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6 REDUCE REFRIGERATION ENERGY

This action focuses on reducing the electricity needed for refrigeration through various strategies.

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WHY?

Refrigerators are the largest appliance in our homes, and also account for the largest percentage of daily appliance electricity use at 5% of total household energy. While a typical refrigerator uses only around 68 watts/hour compared to a hair dryer which uses 1200 watts/hour, when the time each of these appliances are being used is taken into account the numbers tell a very different story. A refrigerator, which is on periodically all day uses 1,700 watts/hour/day versus the hair dryer, used for only 5 minutes uses 200 watts/hour/day. In this way, when metering appliances for how much energy they use, it is important to take into account how long each appliance is used. Those appliance such as refrigerators which are on all day, are often the largest energy users.


how to do this action:

This action asks participants to experiment with different strategies for reducing the energy used for refrigeration:

  • (1) Change the environment inside your fridge to allow it to retain more cool mass, requiring less energy.
  • (2) Downsize your fridge to use a mini fridge.
  • (3) Eliminate the use of your refrigerator for the duration of the project.
1 - INCREASE THERMAL MASS

Every time a refrigerator door in opened, cold air is let out and warm air rushes in to replace it. This means that when the door is shut again, a significant amount of energy must go into cooling all the warm air that was let in. The more air space in a fridge, the more cold air that can be swapped with warm air from the kitchen. This means that the more full your fridge is, the less air space it contains that fluctuates from cold to warm every time the door is opened. The more full your fridge is, however, the more likely it is that food will be wasted because it is forgotten about and spoils (‘out of sight out of mind’). So, instead of cramming a fridge full of food, keeping gallon jugs of water to fill up empty space is an excellent way to use up that extra space. These jugs can be pulled out when the fridge is fuller and put in a cabinet until needed again. The same principle can be applied to the freezer, keeping ice bags in to increase thermal mass.

This brings up a related, and obvious, point; the biggest loss of energy for refrigerators is having the door open. According to Home Energy Magazine, door openings account for 7% of your fridge energy use , while the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida says that poor open/close habits waste 50-120 kWh per year. Make it a habit to decide what you need before opening the fridge, get what you need quickly and avoid wasting energy standing with the door open while you think.

In addition....If an refrigerator is more than ten years old, consider replacing it. New efficiency standards went into effect in 1992, and older refrigerators are typically two to three times more expensive to run than a new unit. For more information go directly to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s list of most efficient refrigerator-freezers.

2 DOWNSIZE YOUR REFRIGERATOR

A mini fridge is less than 1/3rd the size of a typical fridge and uses about 1/3 of the energy as well. While a normal sized refrigerator uses around 68 watts/hour (1.68 kWh/day), a mini fridge uses 22-23 watts/hour (or 0.543 kWh/day) This means that switching to a smaller fridge could save 1.087 kWh/day.

For many, depending on the number of people living in your household, using a smaller fridge would be relatively simple. Often, much of the space in a normal sized fridge is not used when living alone or with one other person. For others living in larger families or with multiple roommates, this action becomes more of a challenge.

Following are some guidelines for reducing refrigeration items:

  • - While most things will last longer being refrigerated, some foods actually do better without refrigeration. For example, leaving all greens and herbs in glasses of water on the counter instead of putting them in the fridge often allows them to stay fresh longer.

  • -If you shop more frequently, less food needs to be purchased and saved between trips. For example, purchase 1/2 gallon of milk instead of a whole.

  • -Many produce items don't need to be refrigerated if they are consumed within a few days. Keep items which do not spoil quickly out on the counter in bowls.

  • -Keep only what condiments are necessary and used quite often. This might mean changing your eating habits to use condiments more frequently if bought. If possible, put condiments in smaller containers.

  • -Keep leftovers in smaller, serving size containers, instead of bulky to-go boxes.

  • -Keep only what is going to be consumed in the next few days in the fridge. For example, cans of soda or beer have a long shelf life without refrigeration.

In addition, it is likely that less food will be wasted due to spoilage when shopping more frequently. With a smaller fridge area, it is easier to see everything that you have at once saving money along with energy.

If choosing this action, inventory what is typically stored in your fridge and come up with a plan for each group of items for how to function using less refrigeration space. An example is shown below:

Spreadsheet
3 - ELIMINATE USE OF YOUR REFRIGERATOR FOR THE DURATION OF THE PROJECT

The most dramatic strategy for reducing refrigerator energy would be to eliminate using it altogether. Choosing this strategy would require you to make very careful purchasing decisions, purchasing only the food you will be able to eat before it is spoiled. Experiment with different methods of preserving food instead of using a refrigerator:

  • (1) Make sure all food is kept in a cooler space in the kitchen where it will not come into contact with direct sunlight.
  • (2) Put greens and herbs in a mason jar filled with water to preserve them. Make sure to trim the ends of the stems off first, so they can soak up the water.

what will be measured?

KEY QUESTIONS

QUANTITATIVE QUESTION: How much refrigeration energy can be reduced using various strategies?

QUALITATIVE QUESTION: How does the experience of reducing refrigeration energy affect your happiness, convenience, health and costs?

BASELINE WEEK TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
During the baseline tracking week before the project begins, use the corresponding spreadsheet (E6_BASELINE) and a Kill-A-Watt meter to track current refrigeration energy use:

  • (1) Using a Kill-A-Watt meter, begin metering your refrigerator at 8:00am Day 1 of the BASELINE tracking week, or a similar time at which you can consistantly check it each day (you will leave the meter plugged in for the duration of the week).

  • (2) Each subsequent day at that time, enter the reading (kWh) in the chart. When entering the data in the Excel spreadsheet, kWh/day will be calculated allowing you to compare use for each day.

QUALITATIVE


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria using the spreadsheet (E6_BASELINE) as it relates to your current refrigeration electricty use:

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

IMPLEMENTATION PHASE TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
Use the corresponding spreadsheet (E6_QUANTITATIVE) to record all metered kWh/day as you experiment with different strategies of reducing this energy.

  • (1) Using a Kill-A-Watt meter, begin metering your refrigerator at 8:00am Day 1 of the IMPLEMENTATION phase (by unplugging it and plugging it back in), or a similar time at which you can consistantly check it each day (you will leave the meter plugged in for the duration of the week, restarting the meter at the beginning of each week).
  • (2) Each subsequent day throughout the week at the same time, enter the reading (kWh) in the chart. When entering the data in the Excel spreadsheet, kWh/day will be calculated allowing you to compare use for each day.
  • (3) Enter strategies used each week to reduce refrigeration energy.

QUALITATIVE
Part 1 - Ranking


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria each week of the project on the spreadsheet (E6_QUALITATIVE). Your answers should not be rated in comparison to your baseline week, but in general as a reflection of how you are feeling.

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

Part 2 - Blogging
Keep a narrative log of your experiences changing this action in your life. What strategies did you choose to experiment with and how did each of them go? Which strategies invovled the most lifestyle change? Which involved the least?


resources

American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
Consumer Energy Center
ACTION SPREADSHEETS

The spreadsheets referred to above can be found in the Excel file at the following link:

E6_Reduce Refrigeration Energy Spreadsheet

If you prefer to enter your responses by hand, printable PDFs of each spreadsheet can be found at the following links (at the end of the project, all data will have to be entered into the Excel spreadsheet):

E6_BASELINE
E6_QUANTITATIVE
E6_QUALITATIVE