Greening Your Kitchen: The Refrigerator

For those trying to live a greener life, one of the biggest challenges in the kitchen is also one of its most necessary elements- the refrigerator. For most people, the refrigerator is probably the most power-hungry appliance in the house, so looking for ways to reduce that consumption is essential...

If you are in the market for a new fridge, top-freezer models are the most energy-efficient and repair-free, followed by bottom-freezer models. Though many people tout the convenience of side-by-side refrigerator/freezers, they are more likely to need repair and can use roughly 7 to 13 percent more energy than top-freezer models. Keep in mind as well that automatic icemakers increase energy use by 14 to 20 percent.

The Sun Frost RF-12 refrigerator pictured above was The National Georgraphic Green Guide's choice for greenest product: with an energy star rating of 51% and an annual operating cost of just $17.78, it is well worth the $2,279 asking price.

If a new fridge isn't in the cards, here are some usage tips from The Green Guide to help make your existing fridge a littlle more energy efficient:

  • Don't keep your fridge too cold. Refrigerators should be kept between 37 and 40 degrees and freezers at 5 degrees. Colder temperatures waste energy. To test the temperature, leave an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the middle shelf for 24 hours. In the freezer, place a thermometer among packs of frozen food.
  • Clean the coils annually.
  • Cover food and drink to avoid evaporation in the fridge, which can force the compressor to work harder.
  • Keep your freezer filled. Frozen blocks of food keep freezer temperatures more stable.
  • Don't clutter the fridge top; it can hamper the compressor's proper air circulation.
  • Don't put your refrigerator in direct sunlight or next to an oven or dishwasher.
  • Check the door seals. They should be able to hold a piece of paper in place.
  • Defrost the freezer regularly and avoid frost build-ups of more than a quarter-inch.