Except when it’s time to make space for a turkey or other feasting favorites, the refrigerator is rarely top of mind.

Appliances, like the fridge, however, use about nine percent of the energy we consume in our homes, noted Edith Garcia, a TEP Project Manager who specializes in residential energy efficiency.

“Since a refrigerator works around the clock without a break, regular maintenance along with a few tips can reduce its energy usage,” she said. “It can also reduce repairs and extend the life of the appliance.”

Here are 7 ways to ensure your refrigerator is ready for seasonal goodies:

  1. Clean your coils. Dusty condenser coils need to work harder to remove warmth from the unit. At least twice a year, vacuum them with a soft tool brush or crevice tool, or use a brush or duster.
  2. Set the correct temperature. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends operating around 38 degrees for optimal efficiency and safety; 0 degrees for the freezer.
  3. Declutter. A well-organized fridge means you don’t have to keep the door open as long. Place your most-used items toward the front of the shelves to grab them readily. Otherwise, your fridge will have to do double duty to get back to its optimal temperature.
  4. Cool and wrap leftovers. Putting hot food in the fridge or letting moisture escape makes the compressor work harder.
  5. Seal it. The gasket seal around the fridge door keeps warm air out and cool air in but it can get loose or brittle with age. To check the seal, close the door on a piece of paper or dollar bill. If it can easily be pulled out without tension, it’s time to replace the seal to improve efficiency.

Consider an ENERGY STAR® certified appliance. A refrigerator that’s more than 15 years old costs about $125 annually to run. A top-mounted freezer with an ENERGY STAR® rating uses less energy than a 60-watt light bulb, saving you about $60 a year.

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