Refrigerator Redux: How to Put Your Electric Bill on Ice


With families across the country struggling to economize, the electricity bill looms as a great place to cut expenditures. While unplugging laptops and installing compact fluorescent bulbs can certainly help trim your power bill, those items only account for a fraction of the average household's electricity expenditure. To really cut down, you'll need to take on one of the biggest energy suckers in your home: the refrigerator.

According to the Department of Energy, refrigerators use more electricity than any other kitchen appliance. In fact, with over 51% of the average home kitchen's electrical expenditure going into the fridge, it actually consumes more than all other kitchen appliances combined. In terms of total household energy costs, the refrigerator accounts for almost 14% of the average electrical bill, which puts it right behind the No. 1 item for electricity usage: air conditioning.

But unless you live in an igloo, a refrigerator is pretty much a necessity. So how can you save on your electrical bill without consigning yourself to a life of canned soup and tuna fish?

The most obvious solution is to throw away your old fridge and pick up one with an Energy Star rating. Energy star refrigerators use half the electricity of models manufactured before 1993, 40% less than models made in 2001, and 15% less than current government regulations require. Then again, a new refrigerator is pricey, and while spending hundreds of dollars to save a few dollars per month may make sense in the long term, it won't really help you cut your expenses today. Luckily, there are a few other things you can do to cut your fridge's power bill right now:

Check Door Seals: As refrigerators get older, their door gaskets often develop holes or become brittle, which translates to an incomplete seal that lets out cold air. Luckily, a basic cleaning and inspection can tell you if your seal is working. If it's not, you can probably find a replacement at your local hardware store, and installation is a snap.

To begin, clean your refrigerator gasket: Mildew can speed up the decay process and can hide holes. Gently stretch out the seal and use a mix of baking soda and water to sponge out any dirt or mildew that has collected in its ridges. Inspect the seal to see if it has any holes. After the seal dries off, perform the paper test: Simply close a sheet of paper in the door and try to pull it out. If the door seals don't hold the paper snugly, they may be letting out cold air.

Keep It Cool: Outside heat sources can warm up your refrigerator, making it work harder -- and use more electricity. If possible, position your refrigerator away from windows, ovens and dishwashers. You also might want to make sure that there's some space all the way around your refrigerator. If it's crowded up against walls, counters, or other appliances, air won't be able to freely circulate, which can also make your fridge work harder.

Cut Back: According to the Department of Energy, 17% of U.S. households have two or more refrigerators, and millions more have spare freezers. Second refrigerators and freezers are usually older than the main fridge, which means that they consume even more electricity. While buying in bulk can certainly save money, higher electricity bills can slash those savings. With that in mind, you might want to seriously consider just how much refrigerator space you really need, and whether or not you could get rid of those extra appliances.

Clean It Out: If the shelves in your refrigerator are packed with food, air will have a harder time flowing through, which can cut down on its energy efficiency. For that matter, it can be harder to find things in a packed refrigerator, which means that you'll end up with more containers filled with mold surprise. In other words, cleaning out your fridge won't just cut down on your electricity bill -- it could also cut your food bill.

Dirt on the outside of your refrigerator can cost you money, too. The coils in the back of the fridge are often neglected by even fastidious cleaners, and can become covered in dust bunnies and grime. This caked-on mess provides insulation, forcing your fridge to work harder to compensate. Clean off the coils and cut your costs!

Check the Temperature: Most experts agree that the optimum temperature for a refrigerator is between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If you've been getting ice crystals in your milk, consider turning up the temperature.

Taken individually, these minor changes aren't going to make all that much difference, but taken as a whole, they can really cut your electricity bill. And, if they don't work, there's always tuna fish and canned soup.

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Hey, Nj - NYC - PA - CT - MD is deregulated, I am purchaseing my electricity from a third party provider . I'm saving money and environment at the same time. I didn't sign any contracts- same bill from my utility co - same service from my utility co. - switch back any time no fees. My rates do fluctuate as of yet they were / are lower then the utilities rates every month. This co. has 20% green and 100% green, go with 20% green it gives you the most savings. I became a customer at WWW.GREENTWOGREEN.COM ... it took me three minutes to input my info. You need your old bill for POED # ... You will save money

April 27 2011 at 5:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What surprises me is that many people fail to realize that the DVR and cable boxes made by Motorola and are electricity hogs. These boxes are in many homes in our country. These are the boxes used by most cable companies such as Comcast, Verizon, etc. In one study, they are right behind the refrigerator in terms of power consumption. What is really sad is that our new TV's all have built in, we don't really need the box unless we want a DVR. The cable companies scramble the channels so that you are forced to use their box to receive all of the channels. Unfortunately, when the cable companies lobbied congress for HDTV, our congress failed to realize what was really being done. Many homes have two or three boxes. Due to the cable company continually passing and receiving information from the boxes, you can't really shut them off...unless you unplug it and then you have a long start-up period to reload the channels. Again, this isn't necessary...they could put internal memory in the box to retain the information. But, the cable companies aren't paying the power are.

April 27 2011 at 3:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to b2mach1's comment

The solution is simple. Dump cable.

May 02 2011 at 4:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

this doesn't really help people that live in apartments or rent their homes. You cant just go out and buy a new fridge when someone owns the one u have.

April 27 2011 at 2:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bon's comment

Yes, you can buy your own refrigerator. Just get the okay from the land lord if the apartment originally came with a refrigerator. The land lord may, or may not pay for part or all of the new refrigerator.

May 02 2011 at 12:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The picture up above of Whacky Bernanke looks like he is saving "Sure I steal !" . ;-)

April 27 2011 at 1:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Here we go with Bruce Watson and his copied articles on how to save money , telling us the same old stuff we have heard over and over again .
Note : There is so much excessive oil right now , they are having to start pumping it back into the ground .
The world has to much oil , just like diamonds if it was all released onto the open market it would be worth pennies on the dollar .

April 27 2011 at 1:42 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

With usage dropping why are electric bills rising! According to So Cal Edison the prices were raised to accomidate the money giveaway to the Solar industry. The solar Industry runs at a 400% loss and this is the only way to keep it going. Could this be the start of a Ponzi scheme.

April 27 2011 at 12:35 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Actually if you moved to the land of ice and snow you'd still need a refridgerator. Not everything in the ice box is frozen.

April 27 2011 at 11:00 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

A few years back, there weren't big screen TV's, and computers using a large amount of electric. They never mention about the wattage that a 52" inch screen TV uses, and they don't have the wattage listed in any of the purchase places, either.

April 27 2011 at 10:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ThinkUp70's comment

My 'big screen' TV uses a significantly LOWER amount of electricity than my old tube type (CRT) TV. So does my LCD w/LED backlit monitor on my computer. You can easily find out the wattage usage of most devices in your home by purchasing a Kill-A-Watt.

May 02 2011 at 4:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A little more info to think about- I live in Michigan between two nuclear plants. Our power comes from Ohio. Figure that one out!

April 27 2011 at 10:29 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Our State for years had many hydroelectric plants and electricity was cheap. All the hydroelectric plants were shut down and electricity was purchased by our two electric power companies from electric generators from out of state. No doubt this was some bureaucrats idea. The smarter we become, the dumber we get.

April 27 2011 at 10:04 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply