Using your refrigerator and freezer properly and keeping them well-organized can help you use less energy and reduce food waste.
Make sure both of them are set at the proper temperature. Keeping them too cold will require more energy to maintain the lower-than-necessary temperatures. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set recommendations based on food safety, calling for refrigerator temperatures to be at or below 40 degrees. Freezers should be at 0 degrees.
To check the temperature, place a thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator and read it after 24 hours. Check the freezer temperature by placing the thermometer between frozen packages and checking after 24 hours.
Keep the refrigerator door seal airtight to prevent the appliance from working too hard to maintain the proper temperature. Test the seal by placing a piece of paper half in and half out and shutting the door. The paper should not pull out easily.
Cover liquids and wrap food when storing them. Uncovered foods release moisture, which will make the compressor work harder.
“If you have hot food to store — whether it’s a doggy bag from a restaurant or leftovers from dinner at home — don’t put it directly in the refrigerator,” said Armando Ruiz, Senior Tech Specialist in TEP’s Residential Energy Efficiency Programs & Services. “Let it cool down to room temperature first. If you put the hot food in the refrigerator, the fridge will work harder to remove the heat.”
When storing food, follow the refrigerator’s design. Store produce in the crisper drawers, keeping fruits and vegetables separate, or on a colder lower shelf. Store meat such as chicken, beef and pork on the bottom shelves and deli meat and cheese in a deli drawer. Group food types together, like dairy or condiments. Keep leftovers at eye-level and not hidden behind other items as a reminder to finish them.
If a power outage occurs, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. The refrigerator will maintain its temperature and keep food cold for about four hours if unopened. A full freezer will keep food for up to 48 hours without power if the door remains closed.