The fridge is one of the most used appliances in the home, running 24 hours a day to keep food cold and fresh. However, it is also one of the biggest energy consumers, accounting for up to 15% of a household’s electricity use. Unplugging the fridge can lead to significant energy and cost savings, but it needs to be done properly to avoid spoiling food. In this article, I will provide an in-depth guide on how to save on your energy bill by unplugging the fridge, covering proper techniques, safety considerations, cost savings, and more.
When to Unplug the Fridge
One of the best times to unplug the fridge is when going on vacation. If I am leaving for more than a week, unplugging the fridge can lead to big energy savings. The food inside will stay cold for some time as the fridge is well insulated. Be sure to eat perishable items like fruit, veggies, and milk before leaving.
During Power Outages
If the power goes out for an extended period, unplugging the fridge can conserve energy. The food will stay cold for 4-6 hours if the fridge is kept closed. Only open the fridge when necessary during an outage. Be ready to eat refrigerated items soon after the power returns.
When Performing Maintenance
Unplugging is necessary when cleaning or maintaining the fridge. This allows me to safely clean behind and underneath without risk of electric shock. Make sure to prop open the doors while unplugged so the interior light turns off.
How to Properly Unplug the Fridge
Double Check Food Stocks
Before unplugging, take stock of food supplies. Eat or throw away any spoilable perishables like fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs, meat and leftovers. This prevents wasting food and avoids odors. Stable items like condiments, jams, butter and hard cheese can withstand some warming.
Adjust the Temperature
Lower the fridge temperature to the coldest setting a day before unplugging. This gives an extra cold buffer to maintain interior temps longer. Make sure the doors seal tightly for maximum cold retention.
Allow Fridge to Warm Before Unplugging
It is best to unplug once the fridge approaches room temperature. Avoid unplugging when still very cold as this can damage the interior lining. Allow a few hours to warm after loading in stable foods.
Unplug and Prop Doors Open
Unplug from the wall outlet, making sure hands are dry to prevent shock. Use a rubber stopper or similar object to prop the doors slightly open. This allows air flow and prevents mold growth. Never fully shut doors when unplugged.
Check Food Temperatures
Upon re-plugging, allow the fridge time to re-chill before putting food back in. Check that refrigerator items did not exceed 40°F during the unplug period. Discard anything that smells or feels warm. Perishable foods that stayed under 40°F should still be safe if consumed soon after.
Cost Savings from Unplugging the Fridge
Unplugging the fridge when possible provides significant energy and cost savings. A few key figures:
- The average fridge uses 500 kWh per year, costing approximately $50-$100.
- Unplugging for a 2 week vacation can save up to 5% of a fridge’s annual energy use.
- During a 3 day power outage, unplugging saves up to 4% of annual fridge energy.
- Just 24 hours without power can save 0.5% of a fridge’s yearly energy consumption.
Therefore strategic unplugging during vacations, outages or maintenance can easily save between $5-20 per year on electricity costs. For maximum savings remember to only open the fridge when truly needed, and eat or preserve perishable food right before unplugging. Proper planning allows cutting the fridge energy use while avoiding food spoilage.
Safety Considerations When Unplugging
While unplugging the fridge can save energy, it also carries some safety risks if not done properly:
- Never leave children or pets unsupervised around an unplugged fridge. Propped open doors are an entrapment hazard.
- Avoid unplugging when anyone in the household relies on refrigerated medications such as insulin. These require consistent temps.
- Perishable foods left too long without power can breed harmful bacteria and cause illness if consumed.
- Make sure the fridge is not overloaded with food when unplugged. This slows warming and promotes bacteria growth.
- Do not plug the fridge back in if there is any sign of damage, water leaks or rust inside. This could cause electrical issues or fire.
With proper precautions unplugging is safe. But take care to monitor food conditions and watch for entrapment risks. Never unplug if certain medications require refrigeration or if electrical damage is noted.
Unplugging the fridge when away for long periods or during outages provides worthwhile energy savings. Up to 5-20% of a fridge’s annual electricity can be reduced through occasional strategic unplugging. Use proper techniques like adjusting temperatures, allowing warming before unplugging, propping doors open and monitoring food safety. With some planning and awareness, unplugging the fridge is an easy way to cut electricity costs while on vacation or when the power is out. But certain safety risks like entrapment, food spoilage and medication needs should be addressed first. Overall, unplugging the fridge is one effective way I can reduce my home’s energy consumption and see real savings on electricity bills.