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Using a second fridge or freezer? Here are some tips to keep costs down

December 18, 2023 | Jason Kuiper | energy efficiency, energy savings, tips
Stacked products in open fridge

Growing up, many of us had multiple refrigerators or an extra freezer. Our home had a fridge in the garage. A large freezer, too. The freezer was loaded with food and the garage fridge with pop and beer and leftovers that didn’t fit in the house fridge.

And during the holidays, those refrigerators and freezers are often packed completely full in preparation for large family gatherings.

Of course, having those appliances in the average garage isn’t very energy-efficient. Statistics show that Midwesterners are most likely to have multiple refrigerators – more than 30% of households do. Part of that might be due to the prevalence of hunting in those areas, or to those who buy meat in bulk, said Eric BenSalah, OPPD’s energy consultant.

“Having multiple refrigerators is driven by necessity, not by a certain demographic,” BenSalah said. “We see it range from the retired and seniors to single people and young families. But where you have the unit can make a difference.”

It’s best to keep your freezers and fridges indoors, to save on energy costs. A beer fridge in a non-climate controlled garage, for example, has to work much harder during the sweltering summer months to keep things cool.

“It’s best to store your second fridge in a conditioned space like a basement,” he said. “Even if you have a more recent model, one that is more energy-efficient, it shouldn’t go in the garage.”

But for some, the garage is the only place with space for an extra refrigerator.

“In that case, it’s best to put it along a wall that doesn’t receive direct sunlight,” BenSalah said. “Also, it’s best to keep that second fridge or freezer as full as possible, as that is more efficient than a mostly empty one.”

Conserving energy

BenSalah said that each item in the refrigerator or freezer acts as a cooling pack. That means there is less open space for the fridge or freezer to cool. If you don’t have much in your freezer, putting jugs of water inside to freeze can help make the unit more efficient.

Of course, the newer the model, the less energy it will use and the lower the impact on your bill. BenSalah said models that are more than 15 years old will tend to be less energy-efficient. Newer models have high energy efficiency ratings.

So if you are going to have a second unit, or already do, there are some adjustments you can make to keep costs down.

BenSalah suggests:

  • Get a thermometer for the refrigerator and one for the freezer. The fridge should be about 35 degrees, the freezer about zero to minus5 degrees. That is a better gauge than relying on the “recommended” setting fridges and freezers have and can help reduce costs from unnecessary cooling.
  • Make sure the gaskets – or seals – along the doors of the fridge/freezer are clean and hug tightly to the frame when closed. Air seeping out can cause the unit to run constantly and potentially lead to damaging the compressor.
  • Whether it is a stand-alone model or one included with the fridge, make sure there is some room for air to circulate throughout as blockages can cause damage and excess usage.


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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

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