How to Save Energy--Clean Your Fridge Coils

Fridges are energy hogs. They place right after heating and air conditioning in terms of home-energy consumption (it's estimated that a fridge uses about 15 percent of a home's power). An easy way to help your fridge run more efficiently is to clean the coils, which dissipate heat from the fridge. If they're covered with dust or caked-on "grunge," they can't work the way they should, and your fridge will run longer and more often. Follow these steps every 6 months to clean your refrigerator coils.

Getting to the Coils

  1. Find the coils. On older-model fridges, the coils are exposed on the back. On newer models, the coils are on the bottom, hidden behind a cover panel or kick plate.

  2. Unplug your fridge and pull it away from the wall (on built-in fridges, turn off the circuit breaker).

  3. Remove the cover plate. On some models it's held in by spring clips; others may use a couple of small screws.

  4. Use the long, narrow attachment of your vacuum to clean any accumulated dust on bottom coils. Clean back-mounted coils with the upholstery brush attachment.

  5. Use warm water and dish soap to remove the sticky buildup of cooking fats if you haven't cleaned your refrigerator coils for a while.

  6. Replace the cover panel, slide the fridge back into place and plug it in (or turn on the circuit breaker).


  • Even with clean coils, older appliances use way more energy than newer models. The government EnergyStar program estimates that replacing an old fridge (vintage 1990) with a new energy-efficient model would save enough to pay for the lights in home for over 4 months.