Is Your Refrigerator Running… On Too Much Energy?

What’s stuffed full of food and constantly running?  Nice try, but nope, not me… I meant your refrigerator.  Like all things that heat or cool, refrigerators are incredibly power-hungry.  But unlike, say, an air conditioner, your refrigerator is on all year long, cycling on and off 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day… and let’s not even talk about all the times you stand there with the door hanging open, letting all the cold air out, hoping something wonderful like ice cream will magically appear.

If your refrigerator is more than 10 years old, it’s inefficient enough to be worth replacing without much more thought (refrigerator makers were required to meet higher efficiency standards as of 2002).  But even if you have a spanking-new fridge from the TopTen USA list of most efficient products, there are ways to minimize the energy waste and maximize the efficiency of the one who’s responsible for most of the delicious things in your life:

  • Store it in a cool, dark place If you have a choice about placing your refrigerator, keep it out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources such as ovens, radiators or heating vents, and dishwashers.
  • Don’t waste its time Standing with the door open searching for your food wastes your time and the refrigerator’s energy.  Organize its contents and minimize the number of times you open the door.  (There is no ice cream here.  Step AWAY from the refrigerator.)
  • Let the door close comfortably If you went a little wild at the grocery store and crammed everything into the fridge anyway, chances are the door isn’t closing properly.  Take that extra minute to rearrange the shelves and make sure the door shuts all the way, on its own.  If you have to throw your shoulder into it or kick it, that doesn’t count.
  • Let your hot food cool Even the ever-so-cautious USDA says your cooked food is safe on the counter for at least an hour—that’s long enough to let it cool to room temperature, which spares your fridge a lot of extra work.
  • Thaw frozen foods in the fridge They’ll help cool the fridge as they defrost, and as an added bonus, this is much better for food safety anyway.
  • Take its temperature The refrigerator compartment should be kept between 36°F and 38°F, and the freezer compartment between 0°F and 5°F.  Test at least twice a year.
  • Switch off its heater Oxymoron?  Ever heard of a refrigerator heater?  Many refrigerators actually have small heaters built into their walls to prevent moisture from condensing on the outer surface.  Inefficient?  I’d say so!  On many units, this heater can be turned off with the energy-saver or power-saver switch.  So unless you have noticeable condensation, flip that switch!
  • Watch for leaky doors As the seal or gasket around the door ages, it may begin to sag or gap.  And botox really isn’t an option here.  Use a dollar bill to test whether air is escaping; if the bill slides easily in and out of the door, you’ll be spending that dollar and quite a few more on wasted energy.  Have the seal replaced.

Ready to consider a new model?  Consult TopTen USA’s website for lists of the ten most efficient extra-large, large, and medium-sized refrigerators.  They’ll save you money in the long run, so you can go out and buy all the ice cream you want.  As long as you keep that door closed.


Mark Bill
Past Member 2 years ago

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Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton5 years ago


Zazgyva A.
Zazgyva A5 years ago


Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

K s Goh
KS G6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Brian Drake
Brian Drake6 years ago


Rosie Lopez
Rosie Lopez6 years ago

Great article thanks!!

Brian M.
Past Member 6 years ago

Our landlady refuses to replace the seal on our fridge. Good article, nonetheless.

Elizabeth P.
.6 years ago

many thanks!