It’s October and we all know what that means. The football is over for another year, cricket season is just around the corner, Bathurst is run and won, temperature is increasing (slightly) and of course it’s Oktoberfest time! Is your refrigerator on its game?
Oktoberfest is the single best reason to break out the lederhosen, slap your knees and tap another beer barrel. It’s a time of celebration and ensuring the beer remains cold – well, in Australia at least.
But keeping our beers cold does come at a cost and never more so than during the warmer months. Poor fridge seals can increase energy use dramatically, risk food being spoiled and not to mention the unimaginable… warm beer!
So this month I thought it best to discuss the humble fridge and the benefits of keeping them efficient both in the house and in the commercial setting.
1. Shut it, seal it
The best way to maintain a constant temperature and reduce the runtime of the fridge motor is to keep the door shut, all the time! This doesn’t sound too practical because you need to access the stuff inside the fridge; after all, that’s the whole point of having a fridge.
So we have to open the door to get to the cold stuff (i.e. beer) but each time the door is opened the fridge loses cold air and the motor starts up to cool the air down again. The more the door opens, the more the motor has to work.
The same can be said for fridges in supermarkets. Up to 30% of the energy use of a commercial fridge is from doors being opened. Supermarket staff should be encouraged to shut fridge and freezer doors between uses. Stickers telling staff to shut doors are cheap and effective and can be stuck to the door itself – so staff see the message just when it’s needed.
Similarly, a broken fridge seal is like having the door constantly open. The motor is working hard to keep the air cold which is both escaping and allowing warmer outside air in.
Large supermarkets can consume around 1.5 million kWh annually with around 60% of that energy being consumed by the refrigeration units. Even small efficiency measures can have a huge effect on the bottom line.
2. Clean those filters
It’s a good idea to maintain and clean filters and condensers regularly to ensure unrestricted airflow. If a condenser becomes blocked, the fridge again needs to work harder, therefore consuming more energy.
3. Look at lighting
Another idea is to ensure that all of the lighting within the fridge units are LED. These lights are extremely energy efficient and run cool which reduces the effect on maintaining cold air within the fridge.
4. Introduce barriers
The use of night blinds is another effective method of providing an air loss barrier which in turn reaps energy savings, especially on open fridge cases.
5. Retrofit cleverly
As well as double glazed doors, the installation of electronic controllers will reduce energy consumption by close to 30% compared to the dial-type controller.
There is also some good retrofit technology that works with cool rooms and older thermostat-regulated commercial fridges. This counters the effect of constant opening and closing of doors which causes over cycling of the compressor and consequent higher electricity consumption. One unit that’s not very well known is the Chilled Unit Energy Saver (CUES) which uses a putty-like substance to regulate thermostat response, improving efficiency all through a small, simple device.
Re-gassing with a hydrocarbon gas is another option that improves energy efficiency.
6. Think outside the box
Storing off-peak (lower cost) electricity to power fridges during the day does not make the fridge more efficient but will reduce your costs depending on the structure of your electricity contract. How much are you paying for off-peak consumption? A time-of-use electricity contract is a must for refrigeration-heavy users, and to make sure that you’ve got the best deal from your electricity retailer, engage a broker to run the numbers and scope out the market. Feel free to talk to us about reviewing and optimising your rates at no cost.
Alternatively, because fridges work hardest in warmer (day and summer) conditions, coupling solar PV is a perfect fit. With ROIs potentially as low as 2 years, powering refrigeration loads with free electricity from the sun is a no-brainer.
Go on now, have a cold one!
So even though the Oktoberfest time of year is still chilly in WA, it’s a good idea to check now for inefficiencies in your fridge to ensure that when the mercury starts to rise, there is always a cold beer on hand which did not cost and arm and a leg to chill!
Happy Oktoberfest! Prost!