Our refrigerators are constantly at work keeping our food cold and safe to eat, but we rarely give them much love back. To keep your refrigerator functioning optimally, consider these seven tips, which can also help you save money on your electricity bill and avoid unexpected repair costs.
1. SEPARATE YOUR APPLIANCES.
If you have space in your kitchen, put your refrigerator as far away as possible from your oven and dishwasher. The heat generated from your oven, stove, and dishwasher will force your refrigerator to work harder to maintain its cool temperature, increasing your electricity bill in the process.
2. KEEP GRAZING TO A MINIMUM.
Frequently opening and closing the door puts strain on your trusty old fridge. Try to avoid mindlessly eating in front of the refrigerator (with the door open), lest you let too much cold air escape the fridge.
3. INSPECT AND CLEAN THE GASKETS.
You probably don’t pay much attention to the seal around the perimeter of your refrigerator door, but that little bit of rubber or plastic is essential to helping your fridge run optimally. Also called a door gasket, the seal can get dirty or worn out over time. Use warm water and mild soap on a sponge or old toothbrush to gently scrub any dirt off the door seal. To test whether the seal is tight and in good working order, close a dollar bill in the door so that it is half in and half out of your fridge. If your gasket isn’t tight enough, it won’t hold the bill firmly in place (if this is the case, you should look into replacing the seal).
4. DON’T PUT HOT LEFTOVERS IN THE FRIDGE.
If you have containers of leftovers, don’t put them straight into the fridge while they’re still hot; they can dramatically raise the fridge’s temperature, making the compressor work harder to cool the fridge down. If you let your food cool to room temperature before putting it in the refrigerator, you’ll take some of the strain off your fridge. Just remember, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions that perishables should be left out of the fridge for no more than two hours (one hour if the temperature is above 90°F).
5. VACUUM THE CONDENSER COILS.
Your refrigerator’s condenser coils release heat, making the compressor run. When dust, dirt, and pet hair gather around the condenser coils, the system overheats, the compressor breaks down, and your refrigerator can’t keep your food cold. Depending on what type of refrigerator you have, you can probably access the condenser coils from the back (pull your refrigerator away from the wall) or from the bottom front (remove the grill). Use a vacuum or bristle brush to clean the coils every few months, especially if you have a pet that sheds.
6. DON’T KEEP THE TEMPERATURE TOO COLD.
The FDA recommends keeping your fridge at or below 40°F and your freezer at 0°F. You might think that setting your refrigerator to the coldest setting will make your food last longer, but keeping the temperature colder than necessary is a bad idea. Not only will your electric bill be higher, but the compressor will need to run longer to keep the fridge colder, which wears it out faster.
7. COVER FOOD TO REDUCE EXTRA MOISTURE.
It might be tempting to quickly stash an uncovered bowl of berries or chicken in your fridge, but take the extra time to transfer your food to closed containers. If your food is uncovered, the moisture in the food is released into the air and your fridge is forced to work extra hard to keep things dry. On a gustatory level, covering your food will also help ensure that it doesn’t get weirdly dried out.