How to Save Energy By Unplugging the Fridge

How to Save Energy By Unplugging the Fridge

Unplugging your fridge can help reduce your energy usage and save you money on electricity bills. However, there are some important factors to consider before unplugging your refrigerator. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about unplugging your fridge to save energy.

How Much Energy Does a Refrigerator Use?

Refrigerators are one of the most energy-intensive appliances in your home. The average refrigerator uses around 300 to 600 kWh per year. This accounts for 13-15% of an average household’s electricity usage.

Older models tend to use more energy than newer, Energy Star certified fridges. Larger units with special features like through-the-door ice also tend to have higher energy demands.

Key factors that affect a refrigerator’s energy use:

  • Size – Larger units use more electricity to run the compressor and cool a bigger space.
  • Age – Older models are less energy efficient than new ones.
  • Features – Through-the-door ice, water dispensers, and other features increase energy use.
  • Usage – Frequency of opening doors, room temperature, and how full it is impacts energy needs.

Can Unplugging the Fridge Save Electricity?

Yes, unplugging your refrigerator can lead to energy savings. By cutting power to the appliance, you eliminate the energy needed to run the compressor and cooling system.

However, there are some cautions to consider:

  • Refrigerators are designed to run continuously. Unplugging means the interior will start warming up immediately.
  • Food safety can become a concern if interior temperatures rise above 40°F for over 2 hours. Risk of bacterial growth increases.
  • Each time the fridge is plugged back in, the compressor will have to work hard to recools down the interior. This initial surge of energy can negate savings.

For these reasons, unplugging the fridge must be done strategically to maximize energy savings.

When to Unplug the Fridge to Save Power

The best times to unplug the refrigerator for energy savings include:

  • Short vacations – Unplugging for trips of 3-7 days can lead to noticeable savings without compromising food safety.
  • Seasonal homes – Unplugging during months when a seasonal home is unoccupied avoids wasted energy.
  • Short-term power outages – During an outage of 2 hours or less, unplugging will reduce the initial restart surge.
  • Fridge replacements – When buying a new fridge, unplug the old one a day ahead to allow it to warm up. This avoids a large restart surge.

Situations when you should avoid unplugging the fridge:

  • Long vacations – Leaving the fridge unplugged for more than a week risks food spoilage and bacteria growth when you return.
  • Daily energy savings – Unplugging the fridge for a few hours each day provides minimal savings but forces the compressor to work hard restarting. Leaving it plugged in is best for daily operation.

Steps for Unplugging the Refrigerator

Follow these steps to safely unplug your refrigerator:

  1. Lower the temperature setting a day before unplugging. This brings the interior down to colder-than-normal levels.

  2. Remove all perishable food to avoid spoilage. Leave doors open for 1-2 days beforehand to allow the fridge to warm up closer to room temperature.

  3. Unplug the fridge from the wall outlet. Make sure it is fully powered down.

  4. Leave doors ajar so air can circulate in and out of the cabinet. This prevents mold and odors.

  5. When ready to use again, plug the fridge back in and let it cool down for 24 hours before returning food. The initial restart can take 8+ hours to reach normal cooling levels.

  6. Inspect food carefully when you return fridge to service. Discard anything that smells, looks, or feels spoiled. When in doubt, throw it out!

Energy Saving Tips for Refrigerators

In addition to strategic unplugging, you can reduce a refrigerator’s daily energy use with these tips:

  • Keep temperature between 37-40°F. Any colder wastes energy.

  • Give it space to breathe. Don’t cram items close to the cooling vents. Allow airflow.

  • Avoid putting hot foods inside. Let them cool down first to reduce load.

  • Minimize openings. Decide what you need before opening doors. Open and close quickly.

  • Use a thermometer to monitor interior temperature. Adjust unit as needed.

  • Keep condenser coils clean. Dust buildup impairs performance and wastes energy.

  • Defrost freezer regularly to maintain efficiency and remove ice buildup.

  • Upgrade to an Energy Star model when buying a new fridge. Choose the right size and features for your needs.

Key Considerations Before Unplugging the Fridge

Unplugging your refrigerator can provide moderate energy savings if done for short periods of time when the unit will be unoccupied. However, there are some downsides:

  • Food spoilage risk – Perishable items may need to be removed and restocking can create food waste.

  • Energy surge upon restarting – The initial cooldown period can offset savings from having it unplugged.

  • Convenience factor – Having an operational refrigerator is convenient and often needed.

Carefully weigh these key considerations before deciding to unplug your refrigerator. In many cases, focusing on other methods of energy savings may be more effective. But during short vacations or seasonal home shutdowns, turning off the fridge can be a reasonable energy reduction strategy.