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Ten top tips to reduce the cost of running your fridge-freezer

Posted by Ross Lammas on 26 October 2012 at 10:57 am

Virtually every modern appliance we use runs on electricity, but the biggest consumer is the refrigerator. Fridges and freezers are found in almost every single home in the country, and they collectively use over £1.2 billion worth of electricity each year.

Refrigerators require so much energy because they’re always switched on. This is unavoidable, but there are several things you can do to reduce the energy consumption of your fridge-freezer:

1. Try to keep it as full as possible, without overcrowding. Your fridge or freezer will operate more efficiently the more it has inside it, because keeping air cold uses more energy than refrigerating food.

2. When putting food inside your fridge or freezer, allow it to cool down naturally first. The less work your fridge-freezer has to do, the less energy it will use. 

3. Don’t leave the door open when taking food out. The longer the door is open, the more cold air escapes, and the more energy is needed to reduce the temperature again once the door is closed.

4. Make sure you don’t have the temperature turned down too low. Refrigerators shouldn’t be set any lower than 5ºC, while freezers should be  -18ºC.

5. If your freezer requires manual defrosting, then make sure you defrost it regularly. The more ice your freezer has in it, the more energy it uses. If the ice around the inside is more than 1cm thick, you need to defrost it.

6. If you are thawing food from the freezer, put it inside the fridge. This helps keep the fridge cool without using energy to do it.

7. Make sure your fridge-freezer has plenty of room around it for air to circulate, and keep it away from any external sources of heat, including direct sunlight.

8. Check the condenser coils for dust – this reduces their efficiency, so if they are dusty, turn the fridge-freezer off and give them a quick clean.

9. Make sure that the seals on the door are working properly. If you have condensation on the outside of your fridge-freezer, that’s a sure sign that you need to get the seals replaced.

10. If you are looking to buy a new fridge or freezer, make sure you get one that is marked with the Energy Star – the global indicator of energy efficiency.

Update: 11. Find out when it's time to replace your fridge using Sust-it's really easy slider system (ed).

Follow these tips, and not only will you reduce your carbon footprint, you’ll reduce your energy bill too.

Updated on 29 October 2012, figures changed to celsius in point 4.

About the author: Ross Lamas is founder of sust-it.

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


DuncanComment left on: 5 November 2012 at 9:45 am

Has anybody tried the energy save plugs that are 'recommended' for fridges  ?

One I've read  "reduces the flow of electricity to match the load" once the motor/compressor is running?? Another I read off causes a 'slow start' of the motor, it then gradually ramps up to full power which reduces the overall consumption.

Do either of these actually work/have potential to work and is there any gain and over how long after buying them?


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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 31 October 2012 at 4:05 pm

You might want to read this article on voltage optimisation before you follow jmcclean's suggestion

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jmccleanComment left on: 31 October 2012 at 3:55 pm

Another possibility is to instal a Voltage Optimiser (eg. a Vphase) which ensures that voltage is stabilised at 220 Volts as opposed to frequently high voltages of 240 volts and even above. According to the manufacturers and to those PV firms which instal them this would result in around a 10% reduction in electricity consumption. Savings on fridge/freezers are claimed to be about 18%. Might be worth investigating. Costs (though not consumption) can be further reduced by using the cheap night time tariff (i.e. Economy 7). Then run appliances like dishwashers and washing machines overnight. That is a big saving. We use 70% of our electricity at the cheap rate.

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Ross Lammas

Ross Lammas from Comment left on: 29 October 2012 at 9:41 am

Apologises for using Fahrenheit, 70° is still a nice temperature to me! Changed it to Celsius now.

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aquadesmoComment left on: 26 October 2012 at 3:15 pm

"Refrigerators shouldn’t be set any lower than 36-38 degrees, while freezers should only be on 0-5 degrees."   Aren't we all on Celsius these days?  For optimal storage of frozen foods, the Food Standards Agency supports most manufacturers' recommendations of -18C for the freezer.

A target of 4C for the fridge is fairly standard and provides a good shelf-life balanced against accidental freezing.

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