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Ways of saving energy with your existing refrigerator

written by: Steve Graham•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 3/1/2010

Here are five ways of saving energy with your existing fridge while holding out to buy a new model. You can reduce energy usage from your kitchen's biggest electric guzzler.

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    Introduction

    Keep those doors closed! Energy conservation fact sheets often suggest replacing appliances with more efficient models to reduce energy usage, but some can't afford a new appliance. There are still ways to save energy using existing appliances, especially the refrigerator.

    Mr. Electricity estimates the refrigerator accounts for 14 percent of home energy usage, second only to an air conditioner. Unfortunately, for most homes, a refrigerator is a necessity while an air conditioner may be an unneeded luxury. Mr. Electricity also has additional and different tips here for reducing energy usage in the refrigerator.

    Picture Credit: Refrigerator: http://www.flickr.com/photos/susansimon/2626829710/

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    Fill efficiently

    • Keep a refrigerator or freezer full for maximum efficiency, but don't cram the fridge with enough food to open a corner store. The fridge needs enough room to circulate air properly.
    • Put jugs of water and ice in the back of the fridge to keep the fridge full. In the winter, put jugs of cold water outside, turn them into ice and put them in the fridge. Here is a more detailed description and more tips for filling the fridge with water.
    • Organize the fridge to quickly find the items you need. Always put leftovers on the same shelf and you only need to open the door for a few seconds to grab a quick lunch.
    • Cover containers to further fill space and avoid wasting energy (your food will stay moister and taste better, too).
    • Some suggest hanging plastic sheets in front of the fridge shelves, as you might see at a supermarket butcher section. That doesn't make much sense to me. Assuming you find an insulating plastic sheet thick enough to trap cold air, you will still need to open the door longer to push aside the plastic.
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    Use efficiently

    • Thoughtfully plan meals ahead to reduce energy usage. If you defrost some vegetables a few minutes before starting dinner, you will have to waste energy defrosting items in the microwave (after expending far more energy to freeze them). Even thawing on the kitchen counter can't beat defrosting for a day in the fridge. It will help cool the fridge while reducing the chance of spoilage.
    • If you buy fresh fruits and vegetables for same-day consumption, leave them on the counter instead of opening the refrigerator door twice to needlessly cool the items.
    • Remove or return ingredients and groceries all at once to reduce the wasted energy in opening the door several times.
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    Switch off the extras

    • The ice maker and dispenser, lights and other additional gadgets add energy usage. The light in particular actually creates heat in a fridge. Switch them off to save a little energy.
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    Keep it clean

    • Clean the coils behind the fridge regularly to keep heat circulating properly.
    • Be sure to defrost the freezer if ice builds up.
    • Check the seals by sliding a piece of paper behind the seal. If you can pull out the paper easily, the seal may need to be replaced.
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    Move it

    • Place the fridge in a cool place, away from the range and other heat sources. It should also not be in intense, direct sunlight.
    • Move the fridge away from the wall. Don't put it in the middle of the room, but allowing some space behind the fridge will help boost circulation and even help heat the house in the winter.
    • Finally, consider going vegan. Without any meat or dairy items, you may not even need a fridge. You can buy everything fresh and it will keep for a few days without cold storage.