Proper Maintenance to Reduce Refrigerator Energy Usage
Refrigerators are constantly running, and constantly using electricity. To reduce a refrigerator’s energy usage, focus on finding ways to decrease heat infiltration into your system and to make sure all of your components are running efficiently. Since a refrigerator’s job, as discussed in How a Refrigerator Works and Uses Energy, is to remove the hot air from the space to create the desired temperature, we want to reduce the amount of heat we are introducing into the refrigerator. Also, if components are running inefficiently, they can be hindering this goal of alleviating heat infiltration or simply overworking the machine causing it to draw in more energy. The best way to achieve the goal of lowering a refrigerator’s energy usage is through proper maintenance.
Clean Evaporator and Condenser Coils
Refrigerator coils, both evaporator coils and condenser coils, should be cleaned periodically. Dust can build up on the coils and in the fins causing the refrigerator to work harder, sometimes even doubling the cost of operation.
Dirty and clogged coils and fins prevent heat from moving through the system like it should. If the hot air is unable to come into close contact with the evaporator coils because of dust buildup, then the refrigerant can’t absorb the heat from inside the refrigerator as efficiently. If the condenser coils and fins are clogged, then the heat can’t be released efficiently from the refrigerant. That means that the temperature inside the refrigerator has not been reduced as quickly as in a refrigerator with clean coils and therefore, the compressor and system will have to run longer to achieve the same desired temperature. All of this leads to inefficiency, possible equipment failure, and more frequent service calls.
To prevent running an inefficient system and cutting down on the refrigerator’s energy usage, clean the coils and fins quarterly. At a minimum the coils and fins should be deep cleaned by a professional using a cleaner and water pressure for large refrigerators and an aerosol cleaner for smaller workstation refrigerators once a year. Coils that are exposed to grease in kitchens should consider cleaning more often as the grease can build up on and between the fins and severely clog them decreasing airflow across the coil and eroding efficiency.
Schedule an Annual Maintenance Inspection
Commercial refrigerators, specifically large and walk-in refrigerators, should be serviced at least once a year. A maintenance inspection includes thorough cleaning of the refrigerator’s coils, checking and topping off refrigerant levels, lubricating moving parts, such as the fan motors, and adjusting belts. All of these tasks will help to ensure that the refrigerator is running efficiently.
Maintain Refrigerator Doors
Many commercial refrigeration systems have doors, and surprisingly enough, the maintenance of these doors can be critical to the efficiency of the system. With one of the main focuses of running an efficient refrigerator being limiting heat infiltration into the system, doors are a great way to seal heat out when no one needs to get into the refrigerator.
Door gaskets play a significant role in making sure the door is sealed. If a gasket is torn, cracked, or missing, it should be replaced. To test to see if a gasket is worn and no longer providing a tight seal, put a dollar bill between the door’s seal and see if it slips out easily. If it does, the gasket should probably be replaced.
If doors are sagging or are not aligned correctly, they won’t seal properly and can let air into the refrigerator. Doors should be fixed to ensure there are no cracks or gaps.
If you have a walk-in refrigerator, strip curtains can help to provide an additional barrier when the door is opened. Doors are sometimes left open for loading shipments or during busy periods in a kitchen. Strip curtains can cut down the outside air infiltration by as much as 75 percent.
Remember, the less heat that enters the system, the less time the compressor and system has to run. That means financial savings on your energy bill and helping to maintain the lifecycle of your equipment.
Program Proper Defrost Settings
Defrost settings are important for efficiently running a refrigerator. However, running longer defrost cycles or having the system defrost more often aren’t necessarily what is best for your refrigerator or energy bill.
Defrosting is important because it keeps ice from building up on the evaporator coils, allowing them to do their job. The evaporator coils tend to get frosty when moist air is introduced into the refrigerator box. When the defrost cycle begins, the evaporator coils heat up. This means the refrigerator is using more electricity to heat up the evaporator coils and introducing more heat into the box. To limit this extra energy usage, set your defrost cycle to the manufacturer’s specifications; this is usually the minimum setting for your refrigerator to work as efficiently and productively as possible.
Check Walk-in Panels
The panels on your walk-in can start to separate exposing the insulation, or worse yet, creating leaks for heat infiltration. As boxes age the aluminum side panels can begin to separate from each other. Through even the smallest cracks, heat can seep into the refrigerator. And as you know, the more heat, the harder your refrigerator has to work.