Refrigerators and Freezers, The Energy Efficient Way
Chill out your energy bills
The business of greening your home can seem complicated at times. But with refrigerators and freezers it’s simple. These appliances are likely consuming 9% to 15% of your household energy, and the newest ones are models of efficiency. Don’t put up with an old energy hog.
- Use your settings. Does your your refrigerator have an energy-saving setting? If so, use it–unless you’re having problems with condensation on the outside of the fridge.
- Cover food. Excess moisture inside the fridge increases energy use.
- Take care of the condenser coils. To help keep your refrigerator working efficiently, vacuum or brush off the condenser coils at least once a year, unless the owner’s manual says it’s a no-clean model. And leave space between the refrigerator or freezer and the wall or cabinets so that air can circulate around the coils.
- Set the right temperature. Keep your refrigerator between 36 and 38 degrees F. and the freezer between 0 and 5 degrees F. To check the temperature, buy an appliance thermometer meant for refrigerators and freezers-it’s available at hardware stores.
- Say goodbye. If your refrigerator is more than about 12 years old, it’s probably time to replace it with an energy saver that can cut your food-chilling bills in half. But don’t forget to recycle it! Check out www.recyclemyoldfridge.com for more information.
When shopping, look for
- Energy efficiency. When shopping for a new refrigerator, make sure you’re only looking at models with the Energy Star label. They use 20% less energy than non-Energy Star models. But even among Energy Star products there’s a wide range of efficiencies, depending on size, configuration of compartments, amount of insulation, quality of motors, and how many extra doo-dads–such as automatic icemakers and through-door water and ice dispensers–are included. So when comparing refrigerators, it’s important to look at their actual electricity consumption (in kilowatt-hours per year, or kWh/yr). Find this data on the yellow EnergyGuide label that’s on every new refrigerator. You can also look it up on the manufacturer’s website or on the Energy Star website.
- Freezer on top. Refrigerator/freezers with side-by-side doors use more electricity than models with the freezer on the top or bottom. In general, models with the freezer on top use somewhat less energy than models with the freezer on the bottom.
- Extras only if you really need them. Automatic icemakers and through-door water and ice dispensers increase energy consumption by as much as 20%.
- If you need a separate freezer, a chest freezer is 10% to 25% more efficient than an upright freezer.
- Refrigerators and freezers built before 1995 usually contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are ozone-depleting substances. Refrigerators manufactured since 1995 contain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), refrigerants that don’t damage the ozone layer but are greenhouse gases. To prevent leakage of these gases during disposal, unwanted refrigerators should be recycled by trained professionals. Check with your local utility, recycling department, or public works department for safe disposal options.
…to you and your wallet
In addition to significantly reducing your energy bills, a new Energy Star refrigerator often gives you better value in other ways, too, with more efficient motors and compressors, better insulation, tighter door seals, and improved temperature controls. Sometimes these advantages cost more up front, but sometimes not.
…to the Earth
Those big energy savings translate into significantly reduced emissions of greenhouse gases.
- Supersizing. In general, larger refrigerators and freezers use more energy than smaller ones. The most energy-efficient refrigerators are 16 to 20 cubic feet. But keep in mind that you’ll usually use less electricity running one larger refrigerator than multiple smaller ones.
- Keeping the old fridge in your garage. The average refrigerator contains 123 pounds of recyclable steel. In some communities, the local utility will not only pick up your old refrigerator for free, it will pay money for it. For recycling options, check with your utility, town recycling department, or www.recyclemyoldfridge.com.
- Hot spots. If possible, keep the refrigerator out of direct sunlight, and don’t position it adjacent to heating vents, ovens, or dishwashers. The added heat makes the refrigerator work harder to maintain its temperature.
- To find out how much you’ll save by recycling your old fridge and replacing it with an Energy Star model, use Energy Star’s Refrigerator Retirement Savings Calculator.
- Some utilities offer rebates to customers who buy energy-efficient refrigerators, and some offer tiered rebates–the higher the efficiency of the model you buy, the bigger the rebate. Check with your utility or search DSIRE, a national online database of incentives for energy-efficiency improvements and renewable-energy systems.