The water cooler of choice in the typical American home happens to be the refrigerator. It’s the keeper of food and drink, the place the kids hit first after a hot school day and the appliance that sees the most use. According to Michael Bluejay, “Mr. Electricity” to the uninitiated, refrigerators is the second largest user of electricity, lagging only behind the air conditioner. For those families with kids who like to open and close refrigerator doors all day long, this amounts to a waste of 50 to 120 kilowatt-hours per year, or seven percent of the total energy use by this appliance alone. Refrigerator efficiency, it turns out, can be a big deal.
Many things can be done to improve the operating efficiency of refrigerators. Turning off the ant-sweat feature and setting the temperature to only as cold as is necessary provide some energy relief. Waiting until foods cool before storing them in the refrigerator is also good. Keeping a refrigerator full? That is where our potential energy savings can be found. Food acts as a buffer against warm air circulating in each time the door opens. Too much food or too little food in the refrigerator negatively affects the appliance’s operating efficiency, forcing it to work harder in order to maintain the status quo temperature.
Let’s say the refrigerator has plenty of space, but not so much food to spare. This is where storing pitchers or jugs of tap water can help. Pitchers of water operate in much the same way as ice packs do in coolers; it adds a much-needed buffer that insulates and keeps the interior cold, conserving energy. Not only does one have a ready source of refreshment awaiting thirsty kids at the end of the day, but one has prevented thousands more disposable water bottles from polluting the landfills. Another important fact: we avoid the waste that comes with waiting until running tap water transforms from tepid to cold.
So raise your glass and the jug . . . to energy efficiency and the thirst-quenching powers of Nature’s finest.