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How much is your fridge costing you?

A fridge is the single biggest power consumer in many households, because nearly all households have at least one fridge and they run for 24 hours a day.

You may have to keep your fridge and freezer running all the time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reduce the amount of electricity it takes to run it.

Keeping food fresh–while conserving energy–can bring a helpful boost to the strained food budget. Here are ten tips to make sure you’re using the least amount of energy possible on your fridge.

1. Fill the freezer, but give the fridge some air

The freezer works most efficiently when packed as full as possible. Need to fill in some space? Tuck extra ice for cold drinks or cold-packs for summer picnics into any empty space in the freezer. A black-out bonus: full freezers keep food frozen longer if a power outage occurs.

The refrigerator is a different animal; it needs air circulation to keep food at an even temperature.

Packing a refrigerator too tightly means some foods become too cold–and may even freeze–while others aren’t kept cold enough for proper storage. Let the refrigerator breathe to keep food fresh longer.

Try to keep it about 2/3rds full, without overcrowding.Your fridge and freezer will use a lot of energy to replace all the cold air that flows out every time someone opens the door. By keeping the fridge and freezer at least 2/3 full, only 1/3 or less of that air can leak out. This is especially important if you and your family frequently open the doors. 

2. Match foods to the right microclimate

Since hot air rises and cold air sinks–and because every refrigerator has its own unique weather pattern of chilly breezes–be sure to assign foods to the right neighborhood inside the refrigerator.

A cold spot near the cold-air inlet makes a good home for meat or poultry, but will freeze and spoil a head of lettuce.

Keep produce cool, condiments cold and proteins downright chilly for longest food life.

3. Don’t put hot food straight in.

When putting food inside your fridge or freezer, allow it to cool down naturally first. The less work your fridge-freezer has to do, the less energy it will use.

4. Peek, grab and close.

Don’t leave the door open when taking food out. The longer the door is open, the more cold air escapes, and the more energy is needed to reduce the temperature again once the door is closed.

5. Track temperatures

A thermometer can be a key to saving money in refrigerator or freezer. Too-cold temperatures waste energy, while too-warm temps lead to premature food spoilage.

Make sure you don’t have the temperature turned down too low. Refrigerators shouldn’t be set any lower than 5ºC, while freezers should be  -18ºC.

Be sure to pay attention when the seasons change; a temperature setting that works well for the winter months may need to be adjusted during hotter weather.

6. Keep an eye on frost build up.

If your freezer requires manual defrosting, then make sure you defrost it regularly. The more ice your freezer has in it, the more energy it uses. If the ice around the inside is more than 1cm thick, you need to defrost it.

7. Use frozen food to your advantage

If you are thawing food from the freezer, put it inside the fridge. This helps keep the fridge cool without using energy to do it.

8. Allow for ventilation

Make sure your fridge-freezer has plenty of room around it for air to circulate, and keep it away from any external sources of heat, including direct sunlight.

If you store a bunch of stuff on the top and sides of your fridge, it’ll keep your fridge working harder to get rid of the hot air that is created by the cooling process. So keep it clearer, and it’ll work more easily and use less electricity.

9. Check the condenser coils for dust.

Condenser coils do the heavy lifting of creating cold air, but they can’t radiate heat properly if their surface is coated with dust or grime.

If they are dusty, turn the fridge-freezer off and use a coil brush or the vacuum cleaner to clean the condenser coils behind or beneath the refrigerator. Clean your condenser coils 2-3 times per year.

Clean coils cost less to operate, and because they work more quickly to chill the air, keeping them clean will extend the useful life of your appliance.

10. Make sure that the seals on the door are working properly.

If you have condensation on the outside of your fridge-freezer, that’s a sure sign that you need to get the seals replaced.

Leaky door seals are a main culprit for energy loss in both refrigerator and freezer. Improperly-sealed doors let cold air escape, making the unit work harder and cutting food quality.

Check door seals with the “paper” test. Close the refrigerator or freezer door on a piece of paper. A well-sealed door will hold tight to the paper; if the paper falls out, or can be slid around easily, it’s time to clean or replace the seals.

To track how much energy your fridge, freezer, or any appliance is using with a carbonTRACK smart plug.