Imagine that you are going away for the weekend. Like the conscientious energy auditor that you are, you check the reading on your electricity metre before you go. You come back to find out that someone has swallowed 50 units of power when there was no one at home. Who is the culprit? (If you left the air conditioner on by mistake, then the culprit is you. Otherwise…)
I am afraid it is your trusty, old, it’s-functioning-perfectly-well refrigerator that was part of your mother’s trousseau. (Or someone could have used your house for an awesome party that lasted nearly 48 hours. In which case, you have my sympathy. Now go, yell at your neighbour and ask her to return your spare key).
If it is your fridge (and you checked, the neighbour has been in Antarctica these past few months), here are a few things you can look out for.
- Check the insulation:The gasket around the doors can develop small holes and irregularities (especially if you are using the fridge door to work off some frustration). If you notice small droplets of water outside the edges of the fridge door, then the gasket is no longer working well. Get that fixed.
Also, touch the outer walls. They should feel slightly warmer than room temperature (because when the air inside is getting cooled, the excess heat has to be released). If the outer shell of the fridge feels cool/cold, then the fridge is starting to work like an air conditioner. It is probably time to find a replacement.
- Listen for the sound of the compressor:The compressor (which, well, compresses air to cool it down) should only be working some of the time. Once the correct temperature has been reached, the compressor should take a rest (especially if the insulation is working well). There is usually a clicking sound when it starts up again.
- Temperature setting:If yourdosai batter is developing icicles, then, for heaven’s sake, increase the temperature (I am mostly talking to myself here). I realised that I really shouldn’t be eating (beautifully preserved) food that was cooked 10 days ago, so I went ahead and set the temperature to a daring ‘medium cool’.
- Size:Repeat after me – this is a refrigerator, not the grand hall of a chettiar mansion. It doesn’t need 6 doors and 7 windows. You shouldn’t be buying one that has enough space to hang up your suits. Smaller refrigerators automatically use less energy.
- Age:Refrigerator technology improves nearly every year, and they get more efficient with time. So if your father is turning 60 and you want to give him something nice, go ahead and exchange the old one for a new model (he may be attached to the old one, so hunker up for some nostalgia trips).
Nearly all of us have an air conditioner and a refrigerator at home. We will also probably buy two new versions of these appliances over the next 15 years. There are many ways to make choices about these energy guzzlers, and definitely ways to check their efficiency.
Many thanks to Saswat Das for all this information (and for doling it out with dry, cynical humour).
P.S. I have insider information that the air conditioner at Saswat’s home (that runs on solar power) is set to 26 degrees. I have tried setting mine to 25 degrees. It feels surprisingly comfortable (and has the complete approval of the resident toddler). Buy an air conditioner that has sufficient power to cool the room, ensure that the room is well insulated (check window panes for cracks, and use curtains over glass fronts), and of course, check its energy efficiency.
It’s not only hotels that are better with a 5-star rating.