New Refrigerators Offer Energy Savings

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Dulley is a Cincinnati-based engineering consultant

QUESTION: I am considering replacing my old refrigerator/freezer with a new high-efficiency model with more convenience features. What should I look for when selecting a new one and how much electricity will I save?

ANSWER: An old refrigerator/freezer is one of the most electricity guzzling appliances in your home. New high-efficiency refrigerator/freezers operate for less than $50 per year, a 50% savings over old ones. They also maintain more constant temperature and humidity levels.

New convenience features allow you to store and find foods faster, so the door is not opened as long. Some energy efficient models have a small door within the large refrigerator door. You put frequently used items there so you won't have to open the large door as often. An exterior ice and water dispenser may also save energy.

New high-efficiency wall and door insulation systems require smaller motors and compressors. This contributes to quiet operation. One efficient model has two totally separate refrigerator and freezer compressor units. This provides precise control over the refrigerator and freezer temperatures.

During a power outage, the extra insulation keeps food frozen and fresh for a longer time. There should also be less sweating around the door gasket area in the summer, even with the energy saver/door heaters switched off.

The most efficient design has the freezer on the top. The cooling coils are in the freezer section, and some of this cold air is circulated down with a fan to cool the refrigerator section. With the freezer above, the colder, more dense air naturally falls into the refrigerator.

Select the smallest refrigerator/freezer that is an adequate size for your needs. A larger one loses more energy through its greater wall surface area.

Although a manual-defrost model is most energy-efficient, you must periodically defrost it. If you don't and the frost builds up, it rapidly loses efficiency. Unless you have time to defrost it, select an automatic defrost model and you'll save electricity overall.

You can request Utility Bills Update No. 499 listing model numbers, sizes, annual electricity consumption and operating costs for the highest efficiency refrigerator/freezers from 14 to 30 cubic feet. To order send $1.50 and a self-addressed business-size envelope to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.

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