Frugal Tip: Save money on your utility bill: Cleaning the fridge for efficiency!
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In most households, one of the biggest energy “hogs” is the trusty refrigerator. The older your fridge is the more likely it is that it’s an even bigger hog, mostly due to the constant improvement in designs for energy efficiency, but also because efficiency drops over time. The good part is this can for the most part be recouped… with a little elbow grease and determination.

Your fridge is basically and air conditioning system just like the one in your central heat/air or in your car. You probably change your HVAC air filter every couple months (if you don’t, you really need to, but that’s another post for another day) … when was the last time you checked your fridge’s a/c system??? If you are like me and most other people your answer is either never or HUH… what are you talking about?

Your fridge’s a/c system operates by moving ambient air across a set of coils to get rid of heat into the ambient air in the kitchen. If your coils are covered in dust/dog hair/spiderwebs/whatever the air can’t as efficiently flow across the coils. When this happens the fridge will have to work that much harder and run that much longer and more often to keep your fridge cold. A simple cleaning only takes a short time, but can increase the efficiency of your fridge 10 fold. The more efficient your fridge is, the less it has to run and the less it has to work… which means it uses less electricity. Best of all, by doing this periodically (annually or so) you are greatly increasing the lifespan of your appliance!

Simple cleaning instructions: How to style:

OK. This is a really simple task, perfect weekend cleaning house type work. The worst part is just pulling that sucker out from the wall. Most fridge’s these days have wheels and roll pretty easily once you get them started.

  1. Pull fridge out from the wall and UNPLUG IT, SO IT IS OFF WHILE YOU CLEAN IT!! Try to get it out far enough to get in behind it comfortably.
  2. Notice all the nasties under the fridge… vacuum that up so you don’t step in it!
  3. There are 2 typical types of coils on a fridge, the first is the flat kind that runs all the way up the back of the fridge, these are easiest to clean as everything is exposed. The second type is what we have, where the coil is literally coiled up on itself into a tube in the bottom. In either case, just use a vacuum and a brush to sweep off the dust as best you can. In our case we had to remove a simple metal cover to get to it with 4 screws. Again, really simple… nothing really difficult. So worth the effort.
  4. Ensure you brush down the coil/vacuum as best you can, the more dust you fetch off it, the better off you are. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just as best as you can.
  5. Voila! All clean. If you had to remove a cover like us, you can put it back on now.
  6. Last step is to push that sucker back into place. If you have a flat style coil set it is imperative that you keep it out from the wall a bit. If you push these kind into the wall the air does not circulate and you are costing yourself money. A coiled up version like ours is meant to sit right against a wall. With either style, keep in mind that airflow is king, so you want to try to maintain a little bit of clearance on the sides and top for the air to flow.

I hope this helps you as much as it has us. I was going to grab a from work and show the difference but I forgot to grab it. I can tell you that right away it sounded different, like it could breathe again. You will also notice that it runs A LOT less. Quiet means saving money (Chaching!)

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  • 02.15.09 Jennifer

    Great tips, thanks for the pictures too.

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