Today's new refrigerators are significantly more efficient than the models from just a few years ago. As one of the most energy-intensive devices in your home, it really pays (both personally and environmentally) to have an efficient fridge in your kitchen. But what if you can't afford to buy a new fridge, or if you rent and you're stuck with what your landlord gives you?
Don't worry, there are several things you can do to make your fridge more efficient and use less energy. Some of them require a bit of work on part, while others might require you to change a habit or two.
1. Dust around, behind and beneath your fridge every two months. The more detritus that collects along the coils, condenser tubes and mechanics of your fridge, the less efficient it will work.
Similarly, check the gasket -- the plastic bit that seals the door shut. It's easy for little bits of crap to build up around a fridge's door, creating little mico-gaps that let cold air escape. A clean gasket equals an efficient fridge. (Oh, and if your gasket is torn up or if you can pull a piece of paper through a closed door? Replace it.)
2. Keep your fridge and freezer full. You don't need to over-consume, but a full fridge is more efficient. Every time you open the door, the cool air rushes out and the fridge needs to work harder to replace it. If there is more food in the fridge or freezer, there is less air to escape, and everything stays cooler.
3. Cover your leftovers. Don't put things in the fridge if they aren't covered. They will emit moisture into the air in the fridge, which will then need to work harder to remove it. If you don't want use disposable plastic wrap, invest in a few covered and washable containers. Your food will stay fresher longer and your fridge will save a few watts in cooling it.
4. Double-check your temperature settings. It's easy to keep fridges running cooler than they need to be, and that uses more energy. (This can be on purpose or by accident -- I had a fridge once whose temperature setting was so loose it constantly shifted. Annoying and inefficient, to say the least.)
Your fridge might even have a switch for summer and winter settings. Don't use it. The "winter" setting turns on a small heater to remove condensation. It shouldn't be necessary if you're following these tips.
There you go. Give these tips a try, and if you have others, feel free to share them!