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One of the most costly appliances to run in your household is the refrigerator. It's also one of the most neglected appliances in many households. I have compiled some tips to help cut down how much energy you have to use to keep food cool.

Maintenance is Key:

Since your referigerator is on, using electricity 24 hours a day,maintenance is very important. Keep the seals on the door clean and check for cracks. You can do this easily with a sponge and a little elbow grease. If you have cracked seals you should consider replacing them.

Clean the condenser coils at the back or bottom of your refrigerator at least once a year. You can use a vacuum to remove dust and debris from the coils and then gently wipe them with a rag. Also, be sure to defrost manual-defrost freezers when the frost is more than 1/4 inch thick.

Old and Inefficient:

If you have a refrigerator from the early 70's or before, it probably costs you more than 3 times as much to operate than a refrigerator you would buy today. You may want to consider upgrading to a newer refrigerator. It may not sound like a good
way to save money, but a newer refrigerator uses much less energy, tends to have more features and uses a more environmentally friendly method to cool.

If you are buying a new refrigerator, look for the Energy Star Label. Energy Star is a collaboration between the U.S. Department
of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and many companies which is designed to prevent pollution by helping consumers buy products that use less energy. You can find more
information at:

Energy Cost Vs. Grocery Savings:

There is an ongoing debate on whether the additional storage that a second refrigerator offers is worth the expense. If you have your old refrigerator out in the garage with a case of soda pop in it (many people I know do), the answer is no. Especially if it's an older fridge that uses more energy. You are spending more to cool your soda pop than your food inside in your primary fridge. So while it seems like a frugal use of your old fridge, it could be costing your $150.00 or more a year to run it.

Running Tips:

Don't set your refrigerator's temperature too low. The colder it gets the more it costs to run. Set the refrigerator's temperature to between 38 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit (3 to 6 degrees Celcius) and your freezer to between 0 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 to -15 degrees Celcius).

Leave room around your food in the fridge. Try to leave an inch clear around the inner walls of the fridge. This will allow air to flow around the food. Food does retain cold better than air, so don't worry about filling your fridge, but leave room for air to circulate.

In your freezer, you don't need to leave room for air, it's best to pack food close together. In fact, if you have extra space in your freezer you can put water bottles to fill unused space and
help retain cold.

Try to avoid staring in the fridge for long periods of time and don't leave the door open while you do something else. The tough part is getting children or teenagers to do this. The more the door is opened, the more energy your refrigerator will use.

Lastly, try to avoid putting warm leftovers in your refrigerator. Let them cool to room temperature and then put them in.

I hope you can make use of some or all of these tips to cut down your refrigerator's energy use. It's an appliance you can not live without, yet it's often neglected. Just remember this...The more you maintain your fridge, the more cool air it will retain!

Fisher Swanson is a Contributing Editor at For more money saving information and a lively interactive format, visit If you have comments about this article, send them to [email protected] (Copyright (C) 2000-2001)
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