7 Tips to Keep Your Fridge Running Like New

Want your fridge to last? We hear you. These maintenance tips will help it run like new.

These maintenance tips will help prolong the life of your refrigerator

The refrigerator is the unsung hero of your kitchen. Most of the time, your fridge keeps food and drinks at the perfect temperature, extends the shelf life of your groceries, and is ready with a midnight snack whenever you need it. However, a shoddy or malfunctioning fridge can have a huge impact on your food -- and your finances! Keep your electric bill low and your lunch meats fresh with these 7 tips and tricks.

1. Keep it chilly — but not too chilly

Finding the optimal fridge temperature is key to maximizing its energy efficiency. The recommended temperature for a fridge is 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Double-check that your thermostat is set in the optimal range -- too cold, and your fridge is working overtime to keep things icy. Too hot, and you risk spoiled food!

2. Keep it clean

Dirty condenser coils are one of the most common culprits when it comes to faulty fridge temperature. Condenser coils live under or on the back of your fridge, and they let off heat as refrigerant— the stuff that keeps your fridge cool — passes through them. Sweeping, wiping, and vacuuming behind your fridge can remove months' or years' worth of dust that keeps your coils from doing their jobs. The same is true for the condenser fan motor (the fan that distributes cold air throughout the inside of your fridge). Dirty rotors, or a long-lost stick of butter blocking its rotation, can keep the fan from moving air along the way it's supposed to. That's why it's critical to keep your fridge clean -- inside and out.

3. Let your fridge fly solo

When your fridge sits next to your stove or dishwasher, it has to work harder to keep things cool. Heat from other appliances can transfer to your fridge through metal conduction, meaning your refrigerator has to expend more energy to maintain its temperature. If you have the space, move your fridge to a corner against the wall, with plenty of cabinet and counter space between it and your other appliances.

4. Keep the door closed, especially when the power's out

We've all had that midnight snack run where we stare at the inside of the fridge for way longer than necessary, wishing we'd bought that tub of dip at the store. Leaving the door open like this lets out all the cold air your fridge has worked so hard to create. And when it's time to refill, your electric bill feels the pain. (Pro tip: If you create an organization system for your fridge, you'll always know where everything is stored, so you just need to reach in and grab something quickly instead of standing there with the door open. Plus, fridges with an in-door water and ice dispenser don't have to be opened as often, keeping the inside perfectly frosty!)

5. Seal the deal

The rubber or plastic seal that runs around your fridge and freezer doors is what keeps cool air in and hot air out. Your fridge also needs a level floor to keep its seal tight—leaning too far to one side or another can put weight on the seal that pops it open. Dirt, time, and bad balance can all cause the seal to lose its tightness. To test your seal's elasticity, close a dollar bill in the door so that one half is inside your fridge and one half sticks out. A door with a faulty seal won't be able to hold the dollar in place, and you'll know it needs to be cleaned or replaced.

6. Let hot leftovers cool down

If you take a container of piping-hot food and stick it right in your fridge, your fridge has to work overtime to make up for the new heat. Properly cooling, covering, and storing your food reduces the amount of excess heat it gives off. Plus, it keeps your body from being exposed to food-borne illnesses!

7. A full fridge is a happy fridge

Food needs friends, too! It may sound counter-productive, but fully stocking your fridge actually means less work for its cooling system. Water bottles, soda cans, and chilled produce all help to keep each other cool. If you've ever frozen water bottles to chill a cooler, it's the same basic concept. When your fridge has more allies working to keep the whole system cool, it doesn't need to use as much energy to maintain balance.

Resources—RepairClinic, Remove and Replace, Compact ApplianceU.S. Food and Drug Administration