Keep your refrigerator running like new by performing these quick tasks.
A refrigerator is an expensive appliance that most of us use without much thought. However, like most appliances in a home, fridges require some routine maintenance. Unlike cleaning a dryer vent (which you may not want to do without the help of a professional), anyone can tackle these simple tasks. It doesn’t matter if you own or rent your home or have no home maintenance experience.
If you rent a home and don’t own the fridge (and therefore aren’t in charge of maintaining it), it’s still helpful to keep the fridge in good condition. Why? The better your fridge works, the more money you’ll save on your energy bill. Those small savings will add up over time and help reduce your carbon footprint.
Basic Maintenance Steps
Check the door seals.
A loose seal on the fridge door allows cool air to seep out, wasting energy and causing your fridge to work harder than it needs to. First, make sure the seals are free of food residue. You should clean them about twice a year using a toothbrush and a solution of baking soda and water. Then try the dollar-bill test: Close the bill in the door so that half is in and half is out. If it slips out easily, you may need to have the door seals checked by a pro.
Keep the coils clean.
When the condenser coils are covered with dust, the refrigerator can’t run efficiently. Twice a year, pull the machine from the wall to reveal the coils in the back (or snap off the grille if the coils are on the bottom front), unplug the refrigerator, and vacuum the coils with the brush attachment.
Set the right temperature.
A fridge at the wrong temperature will either run too long or not long enough. Keep the fridge between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer at 0 degrees. There are several ways to keep your fridge at the right temperature, and the most important is ensuring the door seals are functional (see step one).
Fill it up (even if you never cook and only have takeout).
Refrigerators need “thermal mass” (a.k.a. lots of stuff) to maintain low temperatures while using less energy. Cool foods and drinks help absorb warm air that streams in when you open the door. If you’re the eat-out type or your fridge is too big for your needs, store a few jugs of water in there. Just make sure you don’t stuff your fridge too much. There needs to be some air circulating around your items.
Be prepared for a power outage.
If the power goes out, an easy way to lose all that saved energy is by opening the door every hour in a panic to check on the food. Keep the doors closed and use food from the pantry. An unopened refrigerator will keep food safe for four hours; a freezer will maintain its temperature for 48 hours if full and 24 hours if half-full.