Q Do you know of a new energy-efficient fridge that will last the way my leaky 50-year-old fridge has?
A God, I hope not! Any appliance that's been around since Elvis lost out to the Beatles should be in a museum. I'm serious. That fridge is a power devil, sucking back way more energy than any other appliance in your home. I know it's counterintuitive to the whole "if it ain't broke don't fix it" way of thinking, but in some cases it's definitely important to buy new - and soon.
Even a 10-year old fridge uses twice the energy of a brand new Energy Star model (saving you enough power to light your house for 10 months, say government stats). A 20-year-old refrigerator uses 60 per cent more power, and really old models have often lost their insulation completely (the fibreglass inside basically disintegrates), so they're outrageously inefficient.
Jeez, a new Energy Star model even uses at least 15 per cent less power than today's federal standards permit.
What makes Energy Star so great? Well, in the case of refrigeration, these models have more energy-efficient compressors and better insulation. They may also have an energy-saver switch that allows you to determine just how cool your fridge needs to be to keep your beer crisp.
Other tips for fridge shopping? Avoid side-by-side models, which swallow up to 7 per cent more energy. Those fancy types with the ice and water dispensers on the outside use even more (15 per cent more, to be exact). Best is the traditional kind, where the freezer's on top.
Still, I hear your concern over finding a new appliance that'll last as long as your old clunker. And it's certainly true that appliances and electronics, from sewing machines to stoves, don't grow into a ripe old age like they used to. (Hence your grandfather's mutterings.) And don't get me started about how DVD players shouldn't have to be replaced every three years, and how all this built-in obsolescence in the tech world is choking landfills. The wise people at Caplan Appliances say the modern fridge should last 14 years. A good Energy Star fridge (like one made by Amana , Kenmore , Whirlpool or Frigidaire) should last no less than that. I was told, however, that some cheaper imports pushing ultra-high-efficiency (i.e. Samsung and Haier) have serious reliability issues. LG models (LG also makes GE-branded stuff) are considered high-maintenance new kids on the block. I know, 14 years doesn't sound like a long time, but considering that by then fridges will likely be 50 times more efficient than today's best models, I don't think you want your new fridge to last another 50 years.
Unless, of course, you invest in a Sun Frost. These babies are made in California and are the most energy-efficient in the world. They're super-insulated, extremely quiet and even come in DC versions for those who live off the grid. They're also made to last 20 to 50 years. Pretty impressive, though they'll cost you roughly $3,000. Check www.sunfrost.com for more info.
Want to know how to keep your refrigerator running? (Wait, I'm getting flashbacks to my early crank calling years. Let me take this moment to apologize to anyone I might have irritated. But I digress.) Clean the condenser coils with a long-handled brush you can pick up at most hardware stores. The thick blanket of dust building up back there (or under there) is making it work harder. Don't forget to clean the seals around your doors to make sure they're nice and tight.
Oh, and if your fridge is right next to your stove, you should consider moving it, since you're making it harder to keep cool.
Lastly, don't trash your old relic once your done with it. Call the city and ask the Solid Waste Management people to come pick it up (416-338-2010). That way, all that metal gets recycled.
This week catch Adria Vasil
? at Grassroots (372 Danforth) for a book signing Saturday (May 5), 2 pm
? on JazzFM91 with Ralph Benmergui Monday (May 7), 9:15 am
Got a question?
Send your green consumer queries email@example.com