Cool tips for fridges and freezers: Save energy with your chilly appliances

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Fridges and freezers are energy hungry appliances. Use these tips to reduce their thirst for power.

Appliances use around a third of a typical Australian household’s energy, and fridge-freezers account for over half of that. Fridges must be run 24 hours a day and maintain a consistent temperature 20℃ lower than the ambient temperature. That is exhausting.

Fridge and freezers

  • Location, location, location — A fridge is there to keep your food cold and at a consistent temperature. Placing it in a day-long sunny spot or next to the oven must, or should, have poor feng shui. The fridge or freezer will have to work harder to maintain its temperature and use more energy doing so.
  • Size matters — A larger fridge will indeed require more cooling and more energy. They also cost more in price and space. Make sure you select the best size fridge for your needs. The fridge’s interior is a space for fresh food, not so much a wasteland of long-forgotten leftovers.
  • Energy Rating system — Most fridges and freezers have the Energy Rating system. The Energy Rating system makes it simpler to choose an efficient device. Energy RatingIt takes into account and adjusts for the unique features of each fridge, volume, and many other considerations. It might be a good idea to take the products’ Energy Ratings into consideration when purchasing a fridge, freezer, or any applicable appliance. Generally, for every extra star, there is a 23% drop in energy reduction in fridges. A low cost fridge or freezer will run all day and all night for years, and if it has poor energy rating it can drive up its ultimate cost. Recently, the star system has incorporated another 4 stars for super efficient products and can now have a total 10 star efficiency. As mentioned, chest freezers are more efficient, and as such they have a ‘re-calibrated’ star system, i.e. a 3 star upright freezer and a 3 star chest freezer — the chest freezer will be more efficient.
  • Optimal efficiency — To make sure you’re getting the most out of your fridge, keep it well maintained. This means vacuuming the back of the fridge to remove efficiency-dampening dust. It also means increasing the available space around the fridge for ventilation so it doesn’t cook itself. It is a fridge, after all.
  • Closeability — Seals decay (both the animal and the electrostatic phenomenon), and eventually call to be replaced. There are many companies happy to do the rounds of your residence and repair all of your limp seals. Also on fridge door closeability, uneven legs can result in your fridge door sitting ajar. This lets the cold air out, equilibrating the temperature with the room, causing the fridge to burn more energy to cool down once more. Adjust the fridge legs to make sure the door closes independently.

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*Based on Baseline Energy Estimates 2008.

  • Repeated openings or a single prolonged open — Repeated openings are much more energy efficient than one prolonged look. It is true that opening the door causes pressure differences that force cold air out and warm air into the fridge, but due to the small cavity of the fridge, it takes a while for the air flow to remove all the cold air. The longer you keep the door open, the more chance the innards have to completely warm up. This advice is the complete opposite if you’re dealing with a chest-shaped fridge or freezer such as those that keep ice blocks or fishbait.
  • Freezer model — For standalone freezers, you should strive for the chest variety with the lift-up lid. For fridge-freezer combos it is best to get ones with the freezer compartment up the top, rather than the bottom — this is more energy efficient.
  • Fullness — There is a nice balance to stuffing your fridge and freezer. You want your fridge to be around 2/3 full and a freezer at least 3/4 full. Stuff them too full, though, and it reduces air circulation around the items, a stuff up that leaves you with über chilly items nearest the cooling system. Not only do empty freezers operate less efficiently, but they are filled with more cold air and so opening them up can let slip the fogs of storage.
  • Hot plates — Putting hot or warm food into the fridge is one of the most energy consumptive tasks for a fridge. Let food cool down to room temperature beforehand.
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