By MyPros Staff
In the 1950s, the term “labor-saving device” was applied to the new generation of modern appliances that began filling the homes of America. Today, of course, they are considered necessities – “life-saving devices,” if anything. We simply cannot live without our microwaves and our washing machines.
And think about refrigerators. Who would want to go back to living without them? No one! Still, some people have the worst luck with home appliances, which can become “money holes” unless you know how to keep them running right. Regarding your modern refrigerator, for the most part it’s knowing how it works and using common sense that will keep it in good operating condition.
In no particular order, then, here are the key tips to saving money with your refrigerator:
- Get the appropriate model for your needs. The first place you save money is at purchase time, when you decide for or against models with water and ice dispensers, separate “temperature zones” or other costly options.
- If you don’t have appropriate plumbing (water line) for a water dispenser or ice-making unit, then by all means don’t pay for one.
- Install the refrigerator in the proper place, with the proper high-capacity outlet on the right home circuit, etc.
- Leave enough “breathing room” around the appliance, and keep the floor clean so it will not accrue layers of dust, dirt and pet hair. These can “gum up the works” as well as make the unit run hot.
- Read the manual to know how to best keep the refrigerator running most efficiently. If you didn’t buy it new, get a manual – from the manufacturer, the Internet or a local repair professional.
- Check the Energy Saver rating for the appliance, and use the settings recommended for reducing power consumption.
- Take advantage of the special features, if any, that your refrigerator has for keeping perishable items fresh as long as possible. Saving money by reducing spoilage definitely falls in the category of “saving money with your refrigerator.”
- Vacuum the condenser coils (normally located behind the grille beneath the front door). Dirty coils can cause poor functioning, or even make the overload protector on the compressor turn off the refrigerator. Always turn off the refrigerator before working on it, of course.
- At the rear bottom of most refrigerators you will find the condenser fan, which tends to attract layers of dust and grime. After moving the refrigerator away from the wall and removing the access cover, clean the fan blades with a brush, vacuum or sweep around it, clean the shaft where the blade meets the motor and close up the unit. This ensures proper air circulation. (Do not lubricate or oil the motor shaft, as that will attract dust and dirt again.)
- Make sure the light is turning off when the door closes. Pull the gasket away from the frame just a bit, with a butter knife, when the door is closed. If you see light, the switch may be out of alignment or just plain broken. Though small, these light bulbs can raise the temperature inside the refrigerator substantially. This can increase electricity cost due to both the light never turning off and the refrigerator working harder to maintain proper temperature. The cost of replacing food that spoils quicker is no laughing matter, either.
- Keep on the lookout for ice buildup on frost-free refrigerators, and manually defrost it if necessary. If the frost-free feature isn’t working, this may signal a serious repair, or even a replacement.
- Keep the door gasket from drying and cracking. First of all, keep food off it, and clean it regularly. A monthly application of baby powder with a clean cloth will keep the gasket lubricated and doing its job. If your gasket needs replacing, this is only a moderately difficult task and can be done by any competent home handyman.
If any of these tasks is beyond your capabilities, get help from a qualified professional service person a mechanically expert friend or neighbor. Most of this preventative maintenance, however, can be done by the average person, and a little really does go a long way.
From the moment of purchase throughout its (hopefully) long and productive life, a refrigerator can be kept humming along nicely with just the application of common sense and a few simple tasks. Always learn as much as you can about the appliances you use, because this will never fail to save you money and aggravation. You have the Internet as your personal, always-on library, too, with sites that rate top service companies and can offer you even more good advice.