January 06, 2007

Cool Jerk: Control Fridge Waste

What is it about the Quest for the Holy Snack? You know exactly what I'm talking about: you're craving something delicious—maybe sweet, maybe salty, maybe crunchy, maybe ice cream—so you open the refrigerator door to see what you've got. And then you stand there and stare.

How many times a day do you do this? If you're like me, you do it a fair amount. But I'm on a new quest now—one to change my fridgerly habits. Surprisingly, I've discovered that it's really quite easy...

Step 1: Clean the fridge outside
Refrigerators are remarkable easy to move. They generally slide right out from the wall. From there, you can see all the nasty bits and dust that collect along the coils. Clean it up! This stuff keeps the fridge from running at maximum efficiency. Do it once a month (that's about 5 minutes of your time), and you're good to go.

Step 2: Clean the fridge inside
Nobody likes a casserole dish full of mystery loaf. When you get rid of old and expired products, it becomes much easier to see what you actually do want eat. Try storing items in clear glass containers—they're reusable, and you avoid the out of site, out of mind phenomenon.

Step 3: Close the damn door!
This one's easy. Now that your fridge is clean and organized, and you can see all your food through glass bowls, it shouldn't take you long to decide what you want. Why is this important? Because your fridge loses a lot of cold air when you open it even for a minute and it takes extra energy to re-cool once you close the door. It's been reported that the standard snack-seeker increases their energy use by 5-10% through the simple act of routinely opening and closing the fridge door.

Step 4: Turn it down
How cold does your refrigerator run? If you can stand to turn down the temperature even a single level, you'll save a lot of energy. Do the same for your freezer if it has a seperate control.

Step 5: Fill 'er up
While normally I would never recommend simply filling your fridge with useless foods that you'll probably never eat, I can't deny that a full fridge uses less energy than an empty one. This is because the air required to stay cool takes up less volume than the food itself. This is particularly useful for your freezer, where you can store food for longer and waste less.

Step 6: Replace it altogether
Not everyone can do this—us renters are stuck with the fridge we've got. But if you're a homeowner, consider replacing your fridge with an Energy Star rated appliance. Not only will you use less energy, but some gas & electric providers actually offer additional discounts on your bill when you buy these products. You can download a handy Excel spreadsheet to calculate just what you'll save.

Aside from replacing your appliance, all of these steps require about 10 minutes of your time per month. So what are you waiting for? Once you're done, you can reward yourself with some cookies—and you don't even need to open the fridge to get them.

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