A refrigerator is one of the most energy-hungry appliances in your home. The average size fridge runs at about 1,800 watts, which means it uses around 650 kWh of electricity a year. That’s enough to power an average American home for a month! You should try to find a way to keep this resourceful appliance running efficiently by remembering these eight helpful tricks.
On very cold days, set the fridge’s thermostat to 3 degrees or lower so that it doesn’t run so hard and waste as much electric power when you’re not using it. Conversely, if it’s a hot summer day, leave the thermostat at 5 or 6 degrees.
Turn off the fridge’s power to clean it. This will cause most food to spoil within a few days, but you can find useful tips on how to clean your fridge using less energy in our tip sheet on How To Clean Your Fridge.
If you have an extra refrigerator and aren’t using it, turn it off at the circuit breaker. You don’t need to actually turn off the main breaker because that would mean there would be no power in your entire house.
Use lights that are energy efficient. For example, use CFL light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs. CFLs use up to 75% less energy and last up to 10 times as long as their incandescent counterparts.
Door swings increase the amount of energy your refrigerator uses when in standby mode. You can store soda, juice, etc., on the door shelves without the swing.
If you have a chest freezer, keep it set on 4F or below; you’ll save on power than if you leave it on 0F to kill the timer before turning it off at night.
Consider a top-notch energy-efficient refrigerator if you’re planning on buying a new one. The Energy Star Qualified program has listings and reviews of some of the most energy saving fridges on the market.
Buy a new fridge only when your current one breaks or is more than 10 years old. Make sure you measure your kitchen space before you buy a fridge so that it fits properly, and check out online price comparisons to make sure that your selected model is actually energy efficient. Here’s an example of one that meets all these criteria: GE Refrigerator with Energy Star Certification. It uses about $29 a year worth of electricity, as opposed to $65 for the average refrigerator.
By remembering these tips, you’ll be saving around $50 a year in electricity costs, and have an energy efficient appliance that is good for the environment.
How many amps does a refrigerator use?
A refrigerator that draws 15 power will create a whopping 3.2 amps of current, which is typical for the average 115-volt circuit. A refrigerator that draws 21 power will create 4.8 amps on the same circuit.
That’s the basics of electricity, but it’s easy to conclude that if you make it bigger, it’ll draw more current…. but not always! Actually calculating how many amps a device uses can be tricky because some appliances use DC (direct current) and others use AC (alternating current). Older models of geothermal heat pumps, for example, use AC.
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The following chart shows how AC and DC appliances compare:
Electricity draws power from the line running to the power outlet, and all electricity generated by all appliances flows through that outlet to a central breaker box. If you want to check on the current draw of an appliance in question, just find out which breaker box is controlling it. Some breakers are labeled “supply” or “load.” Other breakers are labeled with numbers like 220-240-240-115. Here’s a sample list:
A refrigerator that draws 2 amps (220) will use about 10 watts while running. A refrigerator that draws 3 amps (240) will use about 12.5 watts while running. A refrigerator that draws 5 amps (240-120) will use about 15 watts while running.
Now, some appliances, like a dishwasher or washing machine, draw generator-type power and can be far more or less powerful than a typical refrigerator. A new washer uses more than 50 amps! And sometimes you have to attach an appliance to a dedicated circuit to determine the actual draw of the device. What follows are some sample calculations based on the information above:
Note: A ground fault breaker won’t trip if the appliance is connected to an extension cord that’s too long. If you want to find out how much load running appliances draw, test them with the ground fault breaker turned off.
Suppose there are two light bulbs and a 20-amp circuit breaker in your basement. How many amps of current will each bulb consume? The answer: 5 amps, because a 20-amp circuit means that the maximum power each appliance can use is 10 amps. So if the light bulbs are connected directly to the electrical line, they’ll use 5 amps each. That’s why light bulbs aren’t allowed to be connected directly to a circuit board.
If there’s a 20-amp circuit breaker in the basement, how many amps should a refrigerator draw in order to be wired directly into the circuit? The answer: 15. A refrigerator uses 3.2 amps of current when it runs, so if it’s connected to a 20-amp circuit, it’ll draw 15 amps total while running. (Don’t even think about using an extension cord or generator — most residential codes require that all appliances must be wired directly into the wall.)
If there’s a 20-amp circuit breaker in the basement, how much current will a washer drain? The answer: 25 amps. The washer uses 50 amps to run. So if the washer is connected directly to the power line, it’ll draw 25 amps overall.
If the geothermal heat pump is connected directly to a circuit, and if it uses 12.5 watts of power and has a current draw of 4.8 amps, how many watts of power will that circuit supply? The answer: 40 watts. Remember that all the electricity used by the appliance flows through that circuit breaker box — in this case, a 150-watt light bulb will consume 75 percent of the total power available on that circuit.
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How many amps are there available on a 240 volt circuit? The answer: 20. The 20-amp circuit breaker is on a 240 volt circuit.
How many amps are available on a 220 volt circuit? The answer: 16. A 220 volt circuit has 4 wires and that’s what the “220” stands for — 220 volts.
How many amps can you get out of a 240-volt power outlet in your house? The answer: 14 amps, because the total draw of all appliances connected to that line can’t exceed 10 amps. This isn’t exactly realistic, because it’s unlikely that anyone would have 14 appliances connected to just one outlet, but it serves as an example of how electricity is measured (and why electricity from two different circuits may or may not be compatible). A standard wall outlet supplies 115 volts of current, and if you’re using an appliance that draws 14 amps (like a clothes dryer), it’ll be running on the equivalent of 102.3 volts.
If you’re using a portable generator to power your appliances, how much power can it supply? The answer: 2200 watts. A generator that’s rated for 2200 watts should supply enough power for up to 8 or 9 appliances, including a refrigerator and television. (Of course, most generators don’t provide as much power as they advertise — when you factor in the current draw for multiple appliances, the maximum is often less than 1000 watts. But if all you have is a generator, you’ll be able to get by with it.)
A 2200 watt generator will only provide enough current to power one standard circuit or two smaller sized circuits. If you want to run more than two outlets on the same line, you’ll need to step up the voltage of the house wiring system. Best case scenario: Use a 30-amp circuit! Worst case scenario: Add a second 100-amp breaker box near your appliances and wire it into your home’s regular electrical lines. Then run three standard size circuits or five smaller sized circuits that will work with existing wall outlets or extension cords.
For more tips on finding, testing and using generators, see our report on emergency electricity generation.
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