Conserving Your Fridge's Energy
Refrigerators use a lot of energy in a household. How do you use yours most efficiently?
One debate about refrigerator usage and energy conservation has to do with opening and closing the door. Did your parents ever tell you, "shut the fridge door; you'll let all the cold out"? Is this actually true? Let's find out.
Open or Shut: Which Is Better?
Everyone knows that leaving a refrigerator door open will warm up the contents and force the refrigerator to work harder in order to keep food cool. But if you open and close it a bunch of times (like when you are loading groceries, for example, or making a meal), are you actually conserving energy? Or does the act of opening release the suction and actually cause more cold air to escape than if you just left it open for a bit?
It turns out that this is a testable question.
How to Open a Refrigerator Door Most Efficiently
Portland General Electric conducts tests that are called "Switch Labs" and offers pro-energy-saving tips for consumers via articles and short videos. In one episode, they tested common refrigerator issues, including opening and closing the door or leaving it open.
The video demonstrates that, even with the loss of cold air in each release of suction when the door opens, it was better to shut the door and reopen it multiple times rather than leave it open.
The Switch Lab also found that keeping the door closed was the best way to save energy with your refrigerator, above and beyond keeping the refrigerator full, which did not seem to have too much effect either way on the overall energy usage.
The Answer: Close the Refrigerator Door!
So whether you are making dinner, unloading groceries, or searching for a snack, be sure to keep that refrigerator door closed. By keeping the door closed, you will reduce your electric bill and extend the life of your refrigerator. Keep it closed, and keep it cool!
Other Money-Saving Tips for Refrigerators
According to this appliance energy use chart, an old refrigerator ranks second, just below a water heater, in the amount of energy used in a year. So it is important to find ways to cut those costs and save energy.
Consider replacing an older model refrigerator.
The new models are more efficient than ever and may end up paying for themselves by reducing the yearly energy costs. The best type of refrigerator for energy efficiency is the one with a freezer on top. The freezer on the bottom is a very close second, and the side-by-side is the least efficient. An older unit might use about 150 kWh per month and cost about $21, while a newer energy-star-rated unit might use about 34.5 kWh and cost as little as $ 4.83 per month.
Clean the coils regularly.
Your refrigerator's coils are located at the back or bottom of your fridge. Dust and debris collects on the coils, reducing the fridge's energy efficiency and its ability to cool. You can save money on unnecessary repairs by keeping these clean and tidy. Dust the coils every few months—you can use a vacuum cleaner to complete the task quickly.
Don't put foods in the refrigerator until they are cool.
Part of the way that your refrigerator works is by using the coolness of the food items already in the refrigerator to maintain coolness. This is why your food will stay cool for a while during a power outage. But if you put a warm dish of food in there, it makes all the food around it warmer and the inside of the refrigerator warmer, increasing your overall energy usage. To save energy, let all food cool on the countertop before storing it in the fridge.
Brief History of Refrigeration
Refrigeration of some type has been around for several centuries. People put ice in in-house ice boxes to help keep food from spoiling. Big blocks of ice would be placed inside the box to keep food cool. Ice was delivered every few days to replace the melting block.
In the late 1800s, Carl von Linden invented a process to make gases into liquids, and this led the way for electric refrigerator units to become a part of everyday culture and use.
Even after Linden's discovery, ice boxes were still in wide use in the early part of the 20th century. While these old boxes that used actual ice may have been more energy efficient from an electricity perspective, they certainly were less reliable and harder to maintain.
Denise Day on August 22, 2020:
My husband and I argue constantly over leaving doors open on the fridge or the chest freezer,
I was bought up to shut the door no excuses.
28 YEARS on he still insists on leaving doors and lids open.HELP
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 24, 2014:
One thing I never think about is to clean the coils of my fridge. Out of sight, out of mind kinda thing. At least I'm doing the open and close properly!
Judy Specht from California on June 24, 2014:
Guilt. Last night when I couldn't sleep I used the refrigerator as a night light. During the day I am very efficient.
The Examiner-1 on June 23, 2014:
When the weather was cold I removed all of the food for each meal at once. Now that the weather is warm/hot I go into the fridge twice instead of all at once.
When I bring home groceries I prepare them for the freezer and fridge. Then I open one door at a time and pack the groceries in as fast as possible to close the door. I gave this a thumbs up and shared it.