Posted on February 01 2022
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a refrigerator generally accounts for 14 percent of the electricity consumption in a typical household. Whether the homeowners are home or not, their refrigerator is working tirelessly to keep food cold and fresh. As long as the machine is healthy, it never takes a break. Reliability is paramount, but if the machine isn't operating as efficiently as possible, it could actually be costing you more money than is absolutely necessary. Small inefficiencies in energy-usage can, over time, add up to quite a lot. Fortunately, there are plenty of no-cost ways to optimize a refrigerator for maximum energy efficiency.
Make sure your refrigerator isn't bleeding cold airThe seals that line a refrigerator door must be airtight in order for the machine to operate at maximum energy efficiency. Any weak points in the seal will allow the cold air to escape into the kitchen, thus inciting a small-but-steady rise in the refrigerator's internal temperature. To maintain an optimal temperature for keeping food fresh, the refrigerator will need to compensate for this leakage. This means using even more electricity to compensate for the temperature differential. Over a long period of time, the energy-costs of uncorrected weak seals can really add up.
A fun and easy way to check a refrigerator's seals is to place a turned-on flashlight (or other illumination device) inside the refrigerator, positioned so that the light points towards the door's interior. After shutting the door and turning off the kitchen lights, no light whatsoever should be visible at the door seams. Any light bleeding into the kitchen indicates that the seals are not airtight. They should be replaced as soon as possible.
Unplug all "bonus" refrigerators
Many homeowners own more than one refrigerator. In addition to the primary kitchen unit, there's often a smaller, secondary refrigerator running somewhere in the house (usually the garage). Secondary refrigerators are often used strictly as longer-term storage for extra food or drink. For this reason, these units are often forgotten about. However, a couple of 12-packs of soda and a bottle of ginger ale probably don't warrant their own private refrigerator, especially when their intended use is for some theoretical, once-a-year dinner party. The electric company doesn't care if a customer is "barely using" the extra refrigerator; electricity costs the same whether the unit is empty or full. To maintain maximum energy efficiency, it's probably best to simply unplug that secondary unit. Random bottles and cans can be kept in dry storage until they're actually needed.
Know what you want to get out of your refrigerator before you open the door. Try to avoid holding the door wide open aimlessly looking for items inside. This lets too much cold air escape.
Let your food cool down first
A common mistake people make with their refrigerator is to put piping hot food inside. This causes a spike in the unit's internal temperature that causes the refrigerator to work overtime to maintain ideal coolness. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests that homeowners can save money on their electricity bill by letting any hot food cool down to room temperature before it is placed inside the refrigerator. At room temperature, food leftovers will have no undue impact on a refrigerator's energy usage. An extra five-to-ten minutes of "letting it cool off first" can amount to savings over time.
Every penny counts. Being proactive about energy efficiency means money saved in electricity bills. The homeowner who follows the four refrigerator energy efficiency tips mentioned above can see real savings over time. Less money spent on keeping food cool means more money to put food on the table.