Refrigerators account for about 4% of monthly energy costs. Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Simple Steps to Maintaining Your Refrigerator

When you think of ways to reduce your monthly utility bills, you probably think of things like adding insulation, getting a heating and A/C tune up or installing energy efficient windows.  Your refrigerator probably doesn’t cross your mind; but it should. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, refrigerators account for up to 4 percent of the typical American household’s monthly energy costs.

Here are some simple steps you can take to ensure your refrigerator is operating at peak efficiency.

Clean the seals on a regular basis to prevent heat exchange from occurring. Dip a clean cloth or paper towel in warm soapy water and wipe all debris from the seals.  Be sure to inspect for cracks or tears, and replace any defective seals you find.

Make sure there is ample space between your refrigerator and the surrounding walls and cabinetry. A minimum of 2 inches between the refrigerator and other surfaces is recommended to allow for adequate air flow and prevent overheating which can cause the unit to work harder and use more energy than necessary.

You should also check the temperature efficiency of the refrigerator and freezer using an appliance thermometer. Appliance thermometers are available at your local hardware store or home improvement center.

To check the efficiency of the refrigerator, place an appliance thermometer in a cup of water inside the unit. Leave the thermometer in the refrigerator for a full 24 hours before checking the temperature. To check the efficiency of the freezer, place the appliance thermometer between packages of food inside the unit. Leave the thermometer undisturbed for 24 hours before taking a reading.

Make sure all food and beverage containers are properly closed and sealed to prevent moisture from accumulating inside your refrigerator. Excess moisture can cause the compressor to work harder than necessary.

If your refrigerator was manufactured prior to 1990, you should consider replacing it with a new energy efficient unit.  According to the Department of Energy, replacing your old unit with a new EnergyStar refrigerator can result savings of up to 40 percent on your monthly energy bills.

Have other energy-saving tips you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave a comment below.

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