You might think there’s not much you can do about the electricity costs of your Refrigerator. You can’t live without one, and you can’t turn it off. But if your refrigerator has been with you for a long time, it may be the case that a new one will pay for itself in just a few years. And if you have a new, efficient model, there are still a few tweaks that can help you make it as efficient as possible.
Energy Efficient Refrigerators are the New Normal
In the 20th century, it was fairly easy to make a ballpark estimate of refrigerator Energy consumption because refrigerators weren’t changing much from year to year. But refrigerator energy efficiency has progressed rapidly in the last two decades, and most of today’s models use 25 percent or less of the energy consumed by the refrigerators of the 1970s.
Since refrigerators can sometimes keep running for decades themselves, there are all sorts of fridges in today’s kitchens — from ancient energy hogs to modern marvels of efficiency. So if you’re curious about how much your fridge is costing you, one of the biggest clues is its manufacturing date.
The Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR program built a tool around this trend to help encourage homeowners to plan for refrigerator replacement. You can use ENERGY STAR’s Flip Your Fridge calculator to quickly estimate how much you might be able to save by replacing your refrigerator with a modern ENERGY STAR refrigerator. All you need to know is your refrigerator’s approximate model year and size, plus your electricity retailer’s kWh rate (look on your monthly bill).
But if you want a more accurate picture of what your current fridge is costing you each month, that’s easy, too.
How to Estimate Your Refrigerator’s Annual Electricity Cost
Since 1980, appliance manufacturers have been required to participate in the Energy Guide program. Those black and yellow labels you see on every appliance sold at retail are designed to make it easy for shoppers to estimate electrical consumption costs before they decide what to buy.
If you saved all the original documentation that came with your refrigerator, you may still have the Energy Guide Label. If not, find your refrigerator’s model number by looking for a label on the back or behind the kickplate on the lower front. Once you have the model number, you may be able to look up the Energy Guide information on the manufacturer’s website or obtain it by contacting their customer service department.
The most important thing the Energy Guide label will tell you is the estimated annual electricity use in kilowatt hours, or kWh. The label will also give you an estimated yearly operating cost, but this figure is based on the national average electricity rate. You’ll get a better estimate by checking your exact electricity rate on your bill and multiplying it by the kWh total you find on the Energy Guide label.
Energy Saving Refrigerator Tips
You might be able to make a huge leap in energy efficiency by upgrading to a modern ENERGY STAR refrigerator, but there are lots of free and cheap hacks you can use to get a little more out of the fridge you already own:
- Keep it clean. About every three months, pull the refrigerator away from the wall and dust the coils on the back of the fridge. Remove and wash the kickplate from the front of the fridge, if applicable, and use a long, thin duster or brush to clean underneath. When your fridge breathes easier, it uses less energy.
- Check your temperature. 37 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for the fridge, and 0 degrees is optimal for the freezer. If you’re using colder settings, you’re wasting energy.
- Seal it up. The rubber gaskets around your fridge and freezer doors are what keep cold air in. If you feel cold air leaking out, it may be worthwhile to replace the gaskets.
- Keep only cool food inside. If you have hot leftovers, let them cool on the counter before you put them in the fridge. You’ll save your refrigerator’s compressor from going into overdrive.
- Place it in a cool spot. Refrigerators expel hot air, and if the surrounding air is also hot, it must work harder to do so. The best place to put a refrigerator is in the kitchen’s coolest corner, away from the oven or big, sunny windows.
Whether you’re ready to upgrade or just want to tweak your energy consumption, you’re doing the right thing for your wallet and the planet. Make like your fridge and stay cool.