You probably don’t spend much time thinking about your refrigerator. Did you know the fridge probably uses more energy than anything else in your house, right after the air conditioner? It’s working for you, 24/7!
Studies show that the average family of four opens and closes the refrigerator door more than 140,000 times over the life of the refrigerator (about 10 years). And each one of those 140,000 times you open the door, some cold air rushes out and warm air rushes in, putting the fridge right back to work.
Of course, opening and closing the fridge door quickly when you know exactly what you want is no biggie. It’s those repeated, extended openings, the ones where you’re just standing there with the door open, pondering your snack options, that put your poor fridge into overtime to restore the cool you’ve squandered. It doesn’t just use more energy—it can shorten the working life of your refrigerator. Ouch!
Preventive maintenance on your fridge is a bit like preventive medicine for your body. Try to keep bad things from happening by doing good things in advance.
1. Gently Vacuum the Condenser Coils: You’ll find the condenser coils in one of three places: in front of or behind the refrigerator at floor level, or on the back of the refrigerator. This helps your fridge run more efficiently, but you don’t need to do this very often.
2. Check the Door Seal: Close a dollar bill in the door of the fridge. Does it pull out with no resistance? Do you see mold or condensation around the edge of the door? In any of these cases, it’s time to replace or repair the seal, which is an easy do-it-yourself job. For full instructions, visit The Family Handy Man.
3. Defrost Freezers Regularly: Frost buildup increases the amount of energy needed to keep the motor running in your freezer, so it’s important to defrost at regular intervals if you don’t have a frost-free freezer. Defrosting twice a year is fine for most freezers, but keep an eye on it—if the buildup in yours measures 1/4” or more, it’s time to defrost.
4. Don’t Keep It Too Cold: The recommended temperature is 37° to 40°F for the fridge and 0° to 5°F for the freezer. Anything colder than that places stress on the unit and may cause early failure.
5. Don’t Overstuff Your Refrigerator: Carry out a periodic fridge cleaning, trashing all those ancient bottles of salad dressing and half-finished jars of salsa. The most efficient fridge is fairly full (fewer places for warm air to rush into, but still open enough for air to circulate easily), but not cluttered. If you have to linger too long at the open fridge door to find what you need, you’re wasting energy.