How to Increase the Efficiency of Your Home Refrigerator

Home Energy September 25, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Reviewed and Revised on 11/07/2013 

Even if you aren't able to replace your existing refrigerator with a new model, there are some things you can do that can help your refrigerator run more efficiently.


Even if you aren't able to replace your existing refrigerator with a new model, there are some things you can do that can help your refrigerator run more efficiently. Below are some energy saving ideas:

  • Check the temperature

For energy savings and food safety, experts state that ideal home refrigerator/freezer temperature is 37-40 degrees for the refrigerator and 5 degrees for the freezer. If you have a separate freezer, it should be 0 degrees.

  • Allow for air circulation

To allow air to circulate around the condenser coils, leave a space between the wall or cabinets and the refrigerator or freezer and keep the coils clean. This is very important as dust accumulation blocks heat release and makes the compressor run longer.

  • Inspect the door seals

Loose seals allow for air leakage. Refrigerators without magnetic seals can be checked for tightness using a dollar bill. Close the refrigerator door on a dollar bill so that it is between the seal and the unit. If the bill slides out easily, or falls out, your seal isn't tight. Be certain to check at the top, sides and bottom of the door. Door seals can be replaced.

  • Consider the unit's location

Position your refrigerator away from heat sources such as a heating vent, an oven, a range, a dishwasher, or direct sunlight from a window. The extra heat will make the compressor work harder. More importantly, there must be adequate circulation around the compressor and condensing coil so that heat can escape.

  • Defrost regularly

Manual defrost models use less energy than automatic defrost; however, in order to keep them running at maximum efficiency they should be defrosted regularly. When ice builds up inside the unit, it causes the compressor to run longer in order to keep the unit cool. This increases energy use.

  • Minimize openings

Opening and closing the refrigerator and freezer door allows cool air to escape. Know what you are going to get out of the refrigerator/freezer before opening. Help children make decisions as well.

  • Consider food storage

A full freezer operates more efficiently than one that isn't. When storing foods, make certain they are in tightly covered containers and allow foods and liquids to cool before putting in the refrigerator/freezer.

  • Drinking water

Use your water feature instead of drinking bottled water. It will save you money and help the environment at the same time.

  • Rethink the second refrigerator

Many families have a second refrigerator, usually located in a utility room, basement, or garage. While a second refrigerator may come in handy on occasion, it can be expensive to run -- especially if it is an older model. Think carefully about what you store in this refrigerator and determine if the extra storage for the items is worth the additional yearly cost ($100 or more) of running the unit.

Other related articles you might be interested in:

How to Recycle Your Old Home Refrigerator
Buying Energy Efficient Home Refrigerators and Freezers

See all Home Appliances and Electronics articles.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.