They say the kitchen is the heart of a home, so why not keep that heart environmentally healthy by taking advantage of energy saving tips in the kitchen? Think of all the work that happens in the kitchen. There are all of the appliances that you use to prepare, to store and to clean-up after your meals.  The kitchen is a source of considerable energy use in a home. It follows that it’s worth spending a little time to make yourself aware of strategies to cut those kitchen energy costs. Not sure where to start? Here are a few ways you can use energy saving tips with your refrigerator.

Refrigerator/Freezer Energy Saving Tips (Excerpts from both HouseLogic and www.energy.gov )

Check the thermostat

Set your refrigerator thermostat to the peak temperature for food safety and energy efficiency.  A refrigerator should be set to 35-38° F, and a freezer should be set to 0° F.  Setting the thermostat lower than these levels, uses extra energy unnecessarily. Some refrigerators have a quick-cool feature that allows you to temporarily lower the thermostat to compensate if you have to add a warm food to the refrigerator. Of course, add warm foods to a refrigerator only when you have to, because it does increase the temperature and condensation, both of which make the unit work harder.

Check the seal on the refrigerator

To ensure your refrigerator is working most efficiently, test the door seals for airtightness.  Close a piece of paper in the door, leaving half of the paper out of the refrigerator. You should NOT be able to pull the paper out easily.  If you can, the gasket may need to be replaced or the latch may need to be adjusted.

That’s a wrap

When storing foods and liquids, be sure to cover them.  Moisture from uncovered foods make the refrigerator compressor work over-time.

Time to defrost?

If you have a fridge/freezer that requires manual defrosting, don’t let the frost accumulate more than ¼ inch to avoid decreasing the energy efficiency.  

Dust it off

It’s easy to forget the coils tucked behind or under the refrigerator, but the coils collect dust, lots of dust.  The coils are designed to cool and condense the refrigerant. When dusty, the compressor must work harder, putting you at risk for costly repairs or shortening the lifespan of your unit. Vacuum and/or brush the coils twice a year.  If you have shedding pets, do so more often to keep your refrigerator working efficiently.

Unplug the beer/wine fridge

You love the idea of having your favorite beverages chilled and at the ready.  However, if you don’t consistently keep it stocked at least ¾ full, you are wasting energy.  A fully stocked fridge is much more efficient at maintaining the proper temperature. Consider keeping it unplugged until you know you’ll be fully stocking it.

Time to replace your refrigerator?

While the previous list provides tips you can implement today, there are some energy saving tips you should be aware of if you are in the market for a new refrigerator.  Consumer Reports found that in 300 refrigerators they tested, the energy cost ranges from $42-110 per year (assuming an average 12.6 cents/kWh).  That’s quite a spread, so choosing the right unit is very important to your long-term energy bills.

Buy an ENERGY STAR® rated model and pick the size wisely

According to Energy.gov, you’ll use 15% less energy with an ENERGY STAR® rated model vs. a non-rated model. Because a refrigerator is one of the largest appliance energy draws in a house, don’t buy a refrigerator larger than your family needs.  If you buy a unit larger than you need, you’ll be paying too much twice. First, the price is likely higher. Second, you’ll likely never have it fully (or near fully) stocked, which will cost you even more as the unit has to expend more energy to maintain the desired temperature.

Pick the layout wisely

According to ENERGY STAR, An ENERGY STAR certified top-freezer refrigerator uses about 360 kWh or $45 a year to run, on average. An ENERGY STAR certified bottom freezer refrigerator uses about 560 kWh or $70 a year to run, on average. An ENERGY STAR certified side-by-side refrigerator uses about 630 kWh or about $75 a year to run, on average. However, there is a large degree of variation depending on the size of a given refrigerator/freezer, its defrost type, and whether the model has through-the-door ice.”

If you follow a few easy energy savings tips in the kitchen and use/maintain your refrigerator more efficiently, you can generate real savings on your utility bills.  For more suggestions on how to save energy, click here.