat to a warmer setting, further saving energy.
Manage Your Food and Storage Space
There are several ways you can use your refrigerator differently so that it doesn’t have to work as hard.
- Let hot foods cool. Avoid putting hot foods directly in the refrigerator or freezer. Let them cool in the room first.
- Cover foods, especially liquids. Otherwise they will release moisture into the refrigerator compartment, increasing energy use.
- Fill your freezer. A full freezer will perform better than a nearly empty freezer. If your freezer isn’t full, fill plastic containers with water and freeze them. This can also help in the event of a power outage, when the ice you’ve made will help preserve your food longer.
- Mark items. Label foods in the freezer for quick identification so that you don’t have to stand there with the door open.