Energy Performance of Your Refrigerator and How to Improve It

Regardless of the age or sophistication of your refrigerator, it is how you use it that can meaningfully affect its performance and potential. To interpret the famous quote of Albert Einstein “Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work.”, you can make the best use of your current refrigerator if you learn simple rules and make sure you stick to them. Even better, albeit more challenging, is teaching those rules to your kids. By using your refrigerator sensibly such as by turning it off when you are absent, energy efficiency of your fridge can be maximized, resulting in important benefits such as lower power bills.

The first rule of improved efficiency is that there must be order in the refrigerator. Top shelf is the warmest one and therefore best suited for storing breads, wine and pastry. Middle shelf is suited for storing prepared foods such as cakes, cooked foods, cheese, yoghurt and sauces. Lower shelf is the coldest and therefore ideal for storing meat and fish. Fruits and vegetables are stored in the bottom drawer that prevents the loss of moisture. The upper part of the door is suited for storing eggs, butter and cheese while lower part is suited for drinks, cans and other bottled beverages such as milk.

For the optimum functioning, cold air in the fridge must circulate. Too much food will obstruct the air circulation. How to tell if the fridge is overcrowded? Simply, by paying attention to how foods are placed in the fridge. Are there too many items that are placed on top of each other? Are foods touching the back wall? If yes, the refrigerator is overcrowded.

Another rule to stick to is that all foods must be tightly covered. Food should be stored in closed containers, so it doesn’t release or receive moisture and unwelcome odors. Why is that important? Uncovered foods that release moisture will make the compressor work harder, and there’s the unnecessary waste of energy. Obviously, you can store your makeup and medicines if you make sure everything is closed tight. Life of homemade cosmetics such as face-masks and cleansers can be significantly extended by refrigeration.

The temperature must be carefully set and monitored. The energy efficiency guru, Rik DeGunther, says that recommended temperatures are 37–40°F for the refrigerator, and 5° F for the freezer. Long-term freezer storage (deep freezers) should be set at 0°F.

energy efficient refrigerator

The recommended temperatures for the refrigerator are between 37–40°F.

Beware of “temperature intruders”. Hot temperature will interfere with the internal temperature of the fridge and will cause bacteria to thrive. Both obstruct the energy performance. Storing the hot soup, for example, should wait until it cools off.  Kids learn early that chocolate pudding is best served cold, but they should be instructed (a lesson in both patience and efficiency) why they must wait before they put fresh off the stove pudding into the fridge or freezer.

Seals should be clean and tight. If they’re leaking, your fridge is wasting up to 25% of energy. If dirt isn’t the issue and you can’t replace the weak seal, apply some silicon sealant instead.

Think carefully about the location of your fridge. This could be tricky, because your sense of aesthetics might be in conflict with the optimal spot energy-wise. Be aware, that energy savings can be achieved by placing your refrigerator in a cooler spot, away from direct sunlight and heat sources such as ovens and radiators.

A clean refrigerator is a happy refrigerator that will work its best. You may have heard how the ultimate way to improve performance of your refrigerator is to keep the coils clean. That’s true, but the inside also counts.

The best time to clean the fridge is when the kids are at your sister’s house or before you leave for longer periods of time and the fridge is emptied.

How to clean it: Use common sense: before cleaning, the refrigerator must be unplugged. For plastic and lacquered parts do not use harsh and abrasive cleaners. Instead, use a soft cloth and alcohol-based cleaners (window cleaners will work). Inside of the fridge is cleaned with the solution consisting of warm water, little dish soap and vinegar. When you finish, make sure you rinse well all washing solutions.

Coils in the back must be cleaned from the kitchen dust. It is best to use soft, non-metallic brush or the vacuum cleaner. Coils on the bottom of a refrigerator are greatly harder to get to than those on the back. Prepare to be astonished when you see how much dirt is accumulated behind your refrigerator.

Defrosting will keep the evaporator unit clean from thick layers of ice, allowing it to operate with maximum efficiency. All icy covers on the inside compromise the energy efficiency of the refrigerator and must be regularly cleaned. When doing this, don’t use sharp objects, solvents or sprays.

Common Symptoms (and Causes) of Refrigerator Inefficiency


  • You open the door too often and leave it open for too long
  • You placed hot foods into the fridge
  • Fridge is overcrowded (food is touching the back side of a refrigerator)
  • Weak door sealing (depending on the cause, the sealing can be cleaned, replaced or repaired)


  • Ambient temperature may be too high
  • You open the door too often and leave it open for too long
  • Weak door sealing
  • Excessive quantity of fresh foods
  • Insufficient cooling of compressor and condenser (check air circulation behind the unit and clean the condenser if needed.)

After air-conditioning and water heating, the refrigerator is the largest energy-user in your home. This cool appliance ensures the foods are kept at the right temperature (cold drinks in the summer included) and ultimately works towards your well-being. Treat it right. It will reward you by doing its job with full efficiency while not breaking the budget.

Image credit: Flickr


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