How to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Your Refrigerator

If your refrigerator was made before 1993, it consumes almost twice as much electricity as today’s Energy Star Models. While from an energy savings standpoint we should really should replace our old refrigerators, it’s not always practical nor affordable for families to do so. For those of us who have a sentimental attachment to Grandma’s old 1950s GE refrigerator or perhaps can’t quite afford to replace our old refrigerators just quite yet, there is a way to make these older units more energy efficient.


Is your refrigerator located near a dishwasher, oven, heater vent, or near a sunny window? The heat generated from these sources can cause a refrigerator to work overtime. You can improve your energy efficiency by moving the refrigerator away from these heat sources and into a cooler part of the kitchen.

Regular defrosting and vacuuming

My old 1950 GE needs to be defrosted once a month to keep working at peak efficiency. For older styles of refrigerators, a good rule of thumb to follow is to defrost the freezer unit when there is more than a 1/2 inch of ice build up.

After the freezer compartment has been defrosted and wiped dry, the refrigerator should be pulled away from the wall and the coils vacuumed of dust and cobwebs. Keeping the coils clean and dust free will improve the air circulation and lower energy use.

Proper air circulation

The air that is warmed up by the condenser coils needs a place to escape. Instead of pushing the refrigerator up against the wall, it’s best to place it a few inches away from the wall instead. If your refrigerator fits tightly into a cabinet, avoid using the top of the refrigerator as storage for place mats, boxes of cereal, or other items. These items can block the escape of the hot air that has been generated from the condenser.

Working seals

The seal is the rubber liner that fits around the edge of the refrigerator door and keeps the cold air inside where it belongs. The seal should be free of cracks and must fit snugly against the refrigerator box when the door is closed. Loose or broken seals means the loss of cool air and a condenser that is running full time to keep food at the proper temperature.

Keep the door shut

Even worse than a broken seal is the constant opening and shutting of the refrigerator door. To lower your energy use, you may have to retrain both you and your family to open the refrigerator only during meal preparation and snack times.

While the best solution to lowering your energy consumption is by replacing that old refrigerator with a new model, these easy tips will help you reduce your energy use in the meantime.

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