Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day 18: Turn off the Freezer

Tony: I'd love to turn off the freezer to save money, but what if we break the refrigerator in the process?

Megan: Yeah, that sounds like a win-win to turn it off, but is it really ok to do that?

We had our entire refrigerator/freezer break on Christmas Day 2009. We were scheduled to go to Virginia for a few days anyway, and it had just snowed, so we put some food outside in the snow, turned off the unit, and toted the rest of the food up to Virginia to my parents' house.

When we got back, we had the fridge fixed, no problem, but I wanted to see if we could do without filling the freezer again.

So far, it's nearly a month later, and we've got only ice (and ice packs) and one half-bag of frozen ravioli in there (Claire's favorite food) and two pieces of wedding cake that we're supposed to eat next July.

Here is a picture I snapped of the freezer the other day:

Empty freezer

I'm wondering if it's ok to leave a freezer unfilled (I've heard that it runs more efficiently when it's full), but really I want to know if it's ok to just turn it off. At the top of the unit where the doors hit, there are two knobs for freezer and refrigerator coldness settings. One of the settings on each dial says "off". But in the owner's manual it shows this diagram of where the air goes, and it looks like the air travels from one compartment to the next in a path. I don't want to break the fridge by having the freezer off.

I wrote a letter to "Hey Mr. Green" on the Sierra Club web site but I don't know if he'll take my question.

If we leave the freezer on, everyone has said "keep the freezer full to make it not work so hard". So, assuming we keep the freezer running, but I'm fixing mostly seasonal and fresh foods, what should I fill a freezer with?

Hmmmm. Should I buy a side of beef and get it cut up and just eat off of that for the next 5 years?

I saw on one site that we should fill it with empty milk jugs. (On the theory that a full freezer cools more efficiently than an empty freezer.) Why empty jugs and not jugs half-full of water? I am confused by this.

I suspect that it would be a pocket and planet savings to just turn the freezer off, but I'm scared that I'm going to break the refrigerator's cooling system / air flow thingie, thus negating any positive effect and causing us to have to fix it yet again (bad for pocket). So we might end up leaving it on and filling it with something. I don't know... legal bills? Kitty litter? Dryer lint? Sand bags from Tony's virtual garage sale?

so far...

Pocket: 3, Planet: 3, Win-Win: 12


  1. I have always heard that you fill the empty milk jugs with water. I've never heard of leaving them empty. Seems odd to me too.

  2. I'm pretty sure that we will be taking empty jugs, filling them with water, and putting them in the freezer. I think I will attach a Kill-A-Watt meter to it to see what the difference is, just for fun.