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An Efficiently Running Refrigerator

Updated on November 24, 2016
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Do you have a white elephant in your kitchen? Could be.

The white elephant in your kitchen you may see as your most needed appliance. This elephant, however, could be costing you money you could use elsewhere on a daily (no, an hourly) basis.

The elephant?

Your refrigerator.

How does this elephant cost you money needlessly? Listed below a few of the factors — some common to the refrigerators themselves and some depending on how you actually use your refrigerator — that determine how efficiently the appliance works.

Refrigerator temperature

In order for the food stored in a refrigerator to remain wholesome for extended periods, the appliance's internal temperature should top out (bottom out?) at about 37° to 40° Fahrenheit. A temperature any lower than this forces your refrigerator to consume more electricity, just to maintain that low temperature, than actually needed to keep food safe. This equates to money lost directly, through inefficiency.

To make sure your refrigerator maintains an optimal temperature, place a small thermometer inside and check the reading after a few hours. Adjust the refrigerator's temperature up or down accordingly.

Most any thermometer will work, but you can purchase a thermometer especially designed for refrigerators at your local hardware store or DIY outlet.


Doors on refrigerators and freezers have special gaskets placed where the doors meet the appliances. These gaskets create a tight seal that prevents leakage of warm, moisture laden air into the units — when they are working correctly, that is.

You can check for leakage in a couple of ways, each simple to follow:

1. Place a turned-on flashlight or battery-operated lantern inside the refrigerator, then close the door and look for light around its edges. Wherever light seeps through indicates a spot where the door's gasket fails to press tightly against the refrigerator.

2. Place a one-dollar bill at various places around the door and shut the door. If the bill falls out or pulls away freely, you can bet you've discovered a spot where the gasket can admit air into the refrigerator.

Keeping your refrigerator operating efficiently makes a lot of cents.

If you discover a possible leakage situation, you may need to purchase and install a new gasket. Work with a local appliance dealer on this or contact the refrigerator's manufacturer. The new gasket will come with full installation instructions; replacement should not take more than thirty minutes.

First, however, try this quickie solution to a leakage problem: Purchase a small jar of petroleum jelly and apply a thin coat of the jelly along the entire surface area of the refrigerator door's gasket. More than likely, the jelly will help the gasket create and maintain a seal around the door.


How you use your refrigerator also can determine the amount of electricity (and money) the unit consumes on a daily basis. Here are a few tips gleaned over the years by experts in the field and by common, ordinary experiences by homeowners.

Tip #1

First of all, make every effort to place items in the refrigerator in pre-determined spots each and every time you return from the supermarket. If you decide to place cartons of milk on the refrigerator door, do so each time you reload the refrigerator. Why? Because this habit helps ensure no one will keep the refrigerator door open longer than absolutely necessary in order to locate and remove a container of milk. The less time the refrigrator door remains open, the lower the amount of warm air that will enter the appliance, replacing cooler air.

A Well Kept Refrigerator
A Well Kept Refrigerator

Tip #2

Before opening the refrigerator door upon returning home from a grocery shopping trip, place all the items meant for the refrigerator on a counter near the appliance. Line them up in a logical order of selecting and placement. Then, when you open the door, you can quickly place the items in their proper places withough leaving the door open longer than absolutely necessary.

Tip #3

Conversely to the foregoing Tip, when you plan to remove food from the refrigerator, in readiness for meal preparation, for instance, make a mental list of those items you will require. Remove them all at once from the refrigerator so you won't have the door hanging open for lengthy periods or need to reopen it for each item you

Tip #4

Check to make sure adequate space exists between the refrigerator and any wall or other structure. The motor that operates the refrigerator needs air-space in order to run efficiently. If too little air space exists, the motor can heat up during operating periods. A hot-running motor will consume more electricity than one working at a normal temperature.

Tip #5

When you remove an item from the freezer compartment of the refrigerator, let it thaw out and warm up gradually in the refrigerator. Not only will the food thaw expeditiously, the cold it brings to the refrigerator will help reduce the appliance's need for temperature reduction.

Bottom Line: Keeping your refrigerator operating efficiently makes a lot of cents.


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