Normally, heat flows from warmer objects to cooler objects just as water naturally flows from high places down to lower places. If you want to force water to move upwards, you need to use a water pump. Similarly, if you want heat to move ‘uphill’ (i.e. from a cooler place to a warmer place) you need to use a heat pump. A refrigerator is basically an insulated cabinet containing a heat pump. Heat is continually leaking into the refrigerator (because the interior is cooler than the exterior) so the heat pump has to continually force this heat out again.
Keep the heat out
The refrigerator is continually trying to extract heat from its interior and dump it into the surroundings. You can help it by not unnecessarily allowing heat to get back in.
- Don’t leave the door open. Decide what you need before you open the fridge door, so that you can minimise the time the door is open. Close the door as soon as you have what you need.
- Locate the fridge somewhere cool. The cooler the outside of the fridge, the less hard it has to work in order to keep the interior cold. Certainly don’t place it next to a stove, a boiler or any other appliance that produces heat, and if possible, don’t position it in direct sunlight.
- Let hot objects cool down first. If you put hot objects straight into the fridge, it has to work very hard to remove this heat. Letting hot objects cool down to room temperature before you put them in the fridge can save significant amounts of energy.
Keep the coils clear
Just as a water pump works more effectively if you remove restrictions to the flow of water, so a heat pump works more effectively if you remove restrictions to heat flow. A refrigerator extracts heat from the objects inside and gets rid of this heat through condenser coils at the back of the cabinet. The easier this heat can be carried away, the more efficiently the fridge will work. You can help this process by:
- Keeping the coils clean. If dust is allowed to build up, it insulates the coils and prevents them from getting rid of heat. It is recommended that the coils are cleaned thoroughly once per year to maintain efficient performance.
- Allow air to circulate. Always position a refrigerator so that air can circulate freely around the coils. It is recommended to allow a gap of at least 5 cm between the back of the fridge and the wall, and preferably a gap of 2 cm on each side. Don’t block the space above the coils.
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