Investing in a high-efficiency refrigerator can have a big impact on your utility bills - on average, a new model will use 42 percent less electricity than one manufactured 30 years ago. In fact, a new ENERGY STAR-certified refrigerator uses less energy than a 75-watt light bulb!
The first step is to determine what size your family needs. According to the Home Appliance Manufacturer's Association , a good rule is eight to 10 cubic feet of refrigerator space for two people, and one cubic foot for each additional family member . If you freeze large quantities or entertain frequently, add a few more cubic feet.
Door style is another important factor. Side-by-side models use more energy than top/bottom doors, but can be more convenient in a small kitchen and easier for children and people who use wheelchairs.
Several manufacturers are offering refrigerators with special drawers for keeping food at different temperatures. For example, one drawer holds meats at 31 degrees, another holds fruits at 39 degrees. Food stays fresher longer - in some cases, up to two weeks longer.
Many manufacturers are now offering bottom-freezer units. This arrangement places the more-used refrigerator foods in clear view, reducing the amount of time the refrigerator door is open. Many bottom-freezer models also feature pullout drawers, which prevents food from falling out.
Optional features can also help reduce energy use. In-the-door water and ice dispensers eliminate the need to open the freezer door frequently. Mini-doors allow easy access to items like milk, juice and soda. Another good feature is glass shelves, which hold spills better and prevent cold air from escaping.
If you're building a new home or remodeling your kitchen, refrigerator drawers are another option. They're fitted into standard cabinets; drawers can be placed vertically or horizontally. This new technology frees up space in the rest of the kitchen, puts food items in clear view and, because food is contained in several smaller units, loses less cold air when opened.
Once you've chosen your new refrigerator, be sure to dispose of your old properly. In most cases, the dealer installing your new unit will haul away the old one. Don't keep a second refrigerator in your basement or garage - it can add more than $100 to your electricity bill. And never leave an old refrigerator or freezer where kids might get at it - they can climb inside and quickly suffocate.
Looking for an energy-smart appliance retailer? Try Alliant Energy's online Dealer Locator to find experts in your area.
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