The quiet workhouse in your kitchen has a big job to handle: It’s tasked with keeping everything from your favorite deli’s salami to the gallon of milk your kids guzzle with breakfast cereal at the perfect temperature for safe consumption.
Sure, everyone knows that a packed freezer works at optimum efficiency, but there are several other ways to keep your refrigerator working at full efficiency, too.
1. Keep an eye on the temperature in the fridge—and in the room
Refrigerator temps may change with the seasons as the room temperature heats up or cools off the appliance.
Keep an eye on an extra thermometer—which should be kept in the center of the middle shelf—to make sure it stays at 40 degrees F or below, the margin designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for safe food storage.
2. Check the door gasket for damage
Air leaks caused by gaps and tears can make your fridge work harder to maintain the proper temperature and result in higher energy bills.
3. Encourage airflow
Give a fridge enough room—a minimum of one inch on each side—to do its job by allowing air to circulate around its exterior. Failure to do so can result in increased energy usage and equipment failure.
4. Give your food items some space
Airflow is essential inside a fridge, too. In the freezer, packing items closely together keeps them colder, but a stuffed fridge can hinder the airflow that works to cool food.
5. Wipe up spills ASAP
This is especially important if the spill comes from raw meat because its juices contain bacteria. Prevent spills by defrosting meat in a covered container on the bottom shelf.
6. Turn off energy-saving features if you spot moisture
Switching off the energy-saver will kick in the heaters that keep condensation from accumulating around the fridge doors. Turn the energy-saver back on when you no longer see moisture.
7. Clean the condenser coil regularly
Turn off the fridge and clean the coil—it’s often located underneath the fridge—with a brush or vacuum. Letting dirt build up on the coil can increase energy usage and encourage appliance failure.
8. Change the water filter
This only applies if your fridge has an ice maker or water dispenser. Heed the filter indicator when it says that your current model’s filter time has expired. Old filters no longer trap the contaminants they were designed to halt. Consider subscribing to a water-filter replacement program for peace of mind and cleaner water.