While researching things like “the best refrigerators”, “most energy-efficient refrigerators”, and “how to choose a refrigerator”… I’ve found lots of great tips for choosing a new refrigerator and increasing its energy efficiency at the same time.
Here are some things I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of…
Our Wants & Needs In A New Refrigerator
One thing I know for sure, we will definitely be buying a new refrigerator for our new home.
Our current side-by-side fridge/freezer isn’t nearly large enough (…and we don’t even cook much!).
Plus, it’s white. Odds are, there’s not going to be a thing that’s white in our new log home — especially not in the kitchen.
The only thing we really like about our current unit is the in-the-door water and ice dispenser. And now that we’ve had it for so many years, it would be hard to do without the convenience of a door-mounted ice and water dispenser like this.
Mostly likely, our new refrigerator will have a stainless steel finish. Depending on which brand we go with, we’ll probably get the version that doesn’t show fingerprints. (Most manufacturers these days offer a fingerprint-free version of their stainless steel finish.)
We tend to buy large quantities of “fast & easy” (pre-packaged) foods from places like Costco and other grocery stores, so we’re actually considering investing in two separate units this time:
- A full-size standalone freezer; and
- A full-size standalone refrigerator (also known as a freezerless refrigerator)
The biggest question I have at this point: What are the real differences between upright vs chest freezers? The only thing I know for sure is that uprights and side-by-side units use more energy than chests.
Today’s Refrigerator Choices:
Freestanding or built-in
Upright vs chests or drawers
Freezer on top vs freezer on bottom (for upright units)
Color, wood panels, or stainless steel doors
Door-mounted ice & water dispensers
Glass vs wire shelves
Size (21 cubic feet up to 27 cubic feet or larger)
Single fridge/freezer unit vs separate units
If you choose a freestanding unit, then you’ll want to be sure to pick out your refrigerator (and/or freezer unit) before you install your kitchen cabinets. The size of your fridge will ultimately determine the width of the opening where your refrigerator will go, as well as the height of the space between the fridge and ceiling. Many people like to place a cabinet above the refrigerator, rather than lose it to “dead space”.
The most popular models are free-standing, made to go in most any kitchen and available in several standard sizes. Freestanding refrigerators have grown about 3 inches taller since the early 1990s to gain cubic feet.” Source
Also, you should know that freestanding units can extend as much as 6 inches beyond the depth of your countertop & cabinets. Built-in, counter-depth units on the other hand tend to be shallower, with slightly less space inside, but they’re also less noticeable in your kitchen.
As far as color goes… the most common refrigerator colors are white, black, stainless, or off-white (often referred to as biscuit or bisque).
A 21- to 22-cubic-foot model is adequate for most 2-person households … Larger families, warehouse shoppers, or frequent entertainers need a unit that’s 24 to 27 cubic feet. If you desire larger than 27 cubic feet, you’ll need to graduate from a freestanding to a built-in unit, which almost always requires renovations to accommodate the 42- to 48-inch width. ~ Peter Ross Salerno, Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer
Energy-Efficiency Issues With Refrigerators
Some energy efficient things to look for in a refrigerator include:
- An adaptive defrost control (adjusts the compressor time and prevents less freezing and unfreezing of food while conserving a significant amount of energy)
- Separate cooling systems for the fridge and freezer (so dry air from the freezer does flow to the fresh food section, where humidity needs to be higher to maintain freshness of items such as produce)
- Double tub construction (provides extra insulation and keeps cold air from escaping the refrigerator compartments)
- Foam-in-place doors (provide extra insulation and keep cold air from escaping the refrigerator compartments)
- Temperature controlled bins & compartments (allow you to turn down the temperature in small spaces within the refrigerator without lowering the temperature in the entire unit)
Thinking Of Using Your Old Refrigerator?
Initially, we were thinking of taking our current refrigerator with us to the new house and using it in the basement.
You see, our grill might be placed on the deck off the basement area, rather than the deck off the kitchen. (We grill a lot!) So it would be quite convenient to have a fridge nearby. And I’m sure we’d have no problem having twice as much storage capacity for cold foods and beverages any way …especially since we’ll be living out in the country, where a grocery store is many miles away.
However, I recently read this: “Avoid using your old fridge in the basement or garage, which cancels energy savings from the new unit.”
I trust they are referring to a pre-1999 model for the following reasons…
In an average household, the refrigerator accounts for as much as 12 to 20% of total power you will use in one year. For this reason, an aging refrigerator is probably costing you money. Many older models produced before 1999 do not even meet current Department of Energy power usage guidelines … In fact, the latest refrigerators use 30% less electricity than models built 10 years ago because of better insulation and more efficient compressors and motors. Source
Ours is a 2001 model refrigerator. So, I’m thinking we’ll probably be taking it with us and using it as a secondary refrigerator. It’s got to be better than buying two whole new units, right? At least for a year or two.
Tips To Make Your Refrigerator Last Longer
As revealed here, refrigerators generally last 13 years on average. To make sure yours last at least that long, here are some things you can do:
1. Clean the condenser coils periodically. I just cleaned the coils on our fridge last week.
Typically, you have to pop off the grill along the front bottom portion of the refrigerator to get to the coils. (It’s tricky to get back on, too.) Then, use a long-handled coil brush (or your vacuum’s crevice tool) to remove dust and debris from the area.
For the record, they say that you should clean the coils at least once a year… even more often if you have pets. I hadn’t done it before, and this 6-year-old fridge had accumulated quite a collection of our 3 dogs’ fur!
When those coils get dusty, they can’t dissipate heat, which makes the unit run less efficiently and can shorten its lifespan. Source
2. Move food away from the refrigerator’s interior walls. This will permit cold air to circulate better.
3. Wipe the gaskets (weather stripping) around the doors occasionally. Use a damp rag. Otherwise, dust and grime can accumulate causing them to become brittle and less likely to seal properly.
4. Run your fridge and freezer at the optimal temperatures. Keep your fridge temperature between 37-40 degrees. Keep your freezer temp between 0 and 5 degrees.
Test your refrigerator temperature by placing an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the middle of the fridge overnight. To test your freezer’s temperature, place an appliance thermometer in a glass of vegetable oil (which won’t freeze solid) overnight.” Source
I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money — so I write about “outside the box” ideas that most wouldn’t think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed over 10 years before switching gears to pursue activities that I’m truly passionate about. I’ve worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo — to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites).