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Is your fridge an electricity-gobbling monster?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 22 November 2010 at 8:46 am

Did you know that 23% of domestic energy use comes from fridges? That's a big percentage of electricity bills. Aaargh! Is your fridge a guzzler?

Have you got an A++++ rated fridge? Well that's great, but it isn't the only way to lower the consumption of your fridge. The energy ratings system measures a fridge's energy use over a 24 hour period, in a lab. There's no food in it, and no one opens the door. So it's not entirely surprising that this doesn't necessarily reflect its performance in real life.

Conventional wisdom has it that how full your fridge is, and how often you open the door (and how long you leave it open) are what impacts most on a fridge's energy performance. Well Robert Furness who researched this as part of his MSc at the Centre for Alternative Technology's Graduate School of the Environment, found that has little effect on energy consumption.

Using his own fridge, he examined what affected its performance over a 600 hour period. He found two really significant impacts:

1. The difference between the temperature in the fridge and the temperature in the room. The greater the difference the harder the fridge has to work to keep cool.

2. The amount of (or lack of) air circulation around the fridge. The less air circulating, the more energy consumption.

Given these findings it may be time to rethink the convention of putting the fridge in your warm kitchen, tucked neatly out of sight under the worktop, and surrounded by cupboards. A cold larder area, with plenty of space around the fridge sounds ideal - but how many houses have space for that? Any other suggestions in the comments please...

Photo by terren in Virginia


If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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5 comments - read them below or add one


r7harringtonComment left on: 16 February 2013 at 9:37 pm


I have further insulated my fridge and freezer using the material for behind radiator panels.  The fridge is in the kitchen and my wife would go nuts if I made it look "hideous". Therefore I use the foil coated foam backed material and duck taped it at the back of the fridge by carefully unbolting the cooling element and sliding the material down.  I also insulated underneath and on top.  My assumption being that as the fridge stands about 6'3 my wife could not see any of these surfaces.  I used a power meter before and after for a number of days to make accurate measurements. I did similarly to my Freezer, but as it resides in the garage I coated all six sides with insulating material in similar fashion as my wife/guests don't see it. Both were A+ rating to begin with.

Anyway energy saving:

Fridge 21%

Freezer 38%

Not bad for about £4 outlay and about an hours work.

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 13 December 2010 at 9:30 am

Hi Kate

Yes, I've heard vacuuming the back is a good idea too. But not easy if, like me, you've got a built in fridge and freezer!

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KateWComment left on: 12 December 2010 at 5:58 pm

Aren't you meant to vacuum the back of the fridge (outside not inside!) from time to time to increase its efficiency?

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 25 November 2010 at 2:14 pm

Thanks for this - very useful.

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Anglia Energy AssessmentComment left on: 24 November 2010 at 11:43 am

Many people also have their refrigeration set at too low a temperature.

This is especially an issue where freezers are concerned.

The optimum temp range for domestic freezers is between -18 & -21 degreesC.

This is more than adequate for food storage of up to six months.

only if storing product beyond this shelf life should the temperatures be set lower.

Chiller storage/refridgeration should also be optimised to no lower than 5 degrees C - very much dependant on door control.

The less you open the lower the ingress of warm humid air

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