Unsealed fridge contributing to high electricity bill?
January 29, 2006 3:24 PM   Subscribe

How much electricity is wasted from a fridge that isn't sealed properly?

We got our second monthly elelectricity bill at this semi-furnished apartment and, once again, the electricity bill was enoumous, more than 10,000 yen (US$100) more than our last place which was the same size (very small Japanese apartment, just a bit bigger than studio size). The primary reason for the high electricity bill is because it's winter here, the apartment has no central heating (we're in Japan, no places have central heating), and there are two air conditioners that we use for heating the apartment. However, I'm beginning to wonder about the the refridgerator too. Both the top corner of the fridge door, and the top corner of the freezer door have seals which do not touch the actual metal part of the fridge, they're all "squished in". The fridge door is the worst. Down the vertical it's about 20cm of no touching, and horizontal is about 10cm of no touching. The freezer is about 5cm of no touching both ways. I highlighted the sealing problems to the landlord when we first moved in but he said it's no problem at all because "no cold air seems to be coming out", but I disagree. If you put your hand right up next to the crack you can feel it's cold.

Anyway, would this unsealed fridge contributing to the rediculous electricity bill at this new place or is it all to do with us using the air conditioning heaters too much?
posted by Jase_B to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
Do you have access to the electricity meter? ie the dial that ticks over measuring how much you're using.

If you do then you could take some readings and do comparisons. Take before and after readings for a period of time when the air conditioners aren't running, maybe when you're at work or out of the house. I'd try for at least a couple of hours. Then do the same with both air con and fridge and compare the number of units electricity used per hour. Ideally you'd also want to take readings over a similar period of time without the fridge and air con, to give a baseline usage, but I realise that probably won't work.

This won't answer your question directly but will at least give an idea of the proportion of electricity going into the fridge vs air conditioners, and having some actual numbers might make discussion with your landlord more fruitful.

If you can't see the meter anywhere there are gadgets you can buy to measure the power output to specific appliances (goes between the appliance plug and the wall socket) but the ones I've seen are somewhat expensive. Again actual numbers would strengthen your case.

Also, does the fridge motor run all the time, or more often that previous fridges you've used? If the temperature is leaking I'd assume the motor would run more often trying to keep it cold, and that's what eats up the electricity. This might give you an clue about the fridges efficiency.
posted by shelleycat at 4:27 PM on January 29, 2006

Your typical fridge will drain around 100KWh/month +/-50% (source). In Ontario, and I believe most of North America, real energy cost for electricity (after delivery charges and the like) is about $0.10/KWh. So a typical fridge costs about $10/month to run.

Yours would have to be 10x less efficient than typical to be the soul cause of your increased cost. That is possible, I guess, but it seems unlikely. The fridge is probably contributing a significant chunk to the increased cost, just not all of it...
posted by Chuckles at 4:30 PM on January 29, 2006

My guess is the electric heaters are the main cause of your high bills. It most parts of the States, electricity costs enough to make gas heat significantly cheaper. Did you live in your last place over winter for a more accurate comparison bills?
posted by 6550 at 6:49 PM on January 29, 2006

The traditional test for a refrigerator seal is whether you can close the door on a dollar bill and pull it out. It sounds like the fridge does need a new seal; these run about US$40 in the States (where it would be something you could charge to your landlord in most jurisdictions). I do agree it's probably the electric heat that's running up most of the bill, though. (You call them "air conditioners", but I'm not sure what that means in American terms.)

I would also look into insulating the windows better. In the US you can buy a plastic film that you attach over the window frame on the inside, making a dead air space that acts as an insulator, and can also seal drafts. You can also get latex foam in a can to seal up cracks, at least for the season. This will help more than you think it will.
posted by dhartung at 8:05 PM on January 29, 2006

I'm guessing Jase_B has a combo AC/heating units that mount in the windows. These use lots of energy to generate heat, and I agree are probably the source of the higher bills. I second dhartung's advice on sealing drafts (make sure you can easily undo what you put up come spring, and don't block the exhaust of the heating unit or you could create a fire hazard) to keep the heat in and cut down on your electricity use.
posted by turtlegirl at 8:39 PM on January 29, 2006

We saved $31/month after we got our new fridge, in mid-June. June energy bill=$76. July energy bill=$45 - the lowest it ever got.
posted by Lynsey at 10:41 PM on January 29, 2006

I live in Japan, in a tiny apartment, and I haven't had those kinds of obscenely high electric bills. You're most likely using wall-mounted aircons, right? Are you letting them run all the time, or do you turn them off totally when you are not in the apartment or are asleep?

For reference, I only have the heat on when I'm actually in my room (except for today, since it's a bit warm in Tokyo). My electric bill was about ¥4,000 for the last billing period (Dec. 17 through Jan 19).
posted by armage at 11:21 PM on January 29, 2006

Energy Star: Your refrigerator contributes on average 6% to the cost of your utility bill.

Energy Star: Why is my electric bill so high?

From what I can find out, home heating (and cooling) make up the bulk of utility costs in most homes. I'd start there.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:31 AM on January 30, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers everyone, I really appreciate it. We're trying to limit our use of the air conditioners (yes, they are the ones that mount up up on the wall), but I think we'll ask the landlord to have the fridge resealed too. I may even take up shellycat's advice on measuring the current usage and compare it to current "standards".

Thanks again.
posted by Jase_B at 4:55 AM on January 30, 2006

As shellycat mentioned, if you're willing to invest about $30, the Kill-A-Watt meter is a cool tool for satisfying your curiosity. (Might be a bit steep if you're just renting, but it will likely last a lifetime.) For me, it confirmed that my old fridge has got to go -- it's using 2-3x the rated kWh of newer models, probably more in the summer.
posted by skyboy at 6:03 AM on January 30, 2006

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