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Energy Saving Refrigerators




About Refrigerator Efficiency:

Refrigerators use more energy than any other appliance in a typical household, from 9-25% of the total energy consumption! A typical refrigerator made around 1990 uses about 900 kilowatt-hours per year.

Tips for Lowering Your Refrigerator Energy Usage:

  • Keep your refrigerator or freezer at the following temperatures: 37-40°F for the fresh food compartment of the refrigerator, 0-5°F for the freezer section. Use a thermometer to check inside temperatures.

  • Regularly defrost manual-defrost refrigerators and freezers; don't allow frost to build up more than 1/4 inch.

  • Make sure your refrigerator and freezer door seals are airtight. Check the seal on door gaskets periodically by closing the door on a dollar bill. If it pulls out easily, you may need a new gasket.

  • Keep the doors closed as much as possible and make sure they are closed tightly.

  • To ensure proper cooling of its contents, don't crowd food items. Too many dishes obstruct air circulation.

  • Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.

  • Replace paper wrappings on food items with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Paper is an insulator.

  • Consider turning off the butter conditioner since it is a little heater inside your refrigerator.

  • Experiment with the "energy saver" switch in your refrigerator - it allows you to adjust the heating coil under the "skin" of the refrigerator (the purpose of the heating coils is to prevent condensation on your refrigerator).

  • Placement of the refrigerator is very important. Direct sunlight and close contact with hot appliances will make the compressor work harder. More importantly, heat from the compressor and condensing coil must be able to escape freely, or it will cause the same problem. Don't suffocate the refrigerator by enclosing it tightly in cabinets or against the wall. The proper breathing space will vary depending on the location of the coils and compressor on each model--something important to know before the cabinets are redesigned.

  • Regularly brush off or vacuum the refrigerator coils on the back or bottom of the unit.

  • Because most refrigerators reject heat from the bottom and/or back, they need adequate clearance to allow sufficient airflow. While no specific studies have been done to calculate the optimum clearance space, one general rule-of-thumb is to double the space recommended by manufacturers for refrigerator installation. Another rule-of-thumb is to allow 2 inches of air flow around the refrigerator.

  • Don't keep that old, inefficient fridge running day and night in the garage for those few occasions when you need extra refreshments. A 15-year-old refrigerator could cost $100-$150 per year.

Tips for Buying a New Refrigerator:

Look for the Energy Guide label to see how much electricity, in kilowatt-hours (kWh), the refrigerator or freezer will use in one year. The smaller the number, the less energy it will use. When purchasing your appliance, look for the following:

  • Energy StarŪ-labeled units because they exceed Federal standards by at least 20%.

  • Top freezer models - they use 7-13% less energy than side-by-side models.

  • 16-20 cubic foot size (maximum energy-efficient models).

  • Models without automatic icemakers and through-the-door dispensers - these features increase energy use by 14-20% and add $75-250 to the purchase price.

  • Models that do not have an antisweat heater - these consume 5-10% more energy.

  • Models with an "energy saver" switch - this allows you to turn off or turn down the heating coils which prevent condensation

  • Manual defrost models - these use half the energy of automatic defrost models but need to be defrosted periodically to remain energy efficient


What You Should Ask When Shopping for a Refrigerator:


  • Are rebates or financing available from local utilities or government agencies for the purchase of this refrigerator?

  • What is the energy rating? (Be sure to check the EnergyGuide label.)

  • What makes this model more energy efficient than other similar models?

  • What do I need to know about the refrigerator in order to use it most effectively? (e.g., allow 2 inches air flow around refrigerators)

  • When buying a contractor-supplied refrigerator, specify an estimated annual energy use.



Pictures and information from U.S. EPA's ENERGY STAR Program, http://www.energystar.gov


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