The problem: Your fridge never gets a day off. Over time, wear and tear
on the door's rubber gasket, as well as built-up dirt and dust on coils, erode its efficiency and make it more expensive to operate.
How to spot it: Close the refrigerator door on a piece of paper. If you don't feel resistance when you pull it out, the gasket seal is broken and chilled air is escaping. Mold or moisture on the gasket are other telltale signs, says Brown.
How to stop it: Order a new gasket from the fridge manufacturer for $60 to $90, depending on the make and model. Remove the damaged gasket and install the replacement yourself, following the manufacturer's instructions. While you're at it, use a long-handled duster to clean the exposed coils located underneath or on the back of the appliance. For a fridge more than 20 years old, no amount of maintenance will bring it up to today's efficiency standards. It's better to retire it and invest in a new, Energy Star–qualified model. KitchenAid's new Architect Series II French door fridge even goes a step further—it has an efficiency rating that's 20 percent higher than the U.S. Department of Energy standard.
The payoff: Replacing the gasket and cleaning the coils can improve your fridge's cooling abilities by 25 percent. Swapping a 1980s fridge for a new, Energy Star one can shave more than $100 per year off your electric bill and nearly $200 annually if you have a 1970s model.