Is It Bad To Run a Refrigerator When It’s Empty?

Are you concerned about the impact of running an empty refrigerator? The answer is not straightforward and varies depending on certain factors. Refrigerators typically use between 799-1199 watts per day.

If a refrigerator is running without any food inside, it is considered a waste of electricity, but there may be situations where it is necessary to do so.

Although it is possible to operate a refrigerator when it is empty, it is advisable to switch it off if you do not intend to use it for more than two weeks in order to conserve energy and extend the life of your refrigerator. However, turning off the fridge repeatedly within a day or week can cause harm to the compressor by warming up the cold compressor.

MIT suggests that it is not advisable to frequently turn on and off refrigerator compressors as they should not abruptly expand or contract.

If running an empty refrigerator is unavoidable, make sure to put enough food inside to reduce the workload on the compressor.

Unplugging your appliance during extended periods of absence such as vacations can aid in conserving energy and money, as well as avoiding potential hazards.

What Happens If You Leave an Empty Refrigerator Running?

Running an empty refrigerator does not cause any harm, but it is a waste of electricity, which can lead to an unexpectedly high utility bill.

If you plan to be absent for a prolonged period, it is advisable to disconnect your refrigerator to avoid unnecessary energy usage.

The energy consumption of a typical refrigerator is approximately 100-200 watts. If the fridge is operated without any contents, the compressor will run needlessly, resulting in higher energy usage. Additionally, a refrigerator with more items inside will retain its temperature more effectively than an empty one.

The U.S. Department of Energy states that the compressor, which is the costliest component to replace in a refrigerator, functions more effectively when the fridge is stocked since it doesn’t have to exert as much effort to sustain a cold temperature.

If you leave your refrigerator empty and running, it could potentially reduce its lifespan.

Why Does an Empty Fridge and Freezer Use More Energy?

Water requires a significant amount of energy to change its state from liquid to solid or vice versa, which is known as its high latent heat of fusion. Therefore, your refrigerator and freezer work tirelessly to maintain a barrier of water vapor between the interior and exterior air.

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Running a refrigerator when it’s empty can cause the fridge to work harder to maintain its internal temperature because there is less water vapor inside, which makes the barrier less effective.

When it comes to freezers, having a full one is more efficient as the food inside acts as insulation, which helps in retaining the cold air and keeping the warm air out, whereas an empty freezer has less insulating power and needs to work harder to maintain its cool temperature.

However, there are additional variables that contribute to the situation.

Running a refrigerator when it’s empty can lead to the formation of ice on the evaporator coils, which can act as an insulator and make it difficult for the fridge to release cold air, causing it to work harder and consume more energy to maintain its internal temperature.

Freezers also follow the same principle. When ice accumulates on the coils, it becomes difficult for the freezer to release cold air, which results in increased energy consumption and harder work for the freezer.

How Much Does It Cost To Run an Empty Refrigerator?

It is a fact that refrigerators that are empty consume more energy compared to those that are packed. This is because an empty fridge is essentially a large container filled with air, and as we all know, air is not a good conductor of heat.

The cost of running an empty fridge varies depending on several factors.

Refrigerators use the most electricity when they are running without any items inside. The amount of power consumed by refrigerators depends on their size and technological capabilities.

Running a 150-watt household refrigerator when it’s empty can cause a slight increase in energy consumption from the typical 36KWh per month to around 40KWh.

Assuming a typical refrigerator consumes 40KWh per month, running an empty one would not be the most strategic use of power.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the typical cost for a kilowatt-hour in households is $0.1375, but certain states such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island have higher rates of $0.243/KWh and $0.2511/KWh respectively.

There are certain states that provide rates as inexpensive as:

  • The cost of electricity in North Dakota is $0.0935 per kilowatt-hour.
  • Alabama- $0.0979
  • Washington- $0.1007
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You can find out the average rate for your state by clicking here.

Therefore, the expenses are determined by the location of the individual. Nevertheless, a standard refrigerator model’s electricity usage will result in an average of $11 per month in utility expenses.

It is important to note that unplugging your appliance occasionally can also extend its lifespan.

Should You Unplug a Refrigerator When There’s Nothing Inside?

Whether running an empty refrigerator is bad or not cannot be answered with a straightforward yes or no as it depends on various factors, which we will delve into to help you make an informed decision.

Although the expense of operating a vacant fridge is not excessively high, it is still worth contemplating.

When deciding whether to run an empty refrigerator, it’s important to take into account the environmental impact, as refrigerators use chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) in the form of Freon, which is known to contribute to ozone depletion.

If you aim to be environmentally conscious, it may be advisable to disconnect your refrigerator when it is not storing any items.

Additionally, take into account the effect on your food. When a refrigerator is disconnected, the contents within will begin to spoil, which could pose a significant issue if there is a substantial amount of food stored.

If you have a relatively empty fridge, it may not be significant to switch it off for a short period.

Additionally, it is not recommended to disconnect your refrigerator for a short period and then operate it with only a small amount of food and drinks. If you do decide to unplug it, it is advisable to keep it unplugged for an extended duration.

How Long Can You Leave an Empty Refrigerator Unplugged?

Before unplugging your refrigerator, it’s advisable to take into account the quantity and quality of the food stored. If the food is nearing its expiry date, it’s recommended to either consume or dispose of it before unplugging your refrigerator.

Make sure to either use up or throw away perishable items before disconnecting your refrigerator, such as:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Meat

Once the refrigerator is disconnected, common food items will remain fresh for the following duration before going bad:

  • Butter or Margarine can last up to two weeks.
  • It takes six to eight weeks for hard cheese to mature.
  • Preserves, jelly, or jam that has been opened should be consumed within three months.
  • Fresh Fruit – two days
  • Carrots, celery, and broccoli can last for four to five days.
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It should be noted that the following suggestions are not to be considered as recommendations, as the rate at which food spoils can differ based on various factors, hence it is always advisable to examine any uncertain food before consuming it.

If you intend to keep the refrigerator unused for more than 48 hours, it is advisable to clean it thoroughly and keep the door open slightly to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.

My Fridge Was Unplugged, and Now It Won’t Work

If your refrigerator has been unplugged for a while and is not working, don’t panic. First, make sure that the power cord is properly connected to a functioning outlet.

If your refrigerator is not working, first check if the outlet is functioning properly. In case it is, examine the circuit breaker or fuse box and reset it if it has tripped before plugging in the refrigerator again.

If your refrigerator is still not functioning, it could be due to a defective compressor, and it’s advisable to seek assistance from a professional for refrigerator repair.

Ensuring a lengthy lifespan for your refrigerator is crucial since it is a long-term investment, and with appropriate care and maintenance, it will continue to keep your food cold for an extended period.

Should a Refrigerator Be Kept Full?

Food experts generally advise keeping your refrigerator at least three-quarters full to optimize energy efficiency. While a completely empty fridge can be less efficient, some free space is still necessary for proper air circulation.

Empty refrigerators allow for better circulation of cold air, preventing food from spoiling quickly. On the other hand, filling up your fridge can hinder the flow of cold air and lead to faster spoilage of food.

Find a happy medium: sufficient food to maintain efficient operation, but not an excessive amount that causes your refrigerator to become disorganized.

Share with us in the comments below whether you prefer to keep your refrigerator full or empty and the reasons behind your choice.

You can also check this video about “Is It Bad To Run a Refrigerator When It’s Empty?”

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