Refrigerators are responsible for about 8% of the average household's annual energy bills.
Older refrigerators and freezers can consume 1.000-1.500 kilowatts-hour annually, which means an average household cost of about $200/year (American homes).
Refrigerators can be energy-guzzling appliances, running 356 days a year, day and night.
FAQs on refrigerators and freezers
When buying, consider carefully the size of the refrigerator/freezer, and its features and rating...
»» Refrigerators with an upper freezer compartment consume less energy; consider carefully the type of refrigerator
»» Chest freezers consume less energy than upright freezers;
»» Refrigerators with features like ice and water dispensers waste too much energy.
»» Select an Energy Star high-rated unit.
»» Big is not best.
»» Consider the TopTen or the Which (UK) suggestions; or the European and Australian Energy Label.
Which is the best size for refrigerators and freezers? Are american refrigerators oversized compared to European units?
Do not oversize: smaller units are more energy-efficient. Having a large fridge empty most of the year will waste a lot of energy.
Be aware, anyway: one large refrigerator is a better option than two smaller ones; it requires less energy.
Most Americans are used to living with large refrigerators – above, say, 20 cubic feet. But when they visit Europe they discover that most Europeans use refrigerators that are only half as big.
Average European fridge-freezer volume is below 300 liters – about 10 cubic feet. And Europeans are happy with the size. Large American refrigerators are largely a matter of fashion and habit.
Do not oversize. Smaller units are more energy-efficient. Having a large fridge empty most of the year is a bad option.
Anyway, one large refrigerator is a better option than two smaller ones; it requires a lot less energy.
Old refrigerators can consume 2, 3 or 4 times more energy than new units. Some of them may consume more energy – for a lifespan of 12 years – than the cost of a new unit.
Side-by-side and French-door refrigerators are more expensive than top freezer units (or bottom freezer units).
New side-by-side freezers and French-door refrigerators are slightly less energy-efficient than other configurations; on average they use 10-30% more energy. Avoid ice makers or through-the-door ice features, when buying: they make refrigerators waste energy.
To compare the energy efficiency of two refrigerators, compare their kWh/year consumption. You can do it by taking a look at the Energy Labels posted on them. Some manufacturers provide the kWh/year of their products on their websites.
More details: Best refrigerator and freezer models and types
Energy Star and other high rated refrigerators can reduce electricity consumption by 50% or more. That’s very significant over their lifespan.
- Check the refrigerator's door seals: put a bright flashlight inside the fridge, direct the light toward the seal, and close the door and inspect for light (the room should be darkened as much as possible); if you see any light escaping, fix the problem (replacing the door seals, if needed).
- Check the thermostat: the temperature of the refrigerator should be kept between 36°F/2ºC and 40ºF/4,5ºC, and the freezer between 0°F/-18ºC and 5°F/-15ºC.
- Check the power-saver switch: it should be On; always keep the power-saver switch On unless you live in a moist climate and notice excessive moisture inside your refrigerator.
- Check the location: refrigerators and freezers should be located away from direct sunlight or any heat source (stoves, dishwashers...); it will keep them from having to operate harder.
- Do not keep the door of the refrigerator open more than the strictly necessary: get what you want from it, and close the door.
- Defrost regularly: reduce frost build-up; ice build-up makes the compressor run longer. In hot humid climates, prefer a manual defrost refrigerator.
- Let hot food cool before storing it in the fridge or freezer.
- Keep the coils (typically at the back or at the bottom of the freezer or fridge) clean; use a vacuum or a soft brush to do the job.
Instead of having a large refrigerator empty most of the time, it may be a better choice to have a smaller unit and a small compact refrigerator for occasional use. Today's compact fridges can be reasonably efficient.
Look for Energy Star models (USA, Canada, Australia) and pay attention to Energy Labels. Compare information on labels. Take into account the kilowatt-hours/year consumption of the different models. Choose qualified units. They use 70% or less electricity than most non-qualified ones.
Fridge technology has improved greatly over the last years, and new refrigerators are a lot more energy efficient. In the earlier nineties their average energy consumption was more than 1.000 kilowatts/hour/year; now they may consume less than 400 kWh/year.
How to find the most energy efficient refrigerators and Freezers? How to get customer reviews and prices on refrigerators and freezers?
For questions about how to level the refrigerator, noise issues, frost accumulation, cleaning, water dispenser not working properly, cooling problems, repairs and other FAQs currently asked to manufacturers, see GE Faq refrigerators. The answers are extensible to other brands.
Avoid non-qualified models. You will end up paying many times their cost in electricity. Do not forget that refrigerators are switched on 365 days a year, day and night.
Average-old refrigerators consume a lot of energy; and since the power they consume comes mostly from coal and other fossil-fueled power plants, refrigeration is responsible for a great amount of CO2 emissions.
Dispose old refrigerators properly; utility and city services may pick them up for recycling. If in the US, see Appliance Recycling and Disposal. Do not sell your old refrigerator or freezer, and do not move it out to your garage. Older fridges and freezers are very energy inefficient: they may consume three times or more electricity than modern units.