Ways to Save Energy- And Money- On Refrigeration and Freezing
By Anthea Hudson
Keeping foods cold or frozen is often almost a necessity in modern society, especially in warmer climates, and it is also a significant source of a household's energy use.
One of the best starting points in making a saving in how much energy you use for this purpose, is by having modern, energy efficient appliances. However, this is quite a large financial outlay and not a practical move for everyone in the short term.
So what can we do to make the most of whatever fridge or freezer we have?
Fridge and Freezer energy sense tips
- Run your fridge at the correct temperature- between 3-5 C. Any colder and it will use more energy (about 5% for each degree) as well as freezing things you don't want frozen, such as lettuces and tomatoes. Any warmer and you risk foods spoiling faster and bacteria growth developing sooner in some things. Don't forget to re-check the temperature of your fridge in different weather, as you may need to adjust it for hotter or colder conditions.
- If possible, locate your fridge away from ovens, heaters, direct sunlight and walls that tend to get hot. No point making the fridge work harder than it already has to!
- Make sure door seals are working properly, or cold air will escape.
- Check doors are aligned so that they close properly on release. Your fridge needs to be level for doors to operate properly. Creating a family habit of always checking the door closed properly is a good idea.
- Make sure food items are placed so they they don't hamper the door closing, such as items sticking out over the shelf level, or in places which clash with items stored in door shelves, or that the veggie crisper or any other similar door or tray isn't properly in place.
- Give your fridge room to "breath", with space on all sides, so that it can better dispose of the heat it produces. If it is located in a purpose build alcove, which doesn't allow much space, try to create ventilation, especially above, by drilling large holes or inserting a vent grill in the cupboard above. Remember not to store any heat or moisture sensitive items in the cupboard after doing this.
- Especially in hot weather, make some kind of plan for what you need to get from the fridge to prepare a meal, and do it in a single go, rather than opening the door several times, allowing cold air to escape each time.
- Teach kids (and big kids!) not to just open the fridge to "see if there's anything they want" If they really have trouble remembering what's there that they can have, make a list that you keep on the door by magnet. You can even record in which shelf or area the item is located, if you wish, so that it speeds up the process further. In theory, this also means items can be returned to their proper place, which means you don't have to search amongst all kinds of things when someone puts something back in an odd location. Also encourage family to cross off items if they finish them. This will save fruitless searches of the fridge for the item (and prolonged door open time) as well as helping you make your shopping list!
- A full fridge is a happy fridge. Cold items help keep everything colder and there is also less vacant air for the fridge to have to re-cool each time the door is open. If your fridge tends to be fairly sparsely packed, try filling in areas with bottles of water, or keep extra bottles of juice or other beverages in there... then you will have the added advantage of plenty of cold drinks ready if the need suddenly arises.
- Allow foods to cool at least for a while before placing them in the fridge. You don't want to leave them out for an extended time, or dangerous bacteria may take hold, but naturally the hotter the food, the more effort it is for the fridge to cool it down. Always keep food covered during the cool down process, to help keep out bacteria, dust, insects... and maybe even the cat or dog! Try to discourage others from dipping fingers in to taste, or pulling bits off, as the more handing the food gets, the more likely it is to get contaminated.
- Apart from the safety aspect of defrosting food in the fridge, this can also save your fridge work, as the frozen food helps cool the air.
- If your fridge isn't auto defrost, make sure you keep it defrosted and don't allow ice to build up, or your fridge will not operate as efficiently.
- If you are going away for an extended period, consider emptying your fridge and turning it off, rather than having it continue to use its significant share of energy for little value. Make sure you leave the door propped open though, so mould doesn't grow. Be cautious if there will be pets in the home while you are away- make sure the door is securely held open, so that they can't accidentally become trapped inside if the door closes.
- If you have a second (or more) fridge, even a bar fridge, unless u really need them both, turn one off, or at least for the times of year you don't really make good use of it. Unless you have a large family, or other serious need for a second one, is it an extravagance you REALLY need and are willing to pay for? Since refrigeration can be responsible for around 10% of your power bill, doubling it by running a second fridge is a significant cost.
- Keep coils on older models clean, dirty coils make unit have to work harder, can dramatically increase costs. Turning the fridge off before wiping down the coils is recommended.
Cheaper Electricity - How to Clean Your Refrigerator and Save Money!
- As for fridges, the ideal temperature is key. Around -15 and -18 is recommended.
- Once again, seals in good order and keep the unit clean.
- Keep away from hot spots, as per fridges.
- Check that your freezer is running at a fairly constant temperature and not fluctuating out of the range you want it to operate within. If ice cream becomes full of ice crystals, or loose feeling packs of frozen veggies become solid lumps, it may indicate your freezer is partially thawing and refreezing, which can be dangerous as it can allow bacteria to grow.
- As with the fridge, plan what you need to take from your freezer rather than make several trips. Once again, having a list and some kind of record as to what is stored where, can save time and loss of cold air. If you date your entries too, this will help you keep track of what needs to be used by when, and crossing them off once used will again help with your shopping list.
- Vertical freezers, while good for access, allow more cold air to escape, as the cold air naturally falls. Freezers with solid drawer fronts tend to keep the cold in better than open racks or drawers. Chest freezers won't lose cold air as fast, as the cold air is naturally settling in their depths, but aren't as convenient for access. However, both will lose cold air each time they are opened.
- Don't freeze hot foods. Follow safety procedures for room cooling, then if you have time, even further cool in fridge to lessen the impact on your freezer. When you initially place unfrozen items in the freezer, scatter them rather than clump them, as this makes less work for the freezer to freeze them.
- Defrost when needed to allow optimum operation. This is best done when the freezer is low on supplies, and preferably on a cool day, as you have to keep the removed food as close to frozen as you can to avoid deterioration and possible bacteria growth. Freeze some ice packs in preparation, and place everything in eskies, cold bags or wrap up well in a thick quilt or blankets.
How To Defrost A Freezer
These principles can be applied to make an older model work more efficiently, or help even further with an energy efficient model.
For more information about energy efficient appliances visit http://www.energyrating.gov.au/