Refrigerators use one-sixth of a home's energy. You can set the temperature as high as 38° without spoiling food. Trade in a less efficient model for one with an "Energy Star" label, and you'll save 20-40% on energy use.
For food safety keep your refrigerator between 36° and 40° F and your freezer between 0° and 5° F. A refrigerator that is colder than safety dictates uses up to 25 percent more energy, and will freeze your milk and lettuce.
Unplug that spare refrigerator in the garage if you don't truly need it - this seemingly convenient way to keep extra drinks cold adds 10-25% to your electric bill.
Leave enough space between your refrigerator and the walls or cabinets so air can circulate around the condenser coils. Trapped heat increases energy consumption.
As your food budget permits, keep your freezer and refrigerator full-but not so full that air can't circulate. The mass of cold items inside will help your refrigerator recover each time the door is opened. Here's a hint: If your refrigerator is nearly empty, store water-filled containers inside.
Check door seals regularly to make sure they're airtight. To test them, close the door on a dollar bill and try to pull it out. (Larger bills are harder to come by, but work just as well!) If the dollar slides out easily, you're wasting energy and money.
Unless it has untold sentimental value, get rid of that older, energy-hogging second refrigerator in your garage! It's costing you about $120 a year to operate. One large refrigerator is cheaper to run than two smaller ones. (Warning: If you get rid of an older refrigerator or freezer, please dispose of it properly, and make sure the door is removed so children cannot be trapped inside.)
If you're thinking about purchasing a new refrigerator-freezer or a separate freezer, check the annual energy cost on the Energy Guide label to find the most economical buy.
Side-by-side refrigerators use approximately 7 percent to 13 percent more energy than similar-sized models with the freezer on top.
Chest freezers are typically more efficient than upright freezers, because they're better insulated and cold air doesn't spill out when the door is opened.
Brush or vacuum dirty refrigerator or freezer coils. You'll improve your appliance's efficiency by as 30 percent.
Look for a refrigerator with automatic moisture control. Models with this feature have been engineered to prevent moisture accumulation on the cabinet exterior without the addition of a heater. This is not the same thing as an "anti-sweat" heater. Models with an anti-sweat heater will consume 5% to 10% more energy than models without this feature.
To check refrigerator temperature, place an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator. Read it after 24 hours. To check the freezer temperature, place a thermometer between frozen packages. Read it after 24 hours.
Regularly defrost manual-defrost refrigerators and freezers; frost buildup increases the amount of energy needed to keep the motor running. Don't allow frost to build up more than one-quarter of an inch.
Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.