Save Energy — Refrigerator

Have you heard your grandparents call the refrigerator an ice box? There was a time when foods requiring to be kept cold were kept in an ice box. Ice delivered to your home was place inside the box. Mechanical refrigerators were a popular appliance after World War II. While a main staple in the modern kitchen the refrigerator is a big energy user.

Your Home Energy Living Plan

Keep area clean under and behind the refrigerator/freezer.

  • Check gasket on door.
  • Allow foods to cool before placing in refrigerator.
  • Minimize the times you open the door. Take out or return foods at one time.
  • Consider buying an Energy Star qualified refrigerator.
Impact of Your Energy Saving Actions

7% of the average US home’s utility bill goes to the refrigerator/freezer. If your unit is old or you have more than one unit, then your percent may be higher. Actions to save energy at the refrigerator and freezer will save a significant amount of energy.

How Energy is Lost

The refrigerator uses the same mechanical process as your air conditioner to keep foods cold or frozen. A compressor lowers the refrigerant to a temperature that pulls the heat from the food and then increases the temperature to discharge the heat into your kitchen. Yes a refrigerator heats your kitchen; opening the door will not give you more cooling in your house. Modern refrigerators may use fans to help with the process. The compressor cycles on and off to maintain the refrigerator temperatures.

Refrigerator Characteristics

Refrigerators have at least two compartments. One is for foods that require to be cold but above freezing. Temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and above freezing. While a higher temperature may save energy, food may spoil faster. Food expiration dates are based on typical refrigerator temperatures. The other compartment is the freezer. It is usually kept at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Remember that lower temperatures means more energy is used.

A freezer is similar to a refrigerator except it has one compartment design to keep foods frozen. A temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit is typical.

Old refrigerators relied on natural air flow around the outside coil. Blocking the airflow leads to increased energy consumption. Modern refrigerators can have a fan, but air path must still be kept clear.

Energy Solutions Explained

The heat pulled from the refrigerator/freezer is discharged into your kitchen. Keeping the air paths clear will help maintain its efficiency. The air path may be below or behind the refrigerator, spots usually not cleaned.

The door of the refrigerator must tightly seal. You can check it by placing a dollar bill at the seal and closing the door. There should be some resistance when your pull the dollar out of the door. If not or the dollar falls, you need to replace the seal.

Placing hot foods in the refrigerator causes it to remove that heat. Allow foods to cool to room temperature before placing in refrigerator.

Every time the door is opened warm humid air enters. This air must be cooled by the refrigerator. The cold air in the refrigerator immediately falls to the floor of your kitchen. If you air is humid enough it generates some mist and you can see it dump out. Once open the time it is open does not significantly increase energy. It is better to open the door fewer times long enough to take out or return many food items, then it is to open the door and close it quickly for each item.

Old refrigerators use much more energy than modern units. Replacing even with a unit with the poorest energy will save energy. Of course an Energy Star qualified refrigerator will save even more energy.

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