Today’s buildings consume more energy than any other sector in the U.S., including transportation and industry, which is illustrated in the graph below. According to the Environmental and Energy Institute (EESI), more than 40 percent of the total energy consumed in the U.S. is used for operating buildings, and most of that energy goes toward appliances and other building-related equipment. The Energy Information Association (EIA) predicts that as our population grows, so will our demand for electricity. Within the next 20 years, the EIA anticipates energy usage in buildings to exceed 50 quads.

When it comes to specific appliances, refrigerators are estimated to use up to 4 percent of a household’s energy each month. More than 44 million American owned refrigerators are over 10 years old. Refrigerators and freezers that were manufactured before 1993 use more than twice the amount of energy as current Energy Star qualified models and may be adding more dollars to your utility bill than you might think.

The easiest way to save money on your refrigerating costs is to purchase a new, energy-efficient model. If you’re following this route, be sure to recycle your old refrigerator. However, we understand that buying a new refrigerator isn’t realistic in certain circumstances, so if you can’t afford the added expense, don’t panic.

If upgrading to a more energy-efficient refrigerator isn’t in your budget at this moment and/or if you rent your home, there are many minor modifications in the way you use your current refrigerator that can help save energy as well as protect the environment.

How to Make Your Refrigerator more Energy Efficient

We’ve identified below some great tips to help you optimize your fridge and freezer for energy-efficiency.

1. Don’t keep your fridge or freezer too cold

  • To test the temperature of your refrigerator, place an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the fridge and check it after 24 hours. Similarly, you can check the freezer temperature by placing a thermometer between frozen packages and checking it 24 hours later
  • Suggested temperatures are 35°-38°F for the fridge and 5°F for the freezer
  • Freezers used for long-term storage should be maintained at 0° F
  • These recommended temperatures aren’t just important for energy savings, but they’re critical for securing food safety

2. Ensure that your fridge is positioned in a cool place that also allows for sufficient air circulation behind it

  • Place your fridge/freezer away from heat sources such as a dishwasher, oven, or even away from a window that receives direct sunlight
  • Be sure to leave a few inches between the wall and the refrigerator in order to allow heat to be more easily released

3. Make sure the refrigerator seals around the door are airtight

  • Your fridge could be wasting a significant amount of energy if the seals are worn or loose
  • To check this, close the door over a piece of paper or a dollar bill so it is half in and half out. If you can easily pull out the paper or bill, you may need to adjust the latch or replace the rubber seal around the door

4. Ensure proper maintenance of your unit

  • Clean your refrigerator condensers every 12 weeks by moving your unit away from the wall and vacuuming the condenser coils, which remove warmth from the unit. If these coils start to get dusty, they will start working twice as hard as they are meant to, causing heightened energy consumption
  • Frost build up decreases your unit’s energy efficiency, so remember to regularly defrost it manually. Frost should not build up more than one-quarter of an inch
  • Label and date leftovers and regularly check your unit for expired items

5. Turn off the ice maker

  • If your refrigerator has this feature, consider turning it off and using good old-fashioned ice trays instead. Automated ice makers are said to increase a refrigerator’s energy usage by 14-20 percent!

6. Practice other smart habits, including:

  • Allowing hot food to cool before placing it inside your refrigerator or freezer
  • Opening your refrigerator and/or fridge less frequently. Keep your fridge/freezer organized so that you know where specific items are located and try to decide what it is that you want from your fridge before you open it
  • Covering foods (including liquids) stored in the refrigerator/freezer. Foods that are left uncovered release moisture and cause the compressor to have to work harder
  • Keep your fridge and freezer full – this helps increase energy efficiency as there is less air to cool due to the space taken by food. Be careful not to overfill your appliance as this will hinder air circulation. It’s recommended to keep it three-quarters full
  • Don’t store things on top of your fridge. This could block heat from escaping and cause the compressor to work harder than it’s supposed to
  • Understand what needs to be refrigerated – some items are happiest at room temperature, such as bananas, tomatoes, apples, and most condiments.

Be Energy Efficient Today

By following these easy tips to increase the efficiency of your refrigerator, you can reduce your energy usage and your overall environmental impact. If you’re looking for other ways to reduce your environmental, be sure to visit the About portion of our website to learn about our eco-conscious energy and natural gas services, as well as our many sustainability initiatives.