Your refrigerator transfers heat from its interior to the air outside via metal coils on its rear. If you block the air flowing around the refrigerator by installing it too close to walls or cabinets, the heat can’t dissipate effectively, meaning your refrigerator won’t function as well as it could.
At least 1 inch of space on all sides of a refrigerator typically is sufficient for good air circulation, according to the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings: Save Money, Save the Earth, by Jennifer Thorne Amann et al.
Refrigerators come in many sizes and designs, so consult your model’s manual to determine the factory-recommended installation specifications. Your appliance maker might suggest more than 1 inch of clearance to maintain adequate airflow for particular models, so always go with the user manual's recommendation. Also, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning the coils on the rear. Dust and dirt can collect on the back of your fridge, trapping heat and making it difficult for the refrigerator to function properly.
You can take other steps to ensure your refrigerator functions properly, according to the aforementioned Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings. Don’t install your refrigerator near a heat source, such as a dishwasher or oven. High heat nearby inhibits a refrigerator’s ability to release heat. Direct sunlight can create heat, so choose a shady location for the installation or find a way to block the sunlight.
Proper door clearance can make using your refrigerator more convenient. If the door can’t swing open more than 90 degrees, you’ll have difficulty removing bins, such as vegetable crispers, according to Housebirth, by Sara Lamia. Choose an installation location that allows you to open the door as wide as possible. Also, if possible, choose a location that won’t allow the opened refrigerator door to block traffic in the kitchen.
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