Refrigerator vent clogged with dust  Refrigerator vent after cleaning

Before                                         After

I have always considered our refrigeration set-up to be rather modest. No bar fridge. No chest freezer. No massive side-by-side fridge-freezer. (That’s the least efficient configuration; freezer on top is the most efficient.) We manage to keep five people fed with a single, rather small, 300 litre LG refrigerator-freezer that receives an A rating for energy efficiency from the European Union.

So I was a little bit disappointed when I used my Watts Up meter to measure the actual consumption of this appliance recently and found that it was chewing through 2.5 kilowatt hours a day, about 10 percent of my household consumption. When I researched the issue on the internet, I saw numerous references to dirty coils lowering efficiency, so I pulled the fridge out of its slot in the kitchen. I feel a little embarrassed to publish the photograph above, because it is a stiff indictment of our housekeeping, but you have to see it to realize that when I say years of dust had clogged the vents, I really mean it.

After a quick vacuuming, I was eager to test whether the improved air-flow to the coils would lower my electricity consumption. I measured at night so that the comparisons would not be thrown off by family members opening the doors during the day. Consumption fell by more than 17 percent after the fridge was freed of its dust blanket. Since the condenser works much harder during the day than at night, the true improvement may be much larger. I have now set an annual memo on my Outlook calendar to remind me to keep the vents clean and my refrigerator green.