Smarter Living: Energy

The refrigerator is often the most power-hungry appliance in many homes, accounting for 10 to 15 percent of the average home energy bill. So replacing your older refrigerator with a more efficient model is a smart investment. New refrigerators consume 75 percent less energy than those produced in the late 1970s. And today's Energy Star-qualified models use 40 percent less energy than the conventional models sold in 2001. Even if you're not ready to replace your fridge, you can save energy (and money) with these simple steps to make your fridge more efficient.

Make your fridge more efficient

  • Start by setting the refrigerator thermostat to maintain a temperature between 38 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer thermostat to maintain a temperature between 0 and 5 degrees. These temperatures will protect your food from spoiling while saving electricity. You may need to buy a fridge thermometer to do this, but they're inexpensive, and you can pass yours along to friends and family so they can check their refrigerators and freezers too.
  • Clean your fridge's condenser coils every few months. Removing dust and dirt from the condenser coils, found either behind or under your fridge, will improve air circulation and efficiency.
  • Make sure there are several inches of space between the back of the refrigerator and the wall. If the refrigerator is pushed up against the wall, heat gets trapped and causes the refrigerator to work harder.
  • Fridges and freezers will use less energy if they're not near anything that heats up the room. If possible, put the refrigerator out of direct sunlight and away from the oven and dishwasher.
  • If your fridge has a power-save switch, use it.
  • Be aware that extra features drain energy. If you aren't using them regularly, make sure they are turned off so they won't be using energy and raising your bill.
  • Fill it up! A well-stocked freezer and fridge use less electricity. Keep pitchers of water or blocks of ice in empty areas of your fridge or freezer to prevent warm air from heating things up every time you open the door.
  • Defrost your freezer regularly and give it a good scrub. A cleaned-up freezer requires less electricity to maintain a cool temperature.
  • If you don't use the automatic ice maker, turn it off, especially if your freezer is on the top or bottom. It takes energy to pump water to the dispenser.
  • Remember what Mom used to say: Decide what you want to eat before you open the door.

Purchase a better refrigerator

If it's time to buy a new fridge, compare units carefully. Efficiency is not always related to the price tag. Buy an Energy Star-qualified model and your new refrigerator will save you an additional 15 percent or more, compared with today's average refrigerator, by employing better insulation, more efficient compressors and more precise temperature-control and defrost mechanisms. Today's Energy Star refrigerators use 50 percent less energy than a 10-year-old fridge.

  • Look for the yellow energy guide label and compare the different units in the store. Consider the long-term savings of buying an Energy Star-qualified fridge.
  • Generally, the larger the refrigerator, the greater the energy consumption. But one large refrigerator will use less energy than two smaller ones with the same total volume or a smaller fridge plus a separate freezer.

  • Refrigerators with freezers on top use 10 to 15 percent less energy than side-by-side models of equivalent size.
  • Be aware that models with French doors can use significantly more energy than traditional models. Is it really worth it?

If everyone took just a few simple steps to reduce their energy use, we wouldn't need to keep building polluting power plants. Inspired to do more? Find energy-saving tips for other rooms in your home and track your progress on your monthly electricity bill!

Learn More

Salvage or Scrap: Refrigerators

last revised 11/10/2011

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