When to repair or replace a refrigerator, considering energy costs.

An ancient olive green Kenmore refrigerator for free seemed like a great deal. Yes, it was not as energy efficient, but I figured for a year or two it would be fine. I picked up the refrigerator from the garage where it had been running, so even after waiting a couple hours (it was kept mostly upright for transit) it was still cold inside. After several months of use I noticed it running more and more. Yes, I set it colder than the previous owner and used thermometers to check, but the constant running was getting out of hand.

I noticed the classical frost starting to build up in the freezer, and I checked the defrost timer and it was working. The defroster heating element or defroster thermostat were the next suspects, but upon opening the trim I found the expected (but bad) block of ice in the freezer lining. Thus it was time to pare down my stored food and get a cooler for the rest while I manually defrosted. I even considered just going old school and manually defrosting every once in a while.

There were gallons of water melted, way too much buildup. More distressingly, I found that the prior owner must have had a power failure at some point because there was gnarly meat juices in the freezer lining, soaked into the insulation. That turned me off to fixing or manual defrost cycles.

I got a new standard $600 refrigerator, and the difference in the electric bill is astonishing. This new refrigerator might pay for itself in 18 months or so by savings in energy. So sometimes that old refrigerator you get for $50 or free isn’t worth it–you’ll pay more in increased electricity than a new refrigerator will cost.

I also ordered a Kill-a-Watt power meter–too bad I didn’t do that before throwing old the old refrigerator.