Refrigerators & Freezers

If you’re like most people, chances are your refrigerator/freezer is one of the largest energy users in your home, gobbling up about 8% of your household’s annual energy costs. Why? Because it requires electricity to operate, and it’s on 24 hours a day using between 100 and 200 kilowatt hours a month.

  • Keep it maintained:  A refrigerator works best when it has been properly maintained. Check the door seals and if one is cracked, or cold air is leaking out, the seal should be replaced.
  • Unplug it:  Some people keep their old refrigerator or freezer in the garage, but if it isn’t filled to capacity you could be wasting as much as 2,400 kilowatt hours a year for an extra refrigerator, or up to 1,200 kilowatt hours a year for an extra freezer.
  • Use the proper temperature settings:  Check your thermostat controls. To work most efficiently your refrigerator should be set between 38°F and 40°F and the freezer at 0°F.
  • Go for high efficiency:  Newer more efficient refrigerators use half as much energy as many older models of the same size, so they cost half as much to operate. Be sure to compare cubic footage and purchase price, as well as estimated operating costs. An older 19-cubic-foot refrigerator with a top freezer uses approximately 450 kilowatt hours per month, while a new high efficiency model may reduce that consumption by 50%. The EnergyGuide label can help you in your decision.
  • Defrost regularly:  If you have a manual defrost freezer don’t forget to defrost it regularly. More than ¾ inch of frost makes your freezer work harder to keep your food, and the frost, frozen.
  • Keep it clean:  Dirty condenser coils could lead to higher operating costs. Coils, found on the back or bottom of the refrigerator, should be vacuumed and checked at least twice a year.
  • Keep it level:  A refrigerator that’s not level may cause the door gasket to seal improperly letting the cold air leak out. Set a glass of water on the top and adjust the legs until the unit looks level.
  • Keep it cool:  Refrigerators should be kept in a well ventilated, dry, and cool place. Refrigerators and freezers near ovens, stoves, water heaters, clothes dryers, or other crowded or warm places work harder to keep things cold.
  • Keep it closed:  A refrigerator works more efficiently when you open the door as infrequently as possible. So make your decisions before you open the door and get everything you need quickly and at one time.
  • Keep foods covered:  Covering foods will reduce moisture build-up on the inside of the refrigerator. Also, wipe moisture from bottles and other containers before placing them in the refrigerator.
  • Keep the heat out of your refrigerator:  Before you store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer allow them to cool slightly. Your refrigerator or freezer won’t have to work as hard to cool them.
  • Flip that switch:  You can save energy by keeping the EnergySaver Switch turned on (which actually turns the anti-sweat heater off). Anti-sweat heaters prevent moisture build-up on the outside of a refrigerator. Check your owner’s manual for directions on your model’s switch.
  • Keep it full:  Refrigerators operate most efficiently when they are full, but not overloaded. It’s true that frozen foods help to keep the air cool, but too much food in either compartment can prevent cold air from circulating properly. Refer to your owner’s manual for the correct capacity.
  • Don’t cool it if you aren’t going to save it:  Why cool something you’ll probably throw out anyway? If you’re going away for a few days, get rid of foods that are likely to spoil. If you are going to be gone for more than a month, consider cleaning out your refrigerator, unplugging it and leaving the doors open. Some older models are impossible to open from the inside and are a hazard for children and pets. Also, older models may have difficulty restarting.