News and analysis about renewable energy in California.

Fill Your Fridge To Save Energy (and Money), And 7 Other Tips

Leaving the door open, though? Not so helpful. | Photo: Alin S Living with Autism/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Friday was the first day of summer, and summer is when Californians tend to use the most energy to keep those air conditioners chugging along. With that in mind, the California Energy Commission is offering a few handy tips for those of us looking to trim down our electricity use so that there's more to go around. And they include stocking up on refrigerated goodies.

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According to the CEC's Consumer Energy Center, keeping your refrigerator full makes the fridge work less hard to cool things back down every time you open the door. The food, condiments and baking soda function as thermal mass: once cool they have a tendency to stay that way, meaning that once you close the door again there's less warm air for your fridge motor to chill back down.

Even if you're not flush enough to stock up at the grocery store, you can take advantage of this way to save energy. Most of the thermal mass in those edibles and potables in the fridge pictured here comes from those items' water content: if you'e a couple weeks away from your next grocery store run, you can fill a few gallon jugs with water and refrigerate those instead.

Speaking of refrigerators, if you're one of those people who keeps a second one in the garage for more entertaining liquids, consider turning it off altogether when you're down to a case of beer or less, and fill your main fridge with the beer instead.

Also on the CEC's list of kitchen recommendations: microwave ovens use far less energy to heat food than do stovetops, especially the electric kind. If you're making a cup of tea or heating up a bowl of soup, consider nuking it rather than using the range. And if you have a reasonably new dishwasher, it'll clean your dishes with far less energy input than it'd take to heat the water you'd use to wash more than a couple dishes by hand. Of course, if there's a Flex Alert in progress and you're being asked to conserve power, don't push that dishwasher "on" button until the evening.

The CEC also reminds us that keeping your AC set at 78° or above, and turning it off when you're away, goes a long way to keeping your energy bills low and everyone else's power on. And it's always a good idea to make sure you're well-insulated, weatherstripping your leaky windows, and using heavy drapes to keep bright sunlight from overheating your rooms.

You can get more tips you might not have thought of at the Consumer Energy Center website.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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