When (& Why) To Turn Your Fridge Off

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A fridge usually stays cool for a couple of hours if there is a power outage. This has led many people to wonder if it is a good idea to switch their fridge off for an hour or two every day or maybe even overnight to conserve energy and save money on the electric bill. 

You should never turn your fridge off unless it’s essential – for instance, you’re going to be gone for months. A built-in thermostat regulates the fridge’s temperature for consistency. When switching on an unplugged fridge, it can take two to 24 hours for it to reach the correct temperature again.

In this article, I will discuss why it is best to always leave your fridge on, when it is a good idea to switch your fridge off, how to save money on electricity and how to store or move an unplugged fridge.

Should You Turn Off an Empty Fridge When Not in Use?

So, we’ve established that we shouldn’t be turning our fridges on and off for no reason. However, what if you are planning on going on holiday? If you’re going to be taking a trip, wouldn’t it make sense to shut down your fridge then?

The answer varies significantly on the amount of time you will be away. 

Even if your fridge is empty and you’re headed out on a trip, you shouldn’t turn it off unless you plan to be gone for quite some time. If you have a fun-packed adventure planned for a week or two, you should leave your fridge running. If you’ll be gone for a month, it’s better to unplug it.

Switching it off while on holiday will not be worth all the work you have to put in before the time. If you are planning to switch your refrigerator off, you will have to remove all the food from the inside and make sure to clean it before you leave.

Switching a fridge off without cleaning it can cause mold and bacteria to grow. It would be best to leave the doors slightly open when unplugged to prevent mold and foul odors.

Plus, you will have to wait for the refrigerator to reset and reach the right temperature before you can use it again.

On the other hand, if you are going away for a couple of months or more, you can switch it off as you won’t be leaving any food in it anyway.

The Average Cost of Running an Empty Fridge

The price of running a fridge varies depending on the age and model that you own. If your fridge is ten years or older, it will use a lot more electricity than a new Energy star-rated fridge.

  • An old fridge of 10+ years: You will pay approximately 200 to 250 USD a year, averaging between 17 and 29 USD per month.
  • New Energy star-rated fridge: A new energy-efficient fridge will cost you about 50 to 55 USD per year, which is a massive saving as it works out to as little as 4 to 5 USD per month.

There are many different fridges on the market, from small, single-door fridges to more sizable ones for food enthusiasts. You get smart refrigerators with built-in control panels, and some can even link to your smart device.

Cleaning a Fridge

Cleaning your fridge might take some time but is an easy job. 

First, you should remove all the dust and accumulated dirt from the coils of your fridge. You can use a vacuum cleaner to do this and then a Vanitek Dryer & Refrigerator Coil Brush (available on Amazon.com) to make sure the coils are spotless.

Next, you should take out any boxes and shelves and wash and dry them separately.

Then clean the inside and the outside of your fridge with warm soapy water. Make sure to use a soft Amazonbasics Microfiber Cleaning Cloth (available on Amazon.com) so that you don’t scratch anything. Once you finish washing your fridge, wipe it with a towel and let it dry.

Should You Turn Your Fridge Off at Night?

It is best if you do not switch your fridge off during the night or for any amount of time during the day. Switching your fridge off for short periods just to switch it back on again the next day is not a good idea.

You will not save electricity; in fact, doing this will cost you more.

A fridge has a built-in thermostat that regulates the temperature according to your selected settings. The refrigerator will turn itself on and off as the temperature fluctuates, keeping the fridge’s interior at a constant temperature. 

Most people don’t use their fridges during the night as they are sleeping, which means the refrigerator won’t be opened, and the temperature inside will stay constant. Switching it off and back on again will use more electricity as the fridge needs to reset and reach the correct temperature again.

If you switch your refrigerator off to save money, you can try adjusting the thermostat to a higher temperature instead. Doing this will cause the fridge to run less often, but be careful when setting the temperature as there are foods that need to be stored below a specific temperature, or they will spoil.

The standard temperature for a fridge is between 37 and 40 °F (2.77 and 4.44 °C). Storing food above these temperatures is risky and can cause the food to spoil and you to get sick if you consume it.

This can cost you much more in the long run as you will have to discard the spoiled food, and if you don’t realize the food has gone off and you eat it, you can get sick.

The lower you set the temperature in your fridge; the less likely bacteria will reproduce.

For more information on how refrigerators work, you can watch this YouTube video that explains a fridge’s workings in detail:

Fascinatingly enough, a fridge can heat a room. You can read this article if you are interested in how it works.

Fridge Energy Saving Tips

The best way to use less electricity is to buy a new Energy star-rated fridge, but there are ways to help you save some electricity and money while saving up for your new fridge:

  • Make sure that there is enough space behind your fridge for ventilation. This will help the element to dissipate the waste heat much easier.
  • Ensure that the rubber seal on your fridge’s door is in good condition. If the rubber is worn out, the door won’t seal properly and will let out the cold air.
  • Place your fridge away from your oven and stove. These appliances give off heat, and that can affect your fridge’s temperature and how much it has to run.

Does Turning a Fridge off Damage the Appliance?

Turning a fridge off will not damage it. Your fridge is constantly turning itself off and on during the day to stay at the set temperature. The thermostat regulates the temperature and ensures that the refrigerator runs when it needs to be adjusted.

It is, however, not recommended to switch your fridge off, as it can take anywhere from a few hours to a day to reset and get back to the desired temperature.

Switching your fridge off and on regularly will also not save you money; in fact, it might cost you more as the refrigerator has to work harder to get back to the set temperature every time.

If you plan not to use the fridge for a couple of months or put it in storage, it should be perfectly fine.

How Long Can a Fridge Be Stored Without Being Used?

You can store a fridge for years without using it. If you buy a refrigerator from a store, there’s a good chance that it might be a couple of months to a year old as it was sitting in storage. The refrigerator will work perfectly fine, and so should your fridge if you decide to store it away.

Fridges have life spans, though, so if your fridge is already old and you decide to store it for another couple of years, it might not work or be as energy-efficient as before.

Most fridges have a lifespan of around 12 years; however, some luxury brands like Sub-Zero/Wolf state that their refrigerators can last at least 20 years.

You should make sure to store your fridge in an upright position as this will help prevent damage and reduce the time you have to wait to use it after switching it back on.

Here is an interesting YouTube video on preparing your refrigerator for storage:

Will a Fridge Work After Being Unplugged for Years?

If you unplug your fridge and pack it away for a couple of years, you might be wondering if it will still work when you switch it on. 

Your fridge should still switch on and work after being unplugged for years as long as it was stored correctly and not damaged. However, if the coils were damaged, the fridge could leak refrigerant and won’t work properly. 

If this happens, you will have to decide whether it will be more affordable to invest in a new fridge or to have it repaired.

If your fridge is relatively new, repairing it might be worth your while, but if it is old, you might want to buy a new, more energy-efficient fridge. New refrigerators range in price but will save you money in the long run if the repair bills keep stacking up.

Many issues can arise with an old fridge. These include minor problems, such as doors not sealing properly, to more complicated issues like refrigerant leaks and cold spots.

Repair costs can vary widely, so always make sure to get a quotation so that you can make the best possible decisions.

Make sure to recycle your old refrigerator if you decide to invest in a new one. Simply discarding it by dumping it somewhere can cause harm to the environment because of the refrigerant fluids.

Can Turning a Fridge off Save Electricity (and Money)?

Turning a fridge off for short amounts of time will not save electricity or money. A refrigerator runs only when necessary, and it is better to keep it plugged in. If you continuously switch it on and off to save electricity, you are costing yourself more money.

The temperature inside your fridge stays constant because a thermostat regulates it. If you turn your fridge off, it has to work a lot harder to get back to the set temperature and can cost you double the amount of money.

If you are trying to save money, you should open your fridge as little as possible. This will avoid letting out the cold air, and the refrigerator will run less.

If you want to store cooked food in your fridge, let it cool down to room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator so that it does not warm up inside.

When To Turn a Fridge Off for Moving House

Before switching your fridge off, you will have to remove all the food from the refrigerator.

I recommend switching your fridge off at least 24 hours before moving. This will give your refrigerator enough time to defrost and fluids to move through the compressor and settle.

Before moving your fridge, clean it properly; make sure to remove all the accumulated dust from the coils and take all the shelves and boxes out of the refrigerator as these can become damaged in transit.

It would be best to keep your fridge upright at all times while transporting it. If you have to tilt it or lay it down on its side, you won’t be able to plug it in immediately at your new house.

If you only tilted your fridge to move it out of the house, you should wait at least three hours before plugging it back in. If you laid your fridge down on its side, it is best to wait at least 24 hours before plugging it back in.

Waiting to switch the fridge back on will give the refrigerator fluids time to settle, which will help to avoid any damage.

Once your fridge has settled and you have plugged it back in, you should wait for the refrigerator to reach the correct temperature before stocking it.