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I have found people saying it's better to leave it on with water inside because then mould will not form. Is there any other downside except for electricity bill? It's a smallish refrigerator which will cost around 60$/year in electricity costs if left on.

Some more details We are in India in an apartment. So problem with electricity turning off(breaker etc., is not an issue). However, there can be rat problem. Will they damage an open fridge?

We have two babies at home, so turning it 24 hours before we leave is very difficult.

So I guess, we will put in 10-15 water bottles in the fridge, and 1 open container of water in the freezer, and leave it on?

Is it possible that the fridge gets damaged if the door is not opened for 4-5 months?

  • I found that modern energy saving fridges take quite a couple of days to properly cool down to a nice temperature when initially filled, you might want to consider if that is convenience issue for you. Also if its just a cost and not an environment decision to you, you might have to derate these $60 due to it not needing as much when its just filled and on. – PlasmaHH Oct 13 '16 at 8:24
  • @PlasmaHH they should cool down empty in a few hours with no trouble at all. The only reason for them to take longer (unless faulty) would be that you've put loads of warm stuff in there, which you shouldn't. – Chris H Oct 13 '16 at 10:57
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    @ChrisH: I was referring to the typical situation after abandoning a fridge for so long (or starting to operate one in a holiday apartment or similar): you switch it on, put all the big load of just bought groceries in there, and wonder why nothing much happens. Older units with more refrigerant were rather quick in getting that stuff down to temperature, those with small amounts of refrigerant and small compressors (35g/90W or so) take really quite a while to pump out the heat, also because they have some dead time due to anti freeze properties (because otherwise you would have ice build up) – PlasmaHH Oct 13 '16 at 11:03
  • @PlasmaHH Chilling a load of room temp stuff takes quite a while anyway – Chris H Oct 13 '16 at 12:39
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    But make sure to clean it very well, because rats. – Wayne Werner Oct 13 '16 at 15:05
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This depends a lot on where you live. Here in Florida for example, going away for a long period, you would NOT want to cut power to the fridge and leave it open. It would still grow "samples" all over the place. Instead you would want to add some water bottles (milk jugs with tap water in them) to the fridge, turn the temperature UP as warm as it will go, and then let it run while your away.

The water in the fridge compartment just gives the fridge something to cool. It makes the work cycle more normal. An empty fridge would have more start and stops then one with something in it.

Another example (un-related) is the A/C. In Flordia, specially the humid months, you do not leave the house with no A/C. If you did you would come back and have to replace large amounts of dry wall. Instead you turn it up to about 82 and just let it run. It's the same basic example.

In dryer climates, you would prop the fridge door open enough to move some air around in it and then unplug it.

I do no know the climate in India well enough to tell you which to do, but If you do go the route of leaving it running, make sure you have a friend stop by once a week and make sure it's still running.

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    This is the best answer. It addresses the diversity of climates. People who live in dry northern climates can't imagine the constant battle with mold in humid, hot places. – axsvl77 Oct 14 '16 at 1:28
  • Thanks, this is what I was looking for. India is not 'florida' humid, but, more not exactly completely dry. I am wondering what if I dump baking soda and silica gel. Will it help? – TKH Oct 15 '16 at 2:16
  • @TKH: I would assume that, if leaving the door open works in dry climates, then leaving the door closed and a bucket of dry silica gel inside should work in any climate. I have not personally tried this, however. Also, if your fridge has multiple compartments, you'd obviously want to put silica in all of them. – Ilmari Karonen Oct 15 '16 at 6:25
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    There is a product called Damp-Rid around here that would work very well. It pulls the water from the air, and turns it into a gel. The main problem there is that it's really quite toxic. Safe, for what your trying to do, but you don't want kids near it. – coteyr Oct 15 '16 at 11:11
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    Your statements don't add up. Once the fridge has been off long enough to be at room temperature and properly dried, it's no different than anything else in the house. If humidity can cause mold to grow in the dry and not-cold fridge, then it should be able to cause mold to grow most everywhere else, like the walls of the house, countertops, floors, sinks, etc. If this is really true, then you have bigger problems to address for which the dry and off fridge is not a special case. You might want to leave a de-humidifier running in the house for example, but this is not a fridge issue. – Olin Lathrop Oct 16 '16 at 23:15
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If you're gone for a long time, it's good to turn off anything that doesn't really need to be on. Not only does that not waste power, but it reduces the chance of something bad happening.

The issue with fridges is that they collect moisture inside and they seal well. That's a bad combination if moisture starts out in the box. The way to deal with that is to address the two issues. After the fridge has been off for a while, make sure there isn't a pool of water in a tray or someplace. This includes the result of ice melting inside the freezer. Once everything is dry, address the second issue by propping the doors open. The fridge will be no different than any other box then. There is no reason for new moisture to collect, and it's ventilated anyway.

  • Exception in my experience: central air/air-exchanger. I have seen many-a mold problems with tenants turning off all air-exchangers for months on end, at least in my area of the States. – RomaH Oct 13 '16 at 4:28
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    @Roma: That's because the system was not cleared of moisture before being turned off. That's difficult to do with something that has ducts in hidden places. However, it's pretty straight forward to make sure a fridge is dry. Of course is needs to have been off for a few hours so that it is no longer cold, and therefore no longer causing condensation. – Olin Lathrop Oct 13 '16 at 11:53
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    Instead of just propping the door open, you can tilt the unit so it is leaning forward slightly. This will allow the door to stay open using gravity, and any residual moisture inside can drip out. Just leave a towel on the floor so it doesn't leave a mess. – Jason Hutchinson Oct 13 '16 at 16:29
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If you're going to turn off a fridge, you need to prop the doors open. If you don't, humidity in the fridge will cause the growth of mold everywhere, including potentially, places behind panels you cannot clean without some serious disassembly.

Can't you just wipe out all the water? No. Some of the moisture is ice which has accumulated behind the panels in the freezer.

This policy can be harder to implement than you think. The vast majority of humans are conditioned to close a refrigerator door on sight, so you will need an intrusive and official looking device that looks like it's designed to hold the door open, so as to jar them out of this habit.

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You’re going to save at most $20 by turning it off ($60/3). You’ll go through effort and time to empty it and so on, plus incurring extra electric energy to re-cool it when you get back. I’d recommend filling both the freezer and the refrigerator compartments with random bulky objects so that there’s very little air remaining (air can leak; big boxes can’t). The fridge, which will never be opened, will probably draw considerably less average power than when you’re home.

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    Please don't. Be mindful to the environment. This is the world we live in and such waste quickly adds up. – okolnost Oct 13 '16 at 6:52
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    Blocking flow is a bad idea and this will not effect the amount of air leakage. – paparazzo Oct 13 '16 at 8:14
  • @okolnost the point is that for such a short period, turning it off is a false economy and actually the worse thing to do for the environment! – JamesRyan Oct 14 '16 at 10:43
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    @okolnost We can't do the maths because we don't know the specific fridge or how much food will be wasted to turn it off. But in general, 1/5th of energy use is simply from opening the door (they won't be opening it if they are away). It uses massively more energy to cool from room temperature than to maintain the existing cool temperature. Plus compressors, etc are more likely to fail after being turned off for a time, environmental cost of replacing those parts would dwarf any possible saving. – JamesRyan Oct 14 '16 at 11:48
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    @ZachMierzejewski taking cool food out of the fridge or putting warm food into the fridge both remove energy from the system. So clearing out the fridge, turning it off and cooling replacement food later or leaving it on and not opening the door both waste energy. The tipping point where turning it off wastes less energy is a matter of months not 5 minutes. – JamesRyan Oct 21 '16 at 14:23
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Usual recommendation is to turn it off and prop the door open so it airs out and doesn't give mold a chance to grow.

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Another reason to turn it off: if it's on, but you have a long power cut (something trips your breaker for example) it could be sitting there wet for a long time, which is just what you're trying to avoid.

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I would double check the details of your fridge, Some have a Vacation/Holiday Mode you can switch on manually or is automatically enabled if the fridge isn't opened after X amount of time.

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Emptying It, simply wiping it down, and propping open for the summer worked fine for us in Florida for many years. We use a broom to prop open. Lean it, tilted, into the hinge area, close door as far as you can, and it is secured by handle in the door and the bristles on the floor. This would alert anyone sensible that it should stay open. AND you can tape a sign on it. LEAVE OPEN. DO NOT CLOSE. PENALTY OF DEATH. ETC. (We never needed to do this intil the morning of leaving.)

Here is something you didn’t ask about but might like to know. Unless someone goes in and flushes the toilet every month, the rubber gasket between tank and bowl can dry out. This results in toilet leaking like crazy when you get back, find it dry, and flush it, bringing water into tank again. Then it needs repair and you must flush with bucket until fixed. BTDT.

  • Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. Are you sure about the toilet gasket drying out? Those sit on retailers' shelves for years, dry, and don't (AFAIK) have or need an expiration date. (And, BTW, this has nothing to do with the original question.) – Daniel Griscom Aug 20 '18 at 13:34

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