Introduction: LED Refrigerator Light

Picture of LED Refrigerator Light
Why is there a 60 watt heater inside my refrigerator? An incandescent lightbulb is a heater, and I don't want it in my refrigerator wasting energy, even if it only does it when the door is open.

For that matter why is the door on the side instead of the top so all the cold air runs out whenever the door is opened?

How can you find out if the light turns off when you close the door or not?
Arthur Schwieger of St.Cloud MN figured out this nifty way to do it:

Step 1: Replace the Incandescent Bulb With an LED Bulb

Picture of Replace the Incandescent Bulb With an LED Bulb

Good LEDs aren't any better than fluorescents in efficiency, but they deal with temperature swings better.
Also they don't have mercury in them.

A final advantage is the festive colored light show to be had from this Color Kinetics unit.
It's the "Lighttro" model available online for $20. There's a button on the side to change what pattern of colors it plays. Hey vendor- gimme free ones or I'll prostitute myself to your competition !! :)

Here's the fridge after and before changing the bulb. Actually it looks nothing like these pictures thanks to an automatic camera. But I'm happy cuz the bulb burns 2 watts versus 60 watts.
The fridge isn't as brightly lit as before, but that doesn't matter. The only reason for a fridge light is to remind you that your fridge is still working anyway.


Yonatan24 (author)2015-10-08

Our refrigerator (Samsung, I don't know exactly which one) has a really bright LED panel on the top...

I also didn't exactly understand what is the point of this 'Ible, anyone can just replace the incandescent light to an LED light... Is there something I missed?

gromit1943 (author)2011-08-04


Why not just climb inside and close the door?

Actually, you will find that the lght will go out just before the door is clompletely closed, if the switch is properly adjusted.


gromit1943 (author)2010-03-21

LEDs ARE more efficient than fluorescents!  Look at the heat that fluorescents put out -- that is wasted.  LEDs put out almost ALL of the electrical energy they consume as light -- very, very little as heat.  And they last much, much longer!


Soksume (author)gromit19432011-04-06

thank you for saying what i was thinking

toomuch (author)2009-04-23

Another easy and quick option is to use a CFL. I know its not exactly the same, but it is cheap, readily available, and fairly effective. I didn't read all the comments, so I don't know if this was touched on.

BluTiger (author)toomuch2011-03-20

I tried using cfl's in the frig. they dont handle the cold well, burn out fast and you risk getting mercury on the food should something break the bulb.

hillskie (author)2011-02-19

LED's put out little or no heat?!? What ... are you kidding? Um, what do you think those heat sink fins are for? Look at any good par30 LED. FINS all the way around ... for diffusing heat. Little or no heat.
HA ! No ... only the useless junkie LED's put out no heat. They self destruct in record time too. The electronics that drive good LED's do put out heat.

Snakerog (author)2009-09-19

Help please. I have an Electrolux refrigerator that has regular incandescent light bulbs. I would like to replace them with LED lights the only problem is the Electrolux has a feature whereby the light slowly illuminates when you open the door. Kind of a reverse dimming effect. So, I am guessing the LED bulb will have to be dimmable. Is there such a thing as a dimmable LED bulb that is not expensive? Thanks. Snakerog

jatrophacostarica (author)2009-09-17

My fridge actually has four bulbs in it. 60w each. Ouch.

If I imagine it is on for .5 hour per day (it is probably open less), then I can save the following:

4x15watt bulb= $4.86/year savings in bulb consumption, ignores heat.

4x1 watt LED bulb= $6.37/year savings (LED= very little heat, thus slightly more savings)

The 15w bulbs cost... $1.25/ea? The LED's cost $10/ea (or more).

4x15w bulbs: year 1= $0, year 5= $20 savings year 10= $43 savings
4xLED: year 1= -$33, year 5= -$8, year 10= $23 savings
3x15w bulbs: year 1= $1.50, year 5= $22.50, year 10= $49 savings

The LED's savings= 4x15w at year 23. The LED's= 3x15w savings at year 33.

It is unlikely that you will need to replace any of the bulbs. If you do, it was probably due to faulty bulbs or to power spikes, not bulb age. If you do replace a bulb... it throw the LED "benefit" into the garbage, but only makes a small effect on the 15w bulb.

My conclusion: better to buy 3 15w bulbs than to buy 4 LEDs. They will produce as much light and cost less up front, while still returning solid savings vs. the 60w bulbs that are there.

This is, as an aside, also a good argument for why it isn't such a great idea to phase out the incandescent light bulb. In areas where you only need light for short durations, and infrequently, incandescent is hard to beat.

beehard44 (author)2009-04-28

probably if u do not have a fridge with a light, or a freezer without d light, you can just get a small pen light and somehow attach it to the fridge and put a contact or a reed switch.

PSPerson (author)2007-05-01

The Point of this is to show off. it also saves money in the long run 'cause u don't need to replace the bulb EVUR!! i think it's cool =]

NRen2k5 (author)PSPerson2007-10-09

When was the last time you had to replace the bulb in an appliance? Seriously.

chrwei (author)NRen2k52009-04-23

2 in the last 5 years, and both appliance were much less than 10 years old. one in an oven, and one of the 3 lights in my fridge. 10 years is nothing for appliances anymore, any fridge made in the last 10 years is efficient enough and will last a good 20 years. Mines 8 years old and is still quiet and doen't kick on nearly as much as the 20 year old one that came with my house (I brought my fridge from the old house and sold the 20 year old fridge with the old house)

Derin (author)NRen2k52008-06-12

when i was 3 years old

Derin (author)Derin2008-07-14

and that was a fridge which lasted for 10years at that time
westinghouse,shame on you your old fridges were better

Esmagamus (author)Derin2008-10-14

The Miele refrigerator I had lasted for 10 years because I kept fixing it.

Derin (author)Esmagamus2009-03-03

We did nothing on our Westinghouse.Made in USA,used in TR.

chayce (author)PSPerson2008-05-13

Although an LED light will outlive most fridges, this application is really pointless. For the amount of time most people have their fridge open the energy and heat load saved is tiny. As to the energy waisted by airflow out the fridge, also very small. Air has a low heat capacity. This is why you can stick your hand in an oven and not get burned, but the moment you touch anything metal in the oven you get a nasty burn. If anyone really wants to save energy then a better idea would be to route the air off the condensing coils (the tubes on the back of the fridge that get hot) to the outside like a dryer vent. This prevents the heat that is removed from the fridge from being deposited into the house where the AC will again have to remove it.

Esmagamus (author)chayce2008-06-18

I don't have a AC, so the problem of removing heat twice does not exist in my house. However, the cabinet in which my refrigerator is enclosed wasn't made with enough room for the hot air to move around properly. So, when we reworked the kitchen, we placed a 15W, 180 cubic meter/hour blower sucking that air. It works so much better, the motor doesn't even work half as much as it did before.

Derin (author)Esmagamus2009-03-03

It seems like some kind of tradition to have AC.We are two people that don't use AC!

Eddiem (author)chayce2008-05-24

You sir, are not fun. But you're probably right.

Scotch Tape (author)2007-05-13

The light isn't on all the time only when the door is open.... so I doesn't make sense to put this in o.O

mns007 (author)Scotch Tape2007-06-02

How do you know that, have you ever looked in the fridge when the door is closed?

actually, all you need is simple logic. theres a little tab that is pushed down when the door is closed (and thats quite obvious from where its placed); push the tab. and you know if its on or off when the door is closed. I figured thsi out when I was 12 I think.

Yeah. It's basically a switch.

yeah lol.

i figured this out way earlier than 12. and if you close the door slowly while peeking inside.... you can see the light actually go out with your own eyes. and at that moment i knew i would be a physicist. oh and i definitely need the light. first, i've had the light go out before. you can hardly see anything, especially at the back. second, i open the fridge all the time without turning on the light in the kitchen. duh.

Derin (author)thinkdunson2009-03-03

I figured it out when I was 4-5.

Mr. Thumbs (author)thinkdunson2008-11-13

ok- enough is enough. Empty out the fridge (you might want to leave a soda and a sandwich inside), crawl inside and close the door. When it gets dark, you can use your miny led light to find and finish the soda and sandwich while you wait for someone to open the door. I thought if you put in a 60 watt bulb and were concerned about the heat output you just might do this.(you might put in a 100 watt bulb for some heat just incase.)

are you a physicist yet? I am quite certain that is what I want to be....Gorden Freeman is my role model =D (because I love physics and I love computer games lol)

no i was joking. i'm in school to be an electronics engineer. but my role model is richard feynman. i don't think anyone could ever fill that role.

Yerboogieman (author)mns0072007-12-17

okay, mr. president of the US lets go to the funny farm then we can do Everything you want, lol jk jk

carlos66ba (author)2007-07-13

This is REALLY A WASTE of resources. The amount of heat pumped into the fridge by a 40-60 W bulb is negligible compared to what happens while you open and close the door. Furthermore, creating the LED light consumes much more resources than creating an incandescent bulb (even worse since the bulb was already there). High efficiency bulbs are meant for places that use them a lot. The interior of the fridge is not one of them. Regarding the mercury on the CFL, do you know that the LED's may have arsenic in them? (maybe these don't but red and green LED's do). Not a very interesting instructable and a VERY ENVIRONMENTALLY UNFRIENDLY ONE (resources to get the LED lamp are not free of environmental consequences).

eBrain (author)carlos66ba2007-11-21

By gawd, you're right. All light bulbs are Evil! I'm going to do the environmentally conscious thing and replace the bulb in my fridge with a small, well-tended fire of windfall twigs.


HAHAHAHAHAHA *Finds seat on bandwagon*

Esmagamus (author)carlos66ba2008-10-14

I'm gonna get myself a sack and a length of rope to hang my perishables inside my water well.

roncon55 (author)2007-04-10

I have the ultimate idea. Put your 'fridge outside and park your vehicle in front of it with the lights on. Other than that, are you really concerned with miniscule power consumption/tempurature loss?

thinkdunson (author)roncon552007-12-21

genius! and in the winter you could seal the refrigerator in the back doorway so that the coils are outside! this would increase efficiency astronomically!!!

Esmagamus (author)thinkdunson2008-10-14

Actually, there was this Christmas eve when it was 7ºC in the refrigerator versus 2ºC outside. So, I opened a window and put all of my booze outside. Chilled!

Derin (author)Esmagamus2009-03-03

Did anyone try to drink it?

Derin (author)2009-03-03

Tip:Adjust your white balance for better pictures. Your Instructable is completely good though.Just a tip.

Mr. Rig It (author)2007-08-14

Your fridge will run more efficiently if you don't cram so much stuff in there and let air circulate. But hey good idea with the LED lights. A fridge is the leading user of electricity in a home.

jtannerc (author)Mr. Rig It2008-01-04

actually... i think your fridge runs better at least energy wise when it is full. See if there are more items "crammed" in there then you can raise the temp so it doesn't have to run as long or hard to fill the open area inside with cool air which would use more energy which is money.

Esmagamus (author)jtannerc2008-06-18

Well, if there isn't enough air moving freely inside the refrigerator, the motor will run longer because heat transfer won't be as quick and so, you will feel the need to set it to a lower temperature to make sure your beer gets cold quickly.

thrudd (author)Esmagamus2008-10-14

To clarify a fridge is most efficient when it is near empty so the air temperature is uniform throughout and the unit is not running as long to maintain the set temperature. A Freezer is more efficient when packed solid since the load is helping maintain the temperature at the much lower temperatures. So rule of thumb is empty fridge and packed freezer freezer for higheest energy efficiencies.

flactemnad (author)thrudd2008-11-25

For a typical refrigerator/freezer combo you are probably right, but increasingly that is no longer the case. If you never open the refrigerator then a near empty one might run less and thus cost less, but if you have people opening the refrigerator often (household with kids) then having the refrigerator stocked and leaving enough room for air circulation will be far more efficient. All the food stored there acts as a thermal mass that will quickly cool down the warm air that enters every time the door is opened. If your refrigerator triggers the compressor, in the standard style units, it cools both the refrigerator and freezer simultaneously, whether or not the freezer even needs cooling. This becomes a problem in warm environs like my kitchen in the summer - no AC for that room and hitting peak temps over 95F. That causes both compartments to be chilled throughout the day whether they both need it or not. My refrigerator has 2 separate cooling compressor units; one for the refrigerator and one for the freezer. Both compartments have their own independent temperature controls, so keeping both stocked keeps the system from having to cycle for long periods when warm air or unchilled foods are introduced. (For the freezer I keep a couple of ice packs in there and throw the newly introduced foods on top of the ice packs to help cool them quicker.)

redkcir (author)2008-10-26

I would think a better solution that would be "greener" would be to change to an RV type refrigerator. It runs on gas or DC. Methane can be home made and used, or Solar/Air to charge a battery system and use that. The older RV systems used alcohol as the exchange unit and just needed to be heated. No compressor. Mine would run all day on a battery charge.

Esmagamus (author)2008-10-14

Evil lamp is boiling your coke.

chuckr44 (author)2006-11-09

So where does the 58 watts go? Why, it is not saved, it is used up in the form of heat via the resistors installed in the LED bulb used to convert the mains voltage to the voltage required by the LED array. So it appears that LEDs, when plugged into the mains voltage, do not really save money, because they do not save energy.

About This Instructable




Bio: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output ... More »
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