THE ISSUE WITH USING OLD DOMESTIC APPLIANCES
The average domestic fridge or freezer in New Zealand is 16 years old, and since many clubs are using donated appliances, the average club appliance is much older still! Research by EECA shows that even a 10 year old domestic fridge costs around $200 per year in electricity, or twice as much to run as a modern ENERGY STAR-accredited model. The savings made over the life of a new appliance can be as much or more than the initial purchase price. In addition, older fridges and freezers are often in poor mechanical condition, making them noisy and further increasing their energy consumption, not to mention affecting their ability to keep contents at a safe temperature.
PURCHASING A NEW FRIDGE OR FREEZER
Before purchasing a new domestic refrigeration appliance, think about how much capacity the club needs. If you have multiple units that are rarely full, try to consolidate their contents into any modern, energy efficient units you may already have first. You might find you don’t need that extra appliance (and the extra upfront and energy costs that come with it) after all! Purchasing large fridges or freezers while only using a small fraction of their capacity, consumes more energy than is necessary and costs more money up front. On the other hand, purchasing a small unit that will be overstocked most of the time forces the appliance to work harder, consuming more energy and reducing its lifetime.
However, if the club does need to replace an appliance, the Energy Rating System makes choosing an efficient model simple. Every new domestic fridge and freezer sold in New Zealand is labelled with a sticker displaying a simple star rating, and an energy consumption figure. The more stars an appliance has, the more energy efficient it is. If you are comparing differing sizes and types of appliance, you can use the annual energy consumption figure shown on the bottom half of the label. The lower the figure, the less electricity it will use, and the cheaper it will be to run. The best fridges and freezers have a four star rating or better, and are labeled with the blue ENERGY STAR mark. Such models are the most energy efficient available, using an average of 40% less energy than non-accredited models.
HOW TO RUN APPLIANCES MOST EFFICIENTLY
A few simple maintenance tasks are key to keeping your refrigeration appliances operating efficiently:
Clean and inspect the door seals regularly. Seals that have perished or torn can allow warm, moist air into the appliance, causing frost buildup and forcing the appliance to consume more electricity to maintain its temperature. Cleaning is important as spills and stains invite mould and mildew, which accelerate seal deterioration. A useful trick is to place a torch inside and close the door; if you can see light escaping, the seals are not doing their job. If the seals are in poor condition and the appliance is quite old, seek to replace it. Otherwise, contact a refrigeration specialist to have the seals changed.
Keep your appliances defrosted. A layer of frost insulates the appliance’s heat exchanger from the storage area, meaning it has to work harder to maintain the correct temperature, costing you extra money in the meantime. If you notice frost buildup exceeding 5 mm, it’s time to defrost.
Leave air gaps all around your refrigeration appliances, as specified by the manufacturer. Fridges and freezers remove heat from the interior and expel it from radiator coils on the rear of the appliance. If there isn’t enough airflow to this area, it is more difficult for heat to escape, forcing the appliance to work harder. This consumes more electricity and shortens its lifetime. For the same reason, it’s also wise to inspect the radiator coils once or twice a year, and clean them if dirty.