Cleaning Your Refrigerator Properly: 4 Tips to Save Energy and Money

Your refrigerator is one of the top energy-using devices in your home, so keeping this large appliance running efficiently can help you reduce your energy bills and save you some cash!
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Written By Becky Striepe

Your refrigerator is one of the top energy-using devices in your home, so keeping this large appliance running efficiently can help you reduce your energy bills and save you some cash! Cleaning your refrigerator properly can take a couple of hours, but you can also break this task up into smaller chunks if you don't have a weekend afternoon to dedicate to cleaning the fridge.

Reducing that energy bill doesn't just save you money -- it's good for the planet! Most of our electricity comes from coal, so using less power also means burning less coal. You're saving money, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing demand for dirty coal all by spending an afternoon cleaning out that fridge. Not too shabby, right?

The average refrigerator accounts for the most electricity use in your home of any kitchen appliance, and, according to the Consumer Energy Center, just cleaning the coils can reduce the amount of energy that your fridge uses by up to 30 percent. Cleaning the coils is just one part of doing a real, thorough fridge-cleaning, but if you have time to only do one thing on this list, do that!

Check out our refrigerator-cleaning checklist, and try to clean your refrigerator twice a year to maximize energy efficiency.

Important: Before you start cleaning your fridge, roll it away from the wall and unplug it. This is especially important when you're cleaning out the coils -- you don't want to get zapped!

1. Cleaning the Coils

If you only do one thing on this checklist, do this! Roll the fridge away from the wall, and once you recover from how gross it is back there, use your vacuum's hose attachment to get all of the dust out of the coils.

Some refrigerators have a panel in front of the coils, so if you don't see the coils right away, don't panic! To access coils behind a panel, just remove the screws holding it in place, remove the panel, vacuum out the space and replace the panel.

2. Location, Location, Location!

Now that the coils are clean, you can push the fridge back against the wall, but you don't want it totally flush. Leave at least a few inches between the back of your refrigerator and the wall, so air can circulate better back there.

3. Cleaning out the Fridge and Freezer

Keeping your fridge and freezer too packed is annoying, right? You can't find a thing! It turns out that this is also bad for energy efficiency. Cleaning out the rotten food from your fridge and making some extra space makes your life easier, and allows air to circulate through the refrigerator better, improving efficiency.

Bonus: Since you're pulling everything out anyway, this is a great chance to wipe down all of the shelves and drawers! Try our all-purpose cleaner made from cheap vodka to disinfect without the harmful chemicals you find in store-bought cleaners.

Did you know that where you store things in the fridge can help you reduce your food waste? Before you put everything back, take a moment to check out this helpful infographic from Food Republic on how to load up the fridge the right way to keep food fresher longer!

4. Keep it Uncluttered, But Not Too Empty

A not-too-packed fridge is great for efficiency, but if things are looking super sparse after you toss (or compost!) the food that's past its prime, you might want to fill in a bit. If you don't plan to hit the store in the next day or so, just put a few jugs of water in there. They help retain the cold when you open the refrigerator door.

Image Credits: Creative Commons photos by Greencolander and Mark Florence

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