8 Tips That Will Keep Your Refrigerator Healthy And Your Bills Low

Consumer Reports has some tips for keeping your refrigerator happy and your utility bills low. Keeping the door shut as much as possible is apparently very important. As mom always said, “We’re not trying to refrigerate the entire State of Illinois, are we?”

Consumer Reports’ Happy Refrigerating Tips:

  1. Clean the compressor coils every few months or so. (The coils typically are at the bottom of the appliance, though on some older models they are behind the box and on some built-ins they are behind a grille at the top of the unit.)
  2. Keep gaskets on the refrigerator and freezer doors clean with mild detergent and water, not bleach. This will ensure a good seal and prevent wasted energy.
  3. Check the gasket seal by closing the doors on a dollar bill; replace the gasket if the bill falls out or can be easily removed without opening the door.
  4. Be sure the refrigerator is level; if not, the door might not close properly. Most refrigerators have adjustable feet or casters.
  5. Before you open the door to retrieve items, decide what you want. Every time you open the door, up to 30 percent of the cooled air can escape.
  6. To maximize the storage life of your food and use the least energy, keep the refrigerator temperature at 36º to 38º F and the freezer at no colder than 0º to 5º F.
  7. Try to keep the refrigerator compartments full to limit temperature fluctuations.
  8. If you have a choice of location when remodeling your kitchen, keep the refrigerator away from direct sunlight and heat sources.

For more information and tips about your fridge, check out this blog post.

Protecting your investment: Refrigerators [Consumer Reports]
(Photo: Meggito )


Edit Your Comment

  1. Nick1693 says:

    I like the picture. Thanks for the advice!

  2. cmac says:

    Invest $3 in a fridge thermometer. It’s well worth it.

  3. friendlynerd says:

    Since I rarely actually fill my fridge, I also keep a big jug of water in there just for ballast.

    Since a full fridge runs more efficiently and is less subject to temperature swings, fill unused space with water jugs to balance the temp.

  4. ekthesy says:

    If that was my cat, he would have knocked the half-pint of heavy cream down to the floor and gone to town on it. THEN he would have checked the gasket. Stoopid hoomans.

  5. lidor7 says:

    They should invent a refrigerator with a lazy susan so I won’t have to spend that extra minute taking everything out of the front of the fridge just to get at the tub of margarine in the back.

    It seems they indicated how to clean the gaskets but not the compressor coils.

  6. juniper says:

    @friendlynerd: Thanks for the tip; I never would have thought to do this! Living alone usually means an empty fridge.

  7. MercuryPDX says:

    @lidor7: Vacuum, specifically the round brush attachment.

  8. floraposte says:

    And then you have water stored in the event of a problem with the supply, so it’s win-win.

    @lidor7: I’m starting to get into refrigerator trays. Keep same-kind stuff (up to user to decide how to define that) in a tray and then just pull the tray out rather than flailing around under the meat compartment and hoping your hand doesn’t hit something squishy. You can get them cheap at places like Ichiban Kan:


  9. That cat has excellent grammar and diction. Not many Lolcats do.

  10. moeman1024 says:

    My grandmother had a fridge with a lazy susan in it. It was an old one from the 50’s with a pull handle on it. It was really easy to find everything in it during the holidays.

  11. PunditGuy says:

    @InfiniTrent: Must be British. ([icanhascheezburger.com])

  12. fulanoche says:


    why not buy a lazy susan and put it on the shelf? thanks for the idea.

  13. Skipweasel says:

    A kid at school’s mum used to stuff the empty spaces in the freezer with sealed bags of grass cuttings. One day a policeman overheard him say that his mum kept her grass in the freezer – and they got raided.

  14. I wish I would actually clean the coil. My gtd practices seem to stop there for some reason. One of those things I ought to do and very much tend not to.

  15. GrandizerGo says:

    @Michael@ Awareness * Connection: “GTD Practices”
    Enlighten please?

  16. PaRa02 says:

    Another helpful suggestion is to not over pack your fridge, you need to let the cold air circulate in the fridge.

    Also our furry friend should know that this Maytag is noisy too with it’s compressor clicking on and off.

  17. dragonfire81 says:

    @GrandizerGo: Unless I am wrong, GTD = Getting Things Done

  18. springboks says:

    #9 Replace your Arm and Hammer deodorizer every 30 days not every 3 months

  19. @friendlynerd: Take that one step further and freeze water for your freezer.

  20. CrackerJaX says:

    I’m a big fan of the ethylene gas guardian. More than any wasted money, I was constantly throwing out produce. Now, I haven’t had anything go bad since I got one. Well, I once squashed a bag of grapes, but that was my fault. $25 for the years worth from Amazon and I’ve easily saved that much thus far.

  21. cerbie says:

    #3 is a really neat tip. I’ll have to check it out.

  22. yagisencho says:

    We’ve cleaned the coils exactly *never* since moving into our home seven years ago.

    I fear what I will find.

  23. four12 says:

    I used to live in an area with spotty electrical service – it would be out for hours at a time.

    Put 6-8 bricks in the fridge and freezer compartments; they stay cold/”frozen” forever and can help pull you through an outage.

    Any extremely dense material would work, I guess. Jugs of water melt/sweat and take up more space.

  24. friendlynerd says:

    I forgot all about it for almost 3 years. I have 2 cats.

    I found the equivalent of an entire (very dirty) cat up in those coils.

  25. RStewie says:

    Did mine last night. It was ugly, but, in my defense, we just moved in 3 months ago (the fridge came with the house). But it was a noticeable difference almost immediately, and that just from the swipe-swipe I did with a wet paper towel!

  26. bohemian says:

    @lidor7: Our fridge (came with the house) has coils on the bottom. We found this brush that looks like the worlds biggest skinny bottle brush in the appliance department at Home Depot.

    Between that and the hand held attachment for the vacuum cleaner we can get most of the fuzz off the coils. When we moved in it looked like a felt blanket wrapped around the coils and the fridge couldn’t keep anything cool. We cleaned it and now it works fine. Saved me about a grand for a new fridge, we thought it was broken at first.

  27. Don’t put warm food in the fridge if you’re going to save it for later; it will warm the air in the fridge, making it work harder. Leave the food out (covered, of course) until it cools to room temperature.

  28. LadyNo says:

    @lidor7: That’s your million dollar idea! Don’t tell people about it, go get a patent, stat!

  29. lordargent says:

    friendlynerd: Since I rarely actually fill my fridge, I also keep a big jug of water in there just for ballast.

    What about orange juice, can I use orange juice?

    /half my stuff, half my roomates stuff (this was taken after I got rid of an old 17 cubic foot fridge and replaced it with this 22 cubic foot one. As you can see, the contents of the old fridge fit comfortably in the new one)

    /coletrain/ look at all that juice!

  30. LouRawlsParadeofStars says:

    @lidor7: My first apartment came with an old fridge that had a built-in Lazy Susan. It also had a pedal on the bottom that you could use to open the door if your hands were full.

  31. econobiker says:

    Cleaning the coils (and under the fridge) is one of the best things you can do for it plus to limit potential bugs. In the apartments I have rented I always have pulled the refridgerator and stove out to clean underneath. One place had been vacant for several months and had some roaches evident from prior dirt ball tenants. Pulling the fridge revealed the main roach habitat primarily supported by pebbles of dried dog food- which I then cleaned and made a kill zone. Then I sealed alot of cracks around the cabinets with caulk after putting boric acid powder in all cracks/ under appliances- this rid the place of roaches within one month. My theory is that, unless you have a total infestation from an adjacent apartment or the place is ancient with too many cracks to seal, most people who get roaches just don’t know how to clean, keep clean, and keep food stored properly.

  32. glycolized says:

    I drink soy milk from the aseptic boxes that do not need to be refrigerated, but I keep a good stock in there anyway. They don’t go bad for quite a while (many months if unopened), but I do rotate my stock. I counted and I have 11 boxes in there now. I started stocking up for this very reason.

  33. winexprt says:


    I couldn’t agree more with your last sentence! :-)

  34. Marshfield says:

    Picture at the post header looks like Marshfields’s Profile picture — in fact we think it IS the same picture.

  35. marsneedsrabbits says:

    I read about the “best” way to clean your fridge a while back, and adopted this method:

    Wipe up spills immediately every time.

    Once a week, totally remove everything from one (and only one) shelf, clean the shelf as needed, then sort through the stuff as you put it back in the fridge.

    Start at the top. Count each drawer and the door as a shelf.

    I never have to spend half a day cleaning the whole fridge at one time anymore, and never find mystery containers full of who-knows-what.

    Right before I start at the top again, I check and clean the coils, and clean the back and the gaskets.

  36. Marshfield says:

    Our GE fridge has electronic thermometers for fridge and freezer. The 2 yr old fridge has trouble keeping freezer at zero degrees. Ice cream gets nasty at anything much above zero. We are glad we signed up for 5 year extended service plan for the low low price of $140.00.

    Would think twice about buying GE again.

  37. dorastandpipe says:

    Oh, to have a fridge with a pedal…I miss those. I was happy to have the bottom freezer model come back into style, now I just have to wait for the pedal to come back!

  38. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    if you don’t have a hand held attachment or a shop vac that reaches under your fridge, you can get most of it with a broom. either use the bristle end [if it fits] or the handle with a sock or washcloth rubber banded to it [if the bristles don’t fit under there]
    it’s not perfect but it gets a lot of the gunk loose enough to sweep out of there.
    i put a $3 two tiered lazy susan in my fridge at my old place but where i am now came with a side by side fridge and the lazy susan doesn’t fit [diameter]

    in my freezer i use cheap stacking baskets and old ice bins that i found at a thrift store for small things like little baggies of leftovers. i can pull the whole bin, root through it for what i need and then pop it back in without trying to locate last week’s leftover pork chop under the chicken breasts i bought yesterday

  39. Marshfield says:

    fridge with a pedal
    YES! I had one of those back around 1965. My mom was all about the benefits of the bottom freezer, and we’ve had one in our house for over 15 years. Once you’ve had a bottom freezer, going back is unthinkable.

  40. lidor7 says:

    Fridge with a pedal? That’s mindboggling. I can understand how it works with a trash can, but it seems like you need more force to open a sealed refrigerator door.

    Maybe I’m just too used to my fridge, which is so hard to open, unless you put a second hand on the fridge, you end up pulling the entire fridge halfway out of its spot.

  41. Corny.fleur says:

    Ziplock bags with 1 part rubbing alcohol and 3 parts water in either the fridge or freezer makes reusable gel cold packs for injuries, and can be added to the bricks and jugs of water to fill up space.

    For getting things from the back, dollar stores sometimes have long, narrow baskets, that can contain things that are otherwise lost at the back of the fridge.

    Question: Does anyone know of a science reference to how quickly heat enters a refridgerator when the door is opened? Is it better to open and close the door twice quickly, once to get the milk and the other to put it back, or to open the fridge, get the milk, pour the bit into the coffee, then put it back before closing the door?

  42. Ubik2501 says:

    9. When you move out of an apartment, please don’t break or steal the door shelves/brackets just to spite the landlord. You’re just dicking over the next guy moving in.

    Okay, so this isn’t an energy-saving tip. But not only have I moved into several apartments in a row with this problem, every single apartment I’ve looked at over the last few years has had this problem. Landlords are usually either clueless or refuse to order new parts.

  43. iammoses says:

    @The Count of Monte Fisto

    It is a bad idea to leave food out like that, the food is in the Temperature Danger Zone (40f to 140f) where bacterial growth occurs rapidly. Generally speaking bacteria can double its population every 20 minutes. It is better to put the food into the fridge to bring the temperature down as fast as possible and out of the TDZ where bacterial growth is much slower. Food items such as large amounts of soup should be rapidly chilled by using ice cubes or specially designed ice paddles. You can make an ice paddle by filling a clean long bottle with water and freezing it, you would stir this ice paddle in the soup to chill it down out of the TDZ. Reheating food properly can kill bacteria but the toxins that bacteria produced generally cannot be elminated by heating, prevenative action is best especially if you have an at-risk population that would be exposed to the leftovers.

  44. CelesteM says:

    @econobiker: That may be true up north, but I’ve lived in Florida my entire life and even the most immaculate homes get roaches. It’s just a [very horrible and unfortunate] part of life here.