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Guide to greener kitchens: refrigerators 8/11
(This article is adapted from ConsumerReports.org.)

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Greener refrigerators

This kitchen appliance uses the most energy overall because it's always running. Consumer Reports' refrigerator tests tell you not only how well each model does in tough tests, but how much it's likely to cost per year in energy.

An LG French-door bottom-freezer LG LFC25776 [SW] was among the standouts for energy efficiency in the tests. The $1, 500 model, which is a Best Buy, does not have built-in ice and water dispensers, which increase a refrigerator’s energy consumption, but otherwise this model has a lot of valuable features. Its average annual energy cost of $49 is lower than all but two models from the 180 reviewed.

Another of the highest-scoring models, a Whirlpool Gold French-door bottom-freezer, features both dispensers and costs just $58 per year to operate on average. The Frigidaire Gallery FGUB2642L, $1,600, also delivers top energy savings in a French-door model.

You'll find estimated energy-use data for each model on its yellow EnergyGuide label. But some refrigerators that were tested used significantly more energy than their EnergyGuide labels claimed. And energy use overall has averaged 20 percent more in Consumer Reports’ tests than what the labels indicate. Consumer Reports tests are different from and tougher than what the Department of Energy mandates.

High-efficiency motors, innovative compressors, and better-insulated panels are some of the ways that manufacturers are working to increase efficiency.

Rule of thumb: Top-freezer and bottom-freezer fridges tend to use the least energy as a group, while built-in models and under-cabinet drawers typically use the most for their size.

Whichever refrigerator type you choose, here are some ways to maximize its efficiency:
• Consider skipping ice and water dispensers. While both are popular conveniences, they increase energy use and add complexity that can contribute to higher repair rates.

• Position refrigerators away from direct sunlight and heat sources.

• Don't leave the door open for long periods; up to 30 percent of the cooled air can escape each time the door is opened.

• Clean the compressor coils every few months or so. You'll typically find the coils at the bottom, though they're in back on some older fridges and behind a grill on top of some built-in models.

• Keep door gaskets clean with mild detergent and water, not bleach, to ensure a good seal and prevent wasted energy. Check the gasket seal by closing the doors on a dollar bill; replace the gasket if the bill falls out or can be easily removed without opening the door.

• Keep the refrigerator at 36 degrees to 38 degrees F and the freezer no colder than 0 to 5 degrees F.

• Keep refrigerator compartments full, if possible, to limit temperature fluctuations.
Be sure to check the Consumer Reports refrigerator buying guide for more information.

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