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Air-out Your Fridge Featured on May 01, 2008
Clean your fridge coils to help it breathe easier. You don't need special tools, just a desire to reduce CO2.
Giving your fridge a quick check-up will reduce CO2 emissions by 150 lbs over the next 6 months and save you $9.70 in energy costs.
1486 people have reduced CO2 emissions by 110.46 tons by completing this challenge so far. That's equal to turning off the electricity of 136 homes for about 1 month!
Summer is almost here! That means it’s time to get outside, breathe some fresh air, and keep healthy and cool. Did you ever think that your refrigerator might need a nice supply of fresh air to keep cool and healthy too? Well, it’s true. And, given that a healthy fridge emits a lot less CO2 than an unhealthy fridge, there is a cosmic climate connection between your health, your refrigerator’s health, and the health of your favorite planet, Earth. So this Challenge asks you to put your fridge on a simple fitness program to keep it, you, and all of us in top condition. This Challenge was suggested in the <a href=“http://www.carbonrally.com/suggestions”_blank">Challenge Workshop by Trogg and received 15 votes from fellow Rallyers. You’re too cool, Trogg!
The Carbon Connection
The cold, hard facts are these: Your refrigerator uses more energy than any other appliance in your home. On average, a refrigerator by itself accounts for about 20% of overall household electricity use every month. Mostly, that’s because refrigerators have to work hard and around the clock. Their motors kick on every 15 minutes or so in order to maintain a minimum cooling temperature to keep your lettuce crispy and your milk from spoiling. That means the fridge motor runs about 8 hours on any given day. As a result, even a typical, well-maintained refrigerator uses about 780 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year. The burning of coal, oil, or natural gas to generate that electricity releases about 1200lbs of CO2 into Earth’s atmosphere. That’s comparable to burning 60 gallons of gasoline.
The simplest way to reduce your refrigerator’s use of electricity is to make its job easier. You can do that by cleaning the condenser coils on the underside or back of the appliance. The refrigerator works by removing heat from inside the refrigerator, making it colder, and pushing that heat outside of the fridge. That heat gets released into the kitchen through the condenser coils. When dust, dirt, and pet hair accumulate on these coils, they act like a blanket trapping the heat in. A fridge with dirty coils needs to work harder or longer to get rid of the heat. That extra work translates into about 25% more energy use and CO2 emissions over a fridge with clean coils
Getting It Done
Compared with other household chores, cleaning the condenser coils on your refrigerator isn’t such a big deal. If you still have your owner’s manual, scan it to find where your coils are located. If you no longer have the manual, the coils are likely to be found behind the little grill at the base of the fridge. To be on the safe side, temporarily cut off the power to the refrigerator before you clean the coils. Either unplug the appliance or flip the appropriate circuit breaker. Next, remove the grill and locate the coils. (If you don’t see any coils beneath the fridge, they must be on the back of the appliance. You’ll need to slide the refrigerator away from the wall so you can get to the coils.) You can either use a bottle brush or your vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to gently remove any dust and dirt that covers the coils or fins. The more dust you find under or behind the fridge, the happier you’ll be with the results of this Challenge!
When you’re done, put everything back the way you found it and turn the refrigerator back on before you ice starts to melt. Within hours, you should find that your refrigerator is running more quietly or less often. The less it runs, the less electricity you’ll be using and the more CO2 you’ll have kept out of the atmosphere.
If you want to really tune up your refrigerator, there are several other things that you can do to reduce your fridge’s energy use, including:
- Check your refrigerator’s door seals. Close a sheet of paper in the fridge door and then gently pull on it to see how easy it is to remove. If the paper easily slips out, you know cold air is doing the same thing. A little silicone spray applied to the length of the door seal may renew the rubber sufficiently to improve things. Otherwise, check on the availability of replacement seals.
- Do what you can to increase ventilation around the fridge. For instance, a refrigerator that has its coils in the back shouldn’t be pushed too closely to a wall. Give it some breathing room! That will allow the coils to work more efficiently.
- Set your refrigerator’s thermostat to a reasonable level. ENERGY STAR recommends 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit for the fridge, and 0 degrees for the freezer. It’s worth checking these temperatures with a household thermometer.
- Keep the freezer defrosted. A quarter inch of frost is too much and will cause your refrigerator to run longer and more often.
- A full freezer is a good thing for your refrigerator’s efficiency. That’s not the case in the fresh food section. Avoid overcrowding, and leave room for air circulation.
Finally, when your old fridge finally dies, make sure to send it out for recycling and purchase a high-performance, ENERGY STAR-rated model.
Rules of the Challenge
This Challenge asks you to clean the coils of your refrigerator. Completing this Challenge will reduce your CO2 emissions by 25 lbs per month for 6 months. This Challenge is repeatable after 6 months.
See the Math
Here are the key assumptions we made in creating this Challenge:
- An average 16 to 18 cubic foot refrigerator with clean coils uses 779 kWh of electricity per year.
- An average 16 to 18 cubic foot fridge with dirty coils uses 973 kWh of electricity per year.
- The difference in electricity use between a refrigerator with clean coils and one with dirty coils is 194 kWh per year.
- Coils require cleaning every 6 months, so our Challenge is for 6 months.
- Electricity savings by cleaning the coils of the above refrigerator over 6 months is 194 kWh divided by 2 or 97 kWh saved per 6 months.
- On average, generating 1 kilowatt of electricity results in 1.55 lbs of CO2 emissions.
- Saving 97 kWh of electricity therefore saves 150 lbs CO2 (97 kWh x 1.55 lbs CO2/kWh).
- With energy costs about $0.10 per kWh, this challenge will also save you about $9.70.
The only thing you have to do now is to figure out a way to keep your kids or roommates from standing there with the refrigerator door open, looking for something to eat. You’re on your own for that one, Rallyers.
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