Freezer and Fridge Hacks: Seven Ways to Maximize the Value of Your Refrigerator and Freezer

Day 57 / 365 - refrigerator.  Photo by JasonRogersFooDogGiraffeBee.Your refrigerator/freezer combo is the biggest energy consumer among all of your appliances – seriously. It gobbles down around $100 in energy each year. Even worse, it’s often home to lots of wasted food – leftovers forgotten and allowed to spoil and so on.

To put it simply, your refrigerator and freezer are money sinks. They’re expensive in the first place, gobble down energy like there’s no tomorrow, and sometimes ruin the food that’s inside. What’s a thrifty person to do?

Here are a few simple techniques to overcome and reduce these costs with surprisingly little effort.

Clean the coils regularly.
The coils on the bottom and the back of your refrigerator tend to gather dust over time. As that dust builds up, your refrigerator doesn’t run as well as it used to. The condenser kicks on more often, it has to work harder, it eats up more energy (costing you), and it wears out quicker (costing you).

So, do a little bit of maintenance once a year or so. Pull out your refrigerator and dust the coils in the back and underneath the device. Use a low-power vacuum to make sure there’s no excess dust floating around in the place where the refrigerator normally sits. Doing this little thing will cause your refrigerator’s condenser to work more efficiently – it won’t kick on as often (trimming your energy bill) and it won’t wear out as quickly (saving on your repair and replacement costs).

Fill your empty milk or juice jugs with water, then stick ‘em in the freezer.
A freezer, whether it’s a deep freezer or a freezer housed in the same appliance as a refrigerator, functions best when it’s really full, as the cold items help keep other items cold and maintain the low temperature.

But how can you keep it full without stocking it with a bunch of food that you may or may not eat? If you’re not into filling your freezer with food, fill it with water.

It’s simple. Take an empty milk jug (or juice jug), rinse it out, then fill it about 75% full with tap water. Stick that jug in the freezer and just leave it there. It’ll freeze, then it will help keep the temperature of your freezer low over the long haul, causing your freezer to kick on a bit less often to keep your items cool.

Even better, you can directly use these jugs when you need a lot of ice. You can either stick the jug entirely in a cooler or smash it open and use the broken ice pieces to your desire. Works like a charm – we do it all the time!

Start a miscellaneous vegetables box.
We cook a side dish of vegetables with almost every meal we make, and we often have just a few spoonfuls of leftovers. Often, these wind up in the compost bin, but that’s not particularly efficient – I’d rather throw actual waste in the compost bin, not food.

Our solution is a clever one. We just stuck a small resealable container in the freezer. Whenever we have any sort of leftover vegetables, we just spoon those veggies into that container. When the container is full, we boil up some water, add some spices, toss in some diced chicken breasts (and some stock if we’ve got it), then add the vegetables and let it all boil together.

Boom – really inexpensive (and delicious) chicken soup that’s different every time you make it. You can thicken the water/broth with a bit of corn starch to make it more like a stew if you want.

This is a killer way to not waste leftover vegetables, add volume to your freezer, and produce a very delicious and simple meal for pennies.

Pull the fridge forward an inch or two.
In many kitchens, refrigerators are pushed back as close to the wall as possible in order to eke out a few more inches of floor space. Those few inches are really expensive.

If your refrigerator is pushed back as far as possible, pulling it forward one inch can reduce the energy usage of the refrigerator by as much as 40%, and you’ll barely notice the difference in your floor usage. Subsequent inches help, but aren’t quite that effective.

Stick a thermometer in your fridge.
Ideally, the temperature in your refrigerator holds pretty steady around 37 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (3-5 C). We keep ours at almost exactly 38, and it’s almost perfect for us.

If you keep it below 37 degrees, you’re pushing up against the freezing point of water, which can affect food quality and burns a lot of extra energy. If you keep it above 40 degrees, it can affect food quality in a different way, leading towards spoilage. The range between the two is optimal – and it’s also optimal for refrigerator efficiency, since devices are designed to run in this range.

How can you be sure you’re hitting that sweet spot? Get out a thermometer, put it in a glass of water, then put that cup in your refrigerator for 24 hours. Check the temperature afterward – that’s the true temperature of your fridge. Adjust upward and downward as needed – you might be surprised how much your temperature is off.

A freezer has a different optimum temperature – 0 to 5 F (-18 to -15 C). You can get this temperature by putting your thermometer between two frozen items for 24 hours.

Chuck your refrigerated leftovers.
Ah, the refrigerated leftover. Inevitably, some of those items wind up getting pushed to the back and forgotten, left there to slowly decompose, become a potential breeding place for yeasts and molds, and potentially contaminate other foods.

So chuck ‘em. One easy way to do this is to have a handful of washable markers near your fridge. Doodle on any new item with a color for each day – say, purple for Monday, red for Tuesday, etc. Then, when you’re glancing in the fridge on Sunday, you know you can chuck anything with a red or purple mark on it without thinking at all.

Just mark on the Saran wrap, aluminum foil – even on the rim of a plate. Once you get into the routine, it works really well, makes leftover cleanup really easy, and keeps nasty things from growing in your fridge.

Go hardcore – build your own and reduce energy consumption by 90%.
Willing to go way outside the box to trim your home energy consumption? You can build your own chest refrigerator with a few simple modifications to a chest freezer and cut your energy use by about 90% over a typical standup fridge.

With clever rack systems in the chest fridge, they can be pretty convenient. I’m tall, so I actually quite like chest freezers, as I have no problem reaching clear to the bottom, but I can see how this might not be easy for some.

I’ll admit it – I’d love to have such a fridge if I had adequate kitchen space.

Do you have any simple refrigerator or freezer hacks for saving energy or reducing food loss?

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65 thoughts on “Freezer and Fridge Hacks: Seven Ways to Maximize the Value of Your Refrigerator and Freezer

  1. Laura In Atlanta says:

    “So, do a little bit of maintenance once a year or so. Pull out your refrigerator and dust the coils in the back and underneath the device.”

    Doing so will also allow you to find hidden treasures. Earlier this year, I pulled my fridge out and found: a coupon for 50 cents off Windex, my voter registration card from 2007 and about 47 plastic milk jug rings.

    (My cat is MOST pleased with all the plastic milk jug rings, btw . . . they are his favorite toys!)

  2. Trent says:

    I found a piece of my son’s artwork from late 2007, made just after he turned two. It was quite fun to see it!

  3. Laura In Atlanta says:

    “So, do a little bit of maintenance once a year or so. Pull out your refrigerator and dust the coils in the back and underneath the device.”

    Doing so will also allow you to find hidden treasures. Earlier this year, I pulled my fridge out and found: a coupon for 50 cents off Windex, my voter registration card from 2007 and about 47 plastic milk jug rings.

    (My cat is MOST pleased with all the plastic milk jug rings, btw . . . they are his favorite toys!)

  4. Dave says:

    Never thought of the logical idea of getting the fridge a couple inches away from the wall. Thanks!!!

    Dave
    LifeExcursion

  5. Andrea says:

    Um, refrigerators are heavy. How on earth am I supposed to pull it out?

  6. Georgia S says:

    I have the same question as Andrea–what’s the best way to move a fridge? And what’s the best way to do it without damaging the floor?

    Also, how does moving the refrigerator a few inches make it more energy efficient? Just better circulation or something?

  7. Natasha says:

    This is an EXCELLENT article. I never thought to have a jug of ice in the back of the freezer but that makes sense to do. I love these energy saving tips. :D

  8. After many years of holding out, we switched to being a two-refridgerator family a few years ago. It really does make a difference in how you shop. With the second unit we’re able to take advantage of sales and warehouse purchases in a way we couldn’t with just one fridge.

    I’m at a point of believing that two are absolutely necessary to maximize savings on your grocery bill.

  9. Whitney says:

    How on earth do you move a fridge, especially to clean the bottom of it?

    This is a really good article – thanks.

  10. Kara says:

    We put our appliances on moving coasters.. that way we can easily slide them out for cleaning..

  11. Sarah says:

    Really good article but I have the same question as Andrea, Georgia, and Whitney, what is the easiest way to move a fridge.

  12. Eden Jaeger says:

    Good stuff. I’m going to check the temperature and pull the fridge out an inch or two.

  13. Carrie says:

    If you fridge does not easily slide I would suggest getting some furniture movers to make the process more simple. They are little disk that are sticky on one side and smooth on the other to help move things with much less effort. You can find them at most Walgreen’s or CVS for about $5.

  14. Michael says:

    I’m a little skeptical of that 40% savings by pulling the refrigerator out an inch. Can anyone provide more information?

  15. Craig says:

    Great post!

    I was skeptical about the “40% savings by pulling the refrigerator out” as well. I found this on HomeTips: “Maintaining about 2 inches of space around your refrigerator allows enough room for heat generated by the condenser coils and compressor to escape. This means your appliance will not have to work as hard to keep cool.”

    It makes sense but…40%? Really?

  16. Anna says:

    I don’t know about 40% but several sites I looked at recommended stuff along the same lines:

    Placement of the refrigerator is very important. Direct sunlight and close contact with hot appliances will make the compressor work harder. More importantly, heat from the compressor and condensing coil must be able to escape freely, or it will cause the same problem. Don’t suffocate the refrigerator by enclosing it tightly in cabinets or against the wall. The proper breathing space will vary depending on the location of the coils and compressor on each model–something important to know before the cabinets are redesigned.
    from: http://www.healthgoods.com/Education/Healthy_Home_Information/Home_Appliances/refrigerators.htm

    The location of a refrigerator is often limited by electrical and water hookups. Making sure that there is proper air flow around the refrigerator can help it run more efficiently. If the appliance is stored between cabinets, make sure that nothing stored around the unit hinders its airflow. If possible, refrigerators should not be located near windows, stoves, or ovens. Heat from the sun or cooking appliances can cause the refrigerator to expend more energy to keep cool
    http://saveenergy.about.com/od/tutorials/ss/RefreigSavings_4.htm

    Most of them seem to say minimum of 2″ all around.

  17. Laura In Atlanta says:

    RE moving the fridge? My fridge just rolls forward . . . doesnt go sideways, but def rolls forward quite easily. Once its forward, you can get behind it and with an attachment, you can clean the back and a good chuck of the bottom of it.

  18. Berdette says:

    I know that pulling your refrigerator out a few inches helps because about 10 years ago ours quit keeping things cold. We were sure we were facing a huge repair bill or a replacement. The repairman checked everything out and put a 2 by 4 on the floor behind the fridge to keep it away from the wall. Works fabulously (we are still using that same fridge). The board keeps the fridge from slowly getting pushed back against the wall.

    Our fridge has wheels so it is fairly easy to slide out. I thought they all did now.

    And to clean underneath just slide your crevice tool on your vacuum under from each side and you can probably get everything.

    Berdette

  19. South Texas says:

    How to move the fridge? I tell my husband to do it! :)

    We also freeze milk jugs of ice, and whenever we go camping we chop up a jug or two to add to our coolers instead of buying ice.

  20. Good hints about keeping frozen jugs of water in the freezer, I never thought of that!

    Also this makes me glad that my fridge is a good distance from the wall.

    Thanks for the article.

    -DC

  21. KC says:

    If you have pets I recommend cleaning the coils and pulling out the back and cleaning it at least 2Xs a year. Also the freezer fan should be cleaned annually (at least) – pull out the fridge, unplug it, unscrew the fan cover, vaccuum it out, replace the cover and plug back in – shouldn’t take long, no need to worry about items inside.

  22. spaces says:

    Trent, posts like this are why you’re closing in on a million readers a month. This is good stuff that won’t be found elsewhere. Original, elegant, and easy enough to implement. :-)

  23. anne says:

    berdette- what a great idea about the piece of wood- i’m going to use that idea

    today i bought an antique frigidaire- it was only $10, and i love it, and we’re going to keep it in the kitchen and use it for the drinks.

    even if it uses a little more electricity, i’ll be so happy to be able to keep my family out of the fridge i use for groceries.

  24. Nicki says:

    Oh thank you, THANK YOU for posting that deep chest freezer mod link! If I could sort out how to make it work in the space we (eventually) get, I will (hire someone to) do it in a heartbeat!

  25. Jeff says:

    A word of caution Re: Moving a fridge. If you have wood floors in your kitchen (which is pretty popular in my area) rolling the fridge on the floor can leave dents. You can get a piece of laminate that is thin enough to roll the fridge up on to. Once it is on the laminate you can spin it around without fear of damaging your floors.

  26. Chetan says:

    To move the fridge is easy.

    Most refrigerators have two wheels and two adjustable ‘feet’. You have to look underneath and lift up the ‘feet’ side and just roll the unit forward.

  27. Cecil says:

    I do not think the filling with jars filled with water is a good idea when you are not going to use the ice. Maybe that after the water is frozen the refrigator uses less electricity, but first it uses a lot more to freeze it. So when you just remove the ice when you put something else in, I think it will cost more then it saves.

    There are special thermometers to put in the refrigerator and freezers. I would use those. ;-}

    And why moving from the wall helps. Cooling is done by transporting the heat to the back. If there is more room the heat can go away more easily.

  28. yogajan says:

    I have a new question that is probably different than the others you get. I am over 70, single with a son and 2 grandchildren and am still working at a profession I love and that I have stayed with for close to 50 years.

    The problem is that many of my friends, in my general age bracket and most being under 65 are having major financial issues.Most of their problems are from incredibly stupid pasg decisions, but it is too late for them to focus on the past. One has asked me to invest in a new business, which I have done, but honestly I don’t think she is going to make it. Another got into raising and racing horses and it going downhill rapidly. I can go on and on.

    I think my financial situation is good, but not great. With social security, retirement and a healthy investment plan that actually increased in value the last 9 months, and a house with a mortgage that I can handle and in a location that will probably never lose major value, my fiances are fairly stable.

    Sorry for the long post, but while I feel sorry for my friends and have said no to them when they open the door to asking for a loan, I simply do not want to loan them money nor invest in their ideas.

    Any good suggestions on how to handle this? To make matters worse, 2 of those friends have no family and are not in great health.

    I need to separate my compassion for what to what is best for me.

    Any creative thoughts would be appreciated.

  29. Lilian says:

    What a great post, thanks for the advice.
    I will put some jugs filled with water in our freezer and I think we will eat a monthly chickensoup from now on! LOL

    from the Netherlands,
    Lilian

  30. deRuiter says:

    Sort through the food you’re going to toss (that color coding idea is clever!) and feed all non molded stuff to the chickens. You then get the over the hill food recycled as eggs and once a year you get stewing hens. Chickens LOVE refrigerator snacks, and they adore the tough outer leaves of cabbages, lettuce which grew so big it got bitter, damaged tomatoes, water melon rinds, carrot peelings too. Saves on buying chicken food by supplementing the feed store bought stuff. If the refrigerator food is dubious, then it goes into the compost heap. During gardening season, you can dig a hole each day among the tomato plants, bury that day’s kitchen waste, and cover with dirt, it rots into the soil even faster that way. Don’t do this with things like watermelon or cantaloupe seeds though, compost them so you’re not overrun with unwanted plants! We have neighbors who waste a lot of bread, rolls, muffins, they save them for the chickens instead of tossing the stale breadstuffs. Viva recycling! If you’re looking for interesting free houseplants, you can plant sprouted ginger root from the refrigerator, the top off a pineapple plant, avocado pits, lemon seeds, for offbeat house plants with interesting foliage. Currently we’re experimenting to see if we can RAISE our own ginger this way.

  31. Lenore says:

    I just threw away about $25 worth of expired frozen food, and I have a TINY fridge. Most of it was Lean Cuisine or other healthy stuff, which explains why I haven’t lost weight. Anyway, I’m trying to rotate my stock and put the newer stuff I buy towards the back.

    I’m also freaked out because there was quite a bit of mold between the doors. I guess I ought to try that dollar bill trick to see if the door seals are loose. I wish I could get a bigger fridge, but the only space available has some cabinets on the wall that hang pretty low.

  32. littlepitcher says:

    How does a single woman move a fridge?
    Buy a pack of Magic Movers or use four pieces of felt or old blanket–not washcloths, terry is too rough.
    Get a 2×4 and a brick or block. Use it as a lever to lift one corner at a time and place the slick under the fridge leg. Once these are in place, you should be able to move it.

    If you put those trimmings in the tomatoes and you are in the South, you are opening a fire ant buffet. Put them in a hot compost pile or in a worm box.

    In the North, you can plant ginger in a big black pot to simulate tropical conditions and keep it moist but not wet. Use high-quality potting soil or you will get root maggots. Lemongrass can be raised the same way. Dig half your gingerroot while it is still green–it has a different flavor then–and store in fortified white wine.

    Trent, I adore your column!

  33. Great stuff.

    I would also suggest that people rotate their items when they place their new supermarket purchases in the fridge. Instead of just shoving the old stuff to the back and placing the new groceries in the front, rotate the oldest items (including your leftovers) to the front.

    This helps make sure that half used items don’t linger in the back and eventually spoil.

    Also be careful of the fridge door since studies show that the door can be 1 to 2 degrees higher in temperature than the rest of the fridge.

    So not a place to put eggs, milk, and similar perishables.

    Does make you wonder though why fridge manufacturers often build egg holders directly into the doors.

  34. dTrav says:

    I’ve often thought a conventional fridge had serious flaws in terms of engineering. Besides the vertical door that dumps out cold, why have the heat the device generates dumped into the room?
    Here’s what we need; a thermostatically-controlled vent to the outside world. In the summer, the vent would move fridge-heat to the outside. In the winter, the vent allows fridge-heat into the room, and cold air into the fridge box. I’ve been working on this mod for awhile now … we’ll see if I can get it working this winter.

  35. Dishes and Laundry says:

    This from the brilliant folks at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
    Energy Myths
    “Cleaning refrigerator coils saves energy.
    While this seems intuitively logical, and very small savings may indeed arise, the few efforts to actually measure this effect have typically come up empty-handed. This is a classic example of a widely held belief based on assumptions rather than measurements.” http://hes.lbl.gov/hes/myths.html

  36. Robyn says:

    What a timely post – I’m in the process of selling my fridge and someone is coming to look at it today. A full-sized fridge is too big for my needs and kitchen and I’m concerned about the energy consumption. I’m actually going to experiement with adjusting to not having a fridge, but the plan is to get a small one. I’ve read a few articles about people living without a fridge or figuring out a DIY alternative. Like a vehicle, it’s one of those things we’ve gotten used to having. If anyone has info on living without a fridge I’d love to know about it. I like testing the limits of doing without something I’ve gotten used to.
    Thanks.

  37. Michael says:

    “what is the easiest way to move a fridge”

    Most fridges have casters on them, and can roll straight forward. Empty the fridge, open the fridge door, and pull from the bottom. (so you don’t tip it over)

    I’m wondering about the inchs from the wall thing. I can see how it would help with fridges with coils on the back, but ours doesn’t have back coils, just bottom coils. I’m wondering if bottom-coil models get the same efficiency gains.

  38. T'Pol says:

    My refrigerator does not have coils at the back. Will moving it forward still help with efficiency with that type of fridge? It is a Bosch No-Frost bought in 2004.

  39. kathryn says:

    Does anyone worry about the power going off for an extended period of time and losing all your frozen food? I’m in northern calif, and every winter my power seems to go out for a day or so (a few years ago it was 4 days….BAD!!) Or is there a safe time limit that I don’t need to worry about it?

  40. Rosa says:

    We have a separate freezer, and this year I made it a goal to get it empty, starting on January 1, so I could turn it off until harvest time.

    We managed to eat everything in it by the end of February, so I cleaned it out (will do a better job next year – too many stray blueberries from a spilled bag this time) and had it turned off til two weeks ago when I started freezing sweet corn.

    The electricity savings are minimal because it’s a pretty efficient little box, but on top of them we ate all our frozen food, avoided buying food when we had perfectly good stuff put up, and won’t have to worry this winter about remembering to rotate the frozen food, all of it will be less than a year old.

    I think next summer I’m going to try to do this before our 2-week vacation – clean the thing out completely, wash it, and turn it off while we’re gone, instead of coming home to food that went bad while we were gone.

  41. Juli says:

    They may be money sinks in one aspect, but are certainly money savers in another. And they are vital to our way of living.

    That said, I think you left out 2 very important points in your mention of freezing water.

    I have a freezer and a regular fridge. My freezer has MANY 2 liter bottles (from Diet Coke) filled with water. I rinse them VERY well before I use them. In the event of a power outage, I will immediately move some of them to the fridge and the fridge freezer. By utilizing the old ‘icebox’ concept, your food will keep longer – perhaps you will lose nothing! Talk about a money saver.

    Second – FEMA recommends that you keep 3 days’ worth of water on hand per person. Now, my well-rinsed frozen 2 liter water bottles do double duty as emergency prep as well! I never had any water stored up before.

  42. Esther Ziol says:

    Pulling out the frige will only save energy if the coils are in the back. We have bottom coils on ours, so only have to vacuum underneath.

  43. Interesting article but how will pulling a fridge forward reduce the amount of electricity used?

  44. deRuiter says:

    Years ago we lived in a 5th floor walk up in Manhattan and had an ice box. Three times a week the ice man came with a horse and wagon and you left a card downstairs with a number, which was the size of the ice block. You hoisted the block up through the window to your apartment with a pulley system fastened outside the building. The whole family couldn’t leave the apartment for a long period of time because the ice would melt, fill the drip tray below the ice box, and then overflow into the apartment below. For the first winter, my Father built a wood framed box with wood bottom and screen sides / top which fit into the window opening and protruded out of the building. As soon as the weather turned cold, we stopped using the ice box, and kept perishables cold in this handy box, using the natural cold to chill the food. Dad built a door to this to keep the cold outside. This box worked like a charm every fall, winter and late spring, we saved money because we didn’t have to buy ice. Even today, in winter, we store perishables on the back stpes in the icy cold, unheated pantry. Handy! Cheap! Environmentally sound. We only have big parties in the winter.

  45. Good article, but I take exception to this:

    “A freezer, whether it’s a deep freezer or a freezer housed in the same appliance as a refrigerator, functions best when it’s really full, as the cold items help keep other items cold and maintain the low temperature.”

    While it’s true that the relatively high average specific heat of a full freezer will keep the freezer cold longer than if it were full of air, it also takes more energy to cool down. Let’s say a freezer leaks 1000 J/hr (energy lost to the surrounding air) and is 90% efficient (this is ridiculous, frankly, but the numbers are convenient). To replace the 1000 J lost, the freezer has to do 1111 J of work. The freezer kicks on at 0 °C and kicks off at -2 °C.

    If the freezer is full of air, let’s say it contains a kg. The specific heat of air is ~1000 J/kg*°C at 0°C, so the air inside will gain 1 degree for every 1000 J lost (1°/hour). Every two hours, it will kick on and do 2222 J of work, to bring the temperature back down to -2. The average work is 1111 J/hr.

    Let’s say the freezer is completely full of ice. .77 m^3 of ice is 705 kg, and the specific heat of ice is 2050 J/kg*°C. To gain two degrees takes 2,890,500 J, or 2890.5 hrs (this example is more extreme than I expected, but no matter). Once it’s gained those two degrees, the freezer will kick back on. The heat capacity hasn’t changed much, so it’s going to have to put in the same energy that was lost, and the freezer is only 90% efficient. It will take 3,211,667 J to cool the ice back down. The average energy use is 1111 J/hr.

    Ta da! The contents of the freezer don’t matter much. The extra energy the freezer has to expend to cool off ice makes up for the increased cycle time. Additionally, adding room temperature water to the freezer will require additional work to cool the water to freezing and effect a state change (heat of fusion). It’s just not a very good idea. The one thing you gain is a ready source of ice.

  46. anne says:

    juli- what a great idea about the frozen soda bottles

    i read somewhere that rinsing out bleach bottles after you use them, then filling them w/ water would store it well, and the tiny bit of residual bleach would preserve the water

    i think i’ll do both now- the soda bottles for drinking, and the washed out bleach ones in reserve for cleaning and bathing would make me feel better than having only the bleach bottles.

    and i love your idea of putting them in the fridge when the power’s out. what a fantastic idea.

  47. leslie says:

    #20-Lenore:
    “Most of it was Lean Cuisine or other healthy stuff”

    Eeeeek, calling Lean Cuisine “healthy” makes me cringe!

  48. Mighty says:

    Some of our favorite tricks are:

    1.) Keeping a silver dollar in the fridge, near the fan. Silver has antimicrobial properties. This can help extend the shelflife of food 2-3x.

    2.) Use an ethylene gas-absorbing disc. Ethylene gas is released by foods as they decay, and it promotes decay. These discs absorb the gas, and they literally will make food last for weeks longer by naturally slowing down the rot. We use this brand: http://www.4theegg.com/purchase.html; it seems to be the most cost effective, and with refills, the most environmentally sensitive.

  49. tammy says:

    I’ve really taken full advantage of my side by side refrigerator and freezer this year. My neighbors bring by all manner of veggies and I’ve made all sorts of casseroles for the freezer. I don’t keep very much food in the refrigerator so perhaps I should try the plastic bottles of water trick in there…

    Thanks for the timely tip. It’s 100 degrees here in Richmond today….conservation of any kind certainly helps the electric bill!

  50. Robyn says:

    Hey you guys,
    if anyone is thinking about getting rid of their fridge (like me) I just found this very cool site!
    http://ditchyourfridge.blogspot.com/

    thinking radically… :)

  51. prodgod says:

    “Eeeeek, calling Lean Cuisine “healthy” makes me cringe!”

    Agreed!

  52. Pascal says:

    Tip:
    Clean the freezer in the winter. You can put the freezer content outside. This way it doesn’t melt too much and the freezer won’t have to work to hard getting the content on a good temperature.
    (or put it in a coolbox, when you live in a sunny place)

    Another tip:
    When you take bread out of the freezer, put it in the fridge.
    It will cool the rest of the fridge while defrosting.

  53. K says:

    Michael – excellent analysis and I agree. I think the biggest factor is not what the freezer is filled with but that it is filled. I often use empty cardboard boxes so that the empty space doesn’t fill with hot air when I open the door.

  54. tentaculistic says:

    Mighty – I really like the idea of putting silver in the fridge for its antimicrobial effects. I make jewelry so I always have extra bits of sterling wire, so I think I’ll try this.

  55. Robyn says:

    I sold my fridge yesterday, sooner than I expected. That’s a hack for you :)

  56. No new tips to add for the fridge, but goodness, what a great post. I thought I had my energy consumption down as low as it could be till I read this.

    Thanks!!!!

  57. catastrophegirl says:

    ice trays! i have cheap colored ones for food [4 for $1 at the dollar store] and white ones for ice. this keeps any lingering food flavors out of my ice.

    you can use the food ones to individually freeze things like meatballs and strawberries [then bag them after they are frozen] so they don’t stick together.

    i buy large containers of things i use often but i live alone. so a quart of chicken broth – i use 1 cup now, pour the rest off into an ice cube tray and when it’s frozen i bag the cubes. next time i need chicken broth i get as many cubes as i need and melt them.

    also tomato sauce, nacho cheese, leftover soup, little bits of leftover veggies that aren’t enough for a meal, rice [seasoned or unseasoned.] when frozen into cubes, like things go together in a bag.

    by like things i mean anything that might be ingredients for chicken soup or ingredients for beef stew would go with each other: meat juice, veggies, barley, rice – when i have enough i throw the cubes in the crock pot and simmer. a little freezerburn never made a difference to me in a leftovers stew!

    also, being diabetic i don’t go through juice fast [too much sugar] but i need to keep it around for hypoglycemic emergencies. so i freeze it up as ice cubes and use one to flavor my seltzer or iced tea once in a while or suck on one if my blood sugar is too low.

    always seal your food or juice ice cubes up as soon as you can after they are solid to avoid freezerburn, flavor contamination or sublimation of the liquid. i forgot a tray of juice cubes once for a couple of weeks and ended up with a sticky goo in the tray because most of the water sublimated out, leaving the sugar behind

  58. Bill in Houston says:

    This has been reprinted over at MSN. The complainers are out in force, saying that this is a waste of time. I’ve countered with, “take care of your tools and they’ll take care of you.”

    Better to do a little maintenance than have a major appliance fail early, which’ll cost far more than a hundred bucks!

    Cool idea about the “chest fridge.” My 5’3″ wife might not like it, but it appeals to the tweak geek in me!

  59. dsz5463 says:

    Silver dollar in the fridge?
    from wiki-
    (There are other sources, but this was easiest to locate and contained the least technical jargon)
    “The anti-microbial properties of silver stem from the chemical properties of its ionized form, Ag+. This ion forms strong molecular bonds with other substances used by bacteria to respire, such as molecules containing sulfur, nitrogen, and oxygen.[28] Once the Ag+ ion complexes with these molecules, they are rendered unusable by the bacteria, depriving it of necessary compounds and eventually leading to the bacteria’s death.”
    Metallic silver is in the ground state and has no charge. Only the ions are reactive and they must be either in a liquid media or as part of a larger molecule (usually a polymer) which will make the ion available. Nano particles may react under certain condition. Silver ions will not jump off a coin and keep your food fresh. It may tarnish but that won’t protect your groceries.
    In case anyone had the thought, putting a coin in with the food will do more harm than good. If any silver gets dissolved by acidic foods and ingested there’s a health risk as some silver salts are bioaccumulating carcinogens.

  60. Michael Poole says:

    My favorite freezer/fridge hack is to defrost the appliance completely at least once each year. I usually wait until autumn, and when the weather forecast says it’s going to be below freezing all night I unload the freezer and fridge compartments into seperate laundry baskets. The freezer goes outside, and the fridge goes into the garage where it’s still really cold, but not freezing. I unplug or turn off the appliance, and prop the doors open. This lets any water frozen into the heat exchanger melt, and it’s also an opportunity to give the machine’s interior a thorough cleansing. I like to wash with 1 tsp of sodium bicarbonate per quart of water because the leftover bicarbonate acts as an odor reducer. Learned this cleaning up with neighbors after Katrina. I mean, throw away a fridge because it’s stinky? Odors don’t stick all that well to plastic. Cleaning up a rotten fridge is nasty, but once you get over the first ugh it’s not that hard.

  61. Gary Stewart says:

    the problem with a small fridge is that it normally has a freezer box in the same compartment which creates major problems with temperature control, condensation (why they ice up real quick), and therefore are more expensive to run than larger split compartment fridge/freezers.

    #34 I agree with the bad design from engineering point-of-view (the heat outback is totally wasted) and so some kind of heatpump would be more efficient. Also I recently came across this ‘simple’ twin fan idea http://www.trademe.co.nz/Computers/Servers/Server-components/auction-234536403.htm that apparently can be fitted to any ‘box’

  62. Go Hardcore and build your own; I like that, but I’ll leave it to the professionals. Thanks for these tips very easy stuff to do, but I don’t think about it much. Pulling the fridge away from the walls and cleaning the coils are great tips.

  63. Building your own is the way to go but how many people have the kind of dedication or time? I seriously doubt many people do.

  64. shawn says:

    I didn’t know pulling the frig out could help ,is that the same for contained as well as open(caged) coils?? I have a basic list right on the frig with a wipe -off marker and I make sure to put things (condiments,milk,chez,eggs,fruits,vegies,juice etc…) that are always stocked in our frig in the same spot. When kids were small I had to rearrange once a week but now everyone gets it and the frig doesn’t get that open starred into look all the time.

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