Make Your Refrigerator Far More Efficient

Make Your Refrigerator Far More Efficient

You’ve probably heard that keeping your refrigerator and freezer fully stocked is a simple way to keep them running efficiently. But what if you happen to lack for food, or want to optimise even further?

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If you’re willing to do a little re-thinking of food storage, you’re in luck. The New York Times’ Science Times write-in question this week details supplements and alternatives to having a freezer full of Hungry Mans and a fridge stuffed with fruit and leftovers. Containers of water, for instance, can serve as a buffer in either the freezer or fridge:

If there is not enough food to fill the freezer, many suggest putting in more ice trays or some containers of water … Some extra water containers in the cooling section will also minimise the amount of inrushing warm air that has to be cooled when the door opens and shuts.

Along with the stuff your handy dad or uncle will tell you about keeping the condenser coils clean and making sure they have enough room, there’s also some Thermodynamics 101 knowledge you can implement to reduce the amount of cooling work the fridge has to do:

It is permissible to let hot food cool somewhat before refrigerating it, as long as the cooling period is not long enough to permit bacterial growth. Never use warm or hot water to make ice cubes. Cover moist food, so the refrigerator does not waste energy evaporating the moisture.

Q and A – Keeping the Cold In [New York Times]


  • Well, this thread is a year past date, but google popped it. So while I’m waiting for coffee…

    Why does keeping the fridge mostly full work?
    It does work, provided you don’t stuff it so much that the air can’t circulate at all.

    i) Convection. In an empty fridge, air moves up along the inside walls and tumbles around. This causes the the air to continually wash over the heat source – the fridge wall, warmed by air outside the fridge. Thus heat soaks back in a little faster. With the fridge closer to full the air moves less until blown by the fan (which is when you want it to circulate).

    ii) thermal mass. With more stuff in the fridge, the air temp changes more slowly and the machinery cycles on/off less often. Refrigeration is less efficient just after starting, so fewer, longer cycles are better.

    There’s more, but that’s the basics.

    Most units used in the US rely on a fan to blow the cold air around inside. Don’t pack the fridge – especially the freezer – so tight that the air can’t flow. You’ll note that the shelves don’t quite reach to the back and sides – that’s intentional, so that you won’t have frozen food under the vent and spoiled stuff at the sides.

    Opening the door for 10 seconds isn’t a disaster, but having it fail to close is. A small leak from a not-quite-closed door will suck watts and possibly spoil food near the leak.

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