Is Your Fridge Running (Efficiently)?

Appliances account for about 20 percent of a household’s annual electricity use. Since most of our nation’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels (such as coal and natural gas), which contribute to global warming and air and water pollution, replacing older appliances with more efficient Energy Star-rated models can go a long way toward reducing your environmental impact. However, these appliances are only as efficient as the person using them.

No matter what model appliance you own, there are easy ways to make sure it is using as little electricity as possible:


  • Keep your refrigerator away from heat sources (including dishwashers, ovens, heating vents, and direct sunlight), which cause it to work harder to keep its contents cold.
  • Leave a few inches of space behind the refrigerator to ensure proper air circulation around the condenser coils, and vacuum the coils at least once a year.
  • Open the door as little as possible to minimize the amount of cold air that escapes.
  • Don’t keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold, which can waste energy. Recommended temperatures are between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (ºF) for refrigerators and 5 ºF for freezers.
  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer full to better retain the cold. If your refrigerator is fairly empty, store water-filled containers inside.


  • Run the dishwasher only when it is full (but don’t overfill it).
  • Choose the air-dry option instead of heat-dry. If your machine does not have an air-dry option, simply open the door when the final rinse cycle is complete
  • Check to see if your dishwasher has an internal heater (which heats incoming water to 140 ºF or higher). If it does, you can lower your home’s water heater temperature to 120 ºF
  • Use cold water for washing and rinsing clothes to reduce electricity use by up to 90 percent. If you must use hot water for a wash, use cold water for the rinse cycle.
  • Wash full loads of laundry as much as possible. Wash smaller loads only if you can select a lower water level.
  • Use your washer’s high-speed spin cycle to extract the most moisture possible from your clothing, which will reduce drying time.


  • Dry heavier and lighter items separately to reduce overall drying time.

  • Whenever possible, dry multiple loads of laundry in a row—each subsequent load will use the residual heat from the previous load. Use the cool-down cycle for the last load to allow the clothes to finish drying with residual heat.

Related Links

Energy Star

U.S. Department of Energy

California Energy Commission—Consumer Energy Center

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