Keeping your refrigerator running cool and efficiently is easy with the following guidelines:

Defrost your freezer. For manual-defrost freezers, when ice builds up more than 1/4 inch, the efficiency of the freezer drops significantly.

Check your freezer temperature and adjust it to keep between 0-5 degrees F. Settings below this use more energy and are not necessary.

Keep your freezer away from heat. Try to locate your freezer in a cooler part of the house, out of direct sunlight and away from appliances that generate heat like ovens and water heaters.

Try to open the refrigerator door as few times as possible and close it quickly. Opening the refrigerator door accounts for between $10-$20 of a typical family's electricity bill each year based on 40-60 openings per day.

Check the door seals on your refrigerator by closing the door on a dollar bill. If you can easily pull the dollar out then you would probably benefit by replacing the seal. Try a refrigeration parts store or the internet to find the right door seals for your model.

Keep the refrigerator level. If it is not level, the door might not close fully.

Keep refrigerated foods covered to prevent moisture build-up. Your refrigerator has to work harder if the air inside is humid.

Reduce the load. Refrigerators operate most efficiently when full but not overloaded.

Don't put hot food in the refrigerator; allow leftovers to cool first, then cover them and put them in.

Give your refrigerator some space; allow at least one inch of space on each side of the refrigerator for good circulation. Poor circulation can increase energy consumption by 10% or more.

If your refrigerator has a moisture control switch you can generally safely turn it off on all but the hottest days, and reduce the energy cost of your refrigerator by about 10%.

Replace old refrigerators; a new refrigerator uses a third of the energy of 15-20 year old models. This could mean savings of over $150 per year, making a new refrigerator a very good investment.

Clean the cooling coils. Vacuum behind your refrigerator at least once a year, removing dirt and dust from the coils. Dust build-up not only increases energy use, it may cause the unit to break down.

Turn off spare refrigerators. An older second refrigerator consumes a significant amount of energy; it could be costing you over $200 per year! Perhaps you can get all your food into one refrigerator and turn the other off permanently. Alternatively, if you only need the second unit on certain occasions, pull the plug and then plug it back in only when you need it. This won't hurt the refrigerator and can result in significant savings.

Keep refrigerators in the coolest part of the house, if possible. A five degree difference in air temperature can have a 20% impact on the energy consumption of your refrigerator.

Organize your freezer. Mark items in your freezer for quick identification so that you do not have to keep the door open while you sort through packages.

Fill your freezer; freezers operate most efficiently when full, and in the event of a power outage foods will stay frozen longer.

If you are thinking about purchasing a new refrigerator, look for Energy Star models. These are the most energy efficient models on the market and will save energy, save money, and help the environment.