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Lighting Seattle since 1905 Jorge Carrasco, Superintendent
Seattle City Light Conservation | Tip of the Day

Tip 10 - Refrigerator Madness
Refrigerators use seven percent of the nation's electricity, the equivalent of more than 50 percent of the power generated by all U.S. nuclear power plants. Your refrigerator does more than chill or freeze food. It's affecting the Earth right now, using more electricity than any other appliance in the kitchen. Here are some tricks to help you use it efficiently.
  • Chances are that your refrigerator accounts for 25 percent of your electricity bill.
  • The condenser coils help it dissipate heat from the food compartment. When dust or pet hair collect on the coils, they don't work as efficiently and the refrigerator uses more energy to power the motor.
  • It also contains chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the gases that destroy the ozone layer.
  • They are in the coils, as in an air conditioner. But the Natural Resources Defense Council says there are nearly four times as many CFCs in the fridge's foam insulation.
  • Maintain your refrigerator and freezer at the right temperature. If they're only 10°F colder than necessary, your energy consumption will jump 25 percent. The refrigerator should be between 38° and 42°F and the freezer between 0° and 5°F.
  • Ensure the door is sealed tightly. Check the gasket (rubber seal) for cracks and dried-on food. One way to test the seal: Close the door on a sheet of paper and try to pull the paper out. If it slides out easily, cold air is escaping from the compartment. Adjust or replace the seal.
  • No sweat. Use the "power-saver" switch if your refrigerator has one. It prevents water droplets from forming in humid weather. Disconnect the heaters except when it's humid.
  • Clean the condenser coils by brushing or vacuuming them at least twice a year to make them more energy efficient. Don't use a sharp instrument which might puncture the coils.
  • Manual defrost refrigerators should be defrosted regularly. A one-fourth-inch frost buildup of frost strains the motor.
  • Junk it right.When it's time to retire your refrigerator, call your local recycling center or garbage collector to find someone in your area who can capture the fridge's CFCs before it's junked. Moving your old refrigerator to the garage to keep sodas cold is inefficient from every standpoint except convenience. The refrigerator coils collect dust faster and the summer heat in the garage will rot the gasket more quickly.

The food in your refrigerator, or lack of it, can affect its efficiency. It's better to fill your refrigerator and freezer because food retains cold better than air. But don't overcrowd it because the cold air must circulate.

  • Capping liquids reduces the refrigerator's humidity, shortens the defrosting cycle and keeps the food moist longer.
  • Allow warm leftovers to cool before storing them.
  • To defrost food, move it to the refrigerator a day before you need it. The frozen food helps cool the refrigerator as it thaws.

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