Many households have a spare refrigerator in the basement or garage, ready to provide additional food storage space for the garden produce, special holiday food preparation or just to keep drinks cold and ready. But this casual convenience can be costing you money, and there are ways to save on energy dollars and even improve on the convenience feature.
Energy Efficiency Considerations
Standby or on-call refrigerators usually evolve either from being displaced by a newer kitchen model, or saved from the landfill only to be 'retired' to the basement for occasional use. Some may even be round-shouldered models from a bygone era where energy efficiency was an unheard of phrase. Replacing an older energy guzzler with a newer Energy Star qualified appliance can save you at least 25% or even more in energy consumption depending how old the unit is.
Is there a lot of unused space in this refrigerator most of the time? If the answer is, then you are keeping cold 24/7 more cubic feet than you really need. Do you really use the top freezer compartment?
Maybe a compact sized all-refrigerator model would actually be more than adequate. Downsizing will not only save you in energy, but think of the space you'll also be saving where you locate it.
If this appliance is for seasonal use like garden processing or holiday food storage, consider unplugging it during the off-season months and save on 'standby' energy use.
Cold drink refrigerators and wine coolers may be more suited with specially sized shelving to accommodate more storage in a compact energy saving appliance.
Care & Maintenance Program
It's so easy to forget about maintaining that spare refrigerator. How long since you've vacuumed the air intake grills and back condensor coils? Or checked the condition of the door seal to ensure it keeps the cold air in and hot air out? Also check the electrical cord to ensure there are no electrical hazards present. Defrosting the freezer when required will also increase efficiency, and make sure you locate this spare appliance away from a direct heat source or sunlight.
Improving on Convenience
Generally these refrigerators are manual defrost models which require several hours to remove ice build-up. Replacing it with a frost-free model will greatly add to its convenience, as will newer model features like wider door storage, and spill-proof and adjustable shelves. And a newer model is always just so much nicer to clean and maintain.
Having a standby refrigerator is a real asset to any home, but making it more efficient and convenient is a definite bonus.