Refrigerators use up to 4 percent of a household's energy each month, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. (See Reference 1) This amount can be reduced with a few simple steps to improve refrigerator efficiency -- these preventive measures can also lengthen the life of your refrigerator.
Wash the seals of the refrigerator doors with a sponge or cloth dipped into warm soapy water. Clean off all food, dust, dirt and other debris; these items can cause the seal to remain open, letting cold air leak from the refrigerator. The lost air must be replaced, so the refrigerator works harder, using more energy. Replace any broken seals.
Measure the space between the refrigerator and the counters, cabinets or surrounding walls. There must be a 2-inch clearance around the appliance, including the sides and back, to allow the heat generated from the compressor and coils to escape. Without that space, the heat would make it difficult to cool the refrigerator interior and could cause the refrigerator to break down from overheating.
Test the refrigerator and freezer temperature efficiency. Place an appliance thermometer in a cup of water and put the water inside the refrigerator; include enough water to get a proper temperature reading. Leave the cup and thermometer in the refrigerator for 24 hours before taking a reading. Measure the temperature in the freezer by placing an appliance thermometer between food packages inside; leave it there for 24 hours before reading the temperature. (See Reference 2)
Cover food inside the refrigerator to prevent moisture from causing the compressor to overwork. Make sure liquids have lids and that packages are properly closed.
Replace your refrigerator if it was made before 1990 -- newer units use much less energy thanks to improvements in technology, according to Energy Star. (See Reference 3) The DOE suggests upgrading a refrigerator made from 1990 to 2001 with a new energy efficient unit to experience a 40 percent energy savings on your monthly bills. (See Reference 2)
Defrost the refrigerator regularly to maintain energy efficiency. According to the DOE, more than 1/4 inch of frost can derail the efficiency of your refrigerator. (See Reference 2)
- An efficient refrigerator runs at a temperature between 37 F and 40 F. The best temperature for an efficient freezer is 5 F, according to the DOE. (See Reference 2)
Jonita Davis is freelance writer and marketing consultant. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including "The LaPorte County Herald Argus" and Work.com. Davis also authored the book, "Michigan City Marinas," which covers the history of the Michigan City Port Authority. Davis holds a bachelor's degree in English from Purdue University.