Energy Consumption of Refrigerators

High energy bills? Your refrigerator might be the culprit. Here's how to reduce the energy it uses.

Here's how to reduce the amount of energy your refrigerator uses

Everyone loves summertime, the vacations, the sunshine, and even the heat (in some parts of the country). Though, one thing that comes with summertime that no one is a fan of, are the high electric bills. Especially in the Southwest, our electric bills double.

It is a combination of things that causes the bills to be higher. Of course you are trying to keep your home cooler while the outside is hotter, which means all of the major appliances have to work a little bit harder. Two of those appliances account for about a quarter of the total electricity used in the home. The culprits? The air conditioner and the refrigerator.

The refrigerator is a tough one, because while you can cut back on the use of other appliances, you can’t really reduce the amount you use your fridge. Though the design of refrigerators have come a very long way in terms of energy consumption, they still use about 14 percent of your total electricity.

Top-freezer models from the 1980’s could be costing you about $0.55 per day to run, while modern models today end up costing you about $0.10 per day.

If you are in the market to purchase a new refrigerator, then you will find that most modern models are incredibly more efficient than they used to be. Newer models use about 350 kWh per year, as opposed to the 1400 kWh models made before 1986. That’s about a 75 percent reduction in electricity consumption. A calculator on the EnergyStar website can estimate just how much your fridge is costing you (Want to try? Click on the link at the end of this article).

Make sure you are purchasing an EnergyStar certified model. Models with this label are about 20 percent more efficient than standard models. If you can find a CT3 Model (CEE Tier 3), than you could use up to 30 percent less energy. You should also consider purchasing a modern top-freezer model, as side-by-sides can use up to 13 percent more energy.

For those of us who already have an energy efficient model, there are still ways to minimize the amount of energy consumption coming from your refrigerator.

Turn off your ice maker

It’s not something that you would think makes a difference, but the ice maker uses A LOT of energy. When your ice maker is turned on and being used, the energy usage of your refrigerator could increase by double.

Turn off the anti-sweat feature

It is easy to assume that a refrigerator’s sole duty is to stay cool for your food. However, another role that refrigerators perform is heating the area around the door in order to prevent condensation. This is known as the anti-sweat feature and it requires about 5-10 percent more energy consumption. Look on your fridge for a power saving switch and only turn on this feature when needed.

Set the temperature strategically

The proper temperature of your fridge should be between 36 and 40 degrees fahrenheit, while the freezer should be 0-5 degrees. Setting these numbers lower could increase energy use up to 25 percent. You can take its temperature by placing a thermometer in a glass of water and leaving it in the fridge for 24 hours, or place the thermometer in between two frozen items in your freezer.

Don’t put hot foods in the fridge

Your fridge will have to work harder to cool down any hot items placed inside. Let hot leftovers cool down before refrigerating them. You can also thaw out frozen items in the fridge to help out cooling down other items.

Close the door

This seems like a no brainer, but I catch myself leaving it open all the time! Even just for brief moments when I know I’m going to put something right back after I use it. According to Home Energy Magazine, the average refrigerator is opened 42 times a day, which accounts for 7 percent of energy consumption from the fridge.

Clean the exterior

I personally, have never cleaned fridge coils in my life. But, cleaning the coils at least once a year can improve refrigerator efficiency up to 30 percent. Cleaning the kick plate and underneath the fridge can help, too. Make sure you unplug the unit and clean the coils using a brush or a vacuum. A clean refrigerator can function much more efficiently.

Keep the area around the refrigerator cool

This might be easier said than done, especially if your fridge is next to an oven. Since refrigerators give off hot air, they have to consume more energy to do so in a hot area. In the summertime, it is common to keep the A/C higher and is hard to compromise turning it down to keep the kitchen cool. Keep the blinds in the kitchen closed, turn on the closest ceiling fan and only turn on the oven when you need to in order to keep it cooler in the kitchen.

These methods can really make a difference, especially when your energy consumption is at an all time high during the summer. They are simple steps that will provide great results. See how they make a difference in your home.

Resources— EnergyStarDept. of Energy, Edison International, Home Energy Magazine,