COSI Blog
21
February
2014

Keeping Your Cool in the Kitchen

It’s hard to think about keeping cool this time of year, but a recent article on reducing food waste caught my attention. The Natural Resource Defense Council’s message also included a guide to where food should be stored inside a fridge.  You can find a link at the end of this post. I’d like to add a few tips on keeping a fridge running efficiently. A refrigerator that runs well also helps protect food. 

The basic steps for efficiency are to keep your fridge running at the right temperature, and regularly clean the coils. 

The recommended thermostat setting in the fridge and freezer may be colder than your unit actually needs. The dial in mine recommends a “B” setting, but works just as well when set to the warmer letter “A”. Buy a fridge thermometer and check the temp in both the cooler and freezer. Food safety standards say a fridge should be between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Buy two thermometers if you’re feeling ambitious. Place one in the warmest part of the cooler and the other in the coldest.

Freezers work best when they’re full, and should be set between 0*F and -5*F.  Freezing a few bottles of water can fill empty space, and help keeps things cold if your home loses power.

The coils behind or underneath the unit should be brushed and vacuumed twice a year. The coils are like a car radiator or air conditioner, and don’t work as well when dusty. Use a soft brush, and try not to bend or damage the coils and fins. Also, check the seals to make sure they aren’t cracked, torn, or worn out. Keeping up on these will help maintain the inside temperature, and extend the life of the condenser’s motor as well.

Location in the home also matters. Don’t keep the refrigerator adjacent to the oven if your kitchen’s floor plan and cabinets allow it. Keeping an appliance that’s trying to stay cold next to one that gets very hot makes the motor work harder and wear out sooner. The same applies to installing the fridge near a heat vent.

Size also affects energy consumption. A fridge that exceeds the storage needed by your family or is mostly empty may be wasting energy. That doesn’t mean you should get rid of your current model, but keep this in mind when it needs to be replaced. The classic old refrigerator full of pop cans and popsicles in the garage or basement is an enemy to efficiency. Odds are, the older model will consume more power than the one running in the kitchen. Consider a smaller and more efficient model if you truly need a second refrigerator. Compare the annual cost to run similar refrigerators and look for Energy Star certifications.

See the poster from the NRDC for advice on stocking a fridge for maximum safety, freshness, and efficiency. http://www.nrdc.org/food/files/dating-game-infographic.pdf


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About the Author

Jason R. Wright

Jason R. Wright

Jason Wright joined the COSI team in 2011, and has been Manager of Energy and Environment Programs since May 2013. His previous experience includes time as a radio DJ, a line cook, and an Americorps volunteer. Outside of COSI, Jason dabbles in gardening, writing, and music.

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