Keep your fridge-freezer clean and ice-free

Last updated Wednesday 30 April 2008

A clean machine can save on carbon... and cash

Giving your fridge-freezer a quick MoT takes moments and pays dividends. Simple day-to-day steps can transform its efficiency and extend its life.

Regular defrosting, ideal positioning in the room, keeping lids on liquids and even giving it a once-over with the vacuum cleaner can minimise a fridge-freezer's CO2emissions and save you up to £30 over its lifetime. And an icey fridge means it's working less efficiently - so applying just a little regular TLC could save up to 10kg of CO2 every year, almost ten times less CO2 than you can save by composting the food you keep in it and normally throw away.

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Photo: Keep your fridge-freezer clean and ice-free

Saves about 10kg of CO2 a year

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Pub Fact

  • 15p of each £1 spent on food is wasted. This can be reduced by checking in the fridge before shopping and using leftovers instead of binning them
  • UK households use £1.2 billion worth of electricity every year on cooling and freezing food and drinks
  • Refrigeration and freezing appliances in UK homes use nearly as much electricity as all offices
  • Cooling a 2L bottle of drink from room temperature generates ten times as much greenhouse gas as opening the fridge door
  • Fridge-freezers work best in cold spaces, so if possible keep them out of direct sunlight and away from cookers
  • The coils at the back work better if they're kept at least 10cm from the wall and dust-free. Dust and grime clog them up and increase energy use by up to 30% so vacuum them about every three months. Make sure you unplug the fridge-freezer first to avoid electric shocks
  • If it's not of the frost free variety, defrost it at the first hint of an icicle
  • Clean the door seals and replace them if they're damaged
  • Your fridge works best when it's kept well stocked - but not crammed full
  • Vapours from liquids make the fridge work harder, so keep them covered
  • Keep the appliance at its optimum temperature - 3-5°C for the fridge and -18°C for freezers
  • If your fridge is over ten years old, consider upgrading to a new one

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What's the debate?

It's easy to be cynical about how much cleaning our fridges can really do to tackle global warming when you think about the energy used by businesses, but in fact fridges and freezers in UK homes use nearly as much electricity as all offices.

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Glossary terms used on this page
CO2
CO2, or carbon dioxide, is made up of the elements carbon and oxygen. It exists quite naturally in our atmosphere, as part of the carbon cycle. Everyday processes in the plant and animal world both add CO2 to the atmosphere and take it out. However, because it is a greenhouse gas - meaning it affects the temperature of the earth - the exact level of CO2 is important. Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 into the atmosphere, hence the anxiety that extensive use of these fuels is causing climate change.
Emissions
Emissions are the CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) produced by energy use, usually calculated and stated as an annual tally: also referred to as your carbon footprint. Your personal emissions can be direct - such as the gas you personally use to heat your home or the petrol you burn to power your car - or indirect - meaning the energy use that has gone into the products or services you buy. The latter, such as the emissions caused by the manufacture of your new TV, or the packaging your food comes in, are also referred to as embodied emissions.
Global warming
Global warming refers to the increase in the earth's surface (or near-surface) temperature in recent decades due to higher levels of greenhouse gases, and the projected worsening of this effect over time.
Greenhouse gases
Greenhouse gases raise the earth's temperature through the greenhouse effect. There are six main examples. As well as carbon dioxide, they include: water vapour, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and CFCs (which include sulphur hexafluoride, HFCs, and PFCs). Of these, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, HFCs, and PFCs are controlled under the Kyoto Protocol to limit their concentration in the atmosphere. The heat warming capacity of each gas is measured by its 'global warming potential': how much heat it traps depends on its chemical make-up and how long it stays in the atmosphere.

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