How To Save Energy With Your Refrigerator

How To Save Energy With Your RefrigeratorIn the spirit of full disclosure about my carbon footprint, I have a confession to make. Every once in awhile, around midnight,  I find myself glassy-eyed and ravenous in front of my wide-open refrigerator hoping that its contents will magically turn into a delicious meal.

Unfortunately, they never do, and I always eat some odd concoction like ranch dressing and Fritos.  Additionally, late night posturing in front of the wide-open fridge can account for 5-10% of your energy bill. This figure could be even higher if you have an old fridge.

Your refrigerator is probably the 2nd highest energy consumer in your home, especially if your model is 15-20 years old. Refrigerators made before 2001 often consume more than twice the energy the average refrigerator consumes today.

A nice way to save money and reduce your carbon footprint is to boost your refrigerator’s efficiency. You can improve your old fridge’s efficiency by adhering to a few, simple tips outlined below or by replacing it with a new, more efficient refrigerator. If you do want a new fridge, I encourage you to buy one with an Energy Star sticker, which signifies that the fridge is at least 20% more efficient than required by government regulations.

If you’re not in the market for a new fridge, here are a few smart ways to save energy and reduce your carbon footprint in your home.  If you’re ready to buy, skip over this section.

Settings: Keep your refrigerator between 36-38 degrees and 0-5 for the freezer. At these temperatures, your food will be preserved and energy will not be wasted needlessly.

Don’t Use Through-the-Door Water and Ice Dispensers: Using this feature increases your fridge’s energy usage by up to 20%.

Cool Food Before Refrigeration: Wait for the food to cool down before you refrigerate it. This saves the refrigerator from having to cool down the hot air your freshly cooked food is emitting.

Buying New?  Here are a few things to keep in mind.


Electricity Savings Potential: Keep in mind that a refrigerator is a long-term investment. After that initial purchase outlay, you’ll be saddled with on-going electric bills for this appliance with the next 15 years.

Use the Refrigerator Retirement Calculator to assess if its time to put the thing down.. Just input the size of your old fridge, the model year, and use a feature on the calculator to find the price of electricity in your area to find how much you could save on your energy bill. Refrigerators last around 15 years, so within 5 years or so you should have paid for the cost of the new refrigerator. A new Energy Star refrigerator often costs only around $50 a year to power, but here are some other tips to help you save money and reduce your carbon footprint.

Remember: the more energy you use, the more you are indirectly contributing to greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Saving money and reducing your carbon footprint – means going green.

Refrigerators with Mini-Doors: Fridges with mini-doors conserve energy wasted when the door is opened. Place commonly used items by the mini-door so that you can avoid opening the whole fridge every time you need any item.

Avoid Side-by-Side Models: If you can, buy a refrigerator with the freezer on top or on the bottom, rather than on one side.  According to the Consumer Energy Center, side-by-side refrigerators are 13-16% less efficient. Using the calculator, I estimated that I could save around $20-30 a year on my energy bill by avoiding a side by side refrigerator.

Consider a Manual Defroster: Automatic defrosting refrigerators use about 36% more energy than refrigerators that must be defrosted manually. However, manual defrosters must be defrosted regularly to retain their high-efficiency.

Keep The Air Space Filled – If you tend to keep minimal food in the refrigerator and it is rather cavernous and empty inside, fill a milk jug or container with water and keep it inside. Once it’s cooled to the normal inside temperature it will make it easier for the refrigerator to keep other items cool. Every time you open the door, the cool air swoops out, but the chilled items relate their coolness and help the refrigerator return to the desired temperature with less work and less energy, and a small carbon footprint.

Improving the efficiency of your fridge is a one of the top 10 Green Blizzard suggested ways to save money and energy, and most importantly a sure way to shrink your carbon footprint.

Now,… if only I could be scaled back my midnight raids on the fridge.




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About the author

John R. Garnet

John's work in the energy market fostered his interest in the environment. He recently completed his graduate work at George Mason University, But more interestingly, John has a passion for food and cooking and to provides some light-hearted tips to make people's lives greener while enjoy the good life with everyday practical tips from brewing tea, growing basil, or drinking raw milk.