Refrigeration & Freezers

Refrigerators and freezers are two of the most significant energy-consuming appliances. Only comfort conditioning (heating and cooling) and water heating use more energy. While most people are aware of the importance of saving energy on heating, cooling and water heating, the energy consumed by refrigerators and freezers is often overlooked.

A ten-year-old refrigerator or freezer could be costing considerably more to operate than a new energy-efficient model of the same size. Improvements in the design of compressors and cooling coils, better insulation, and other design improvements all contribute to the higher efficiencies of newer models.

Consider The Total Cost

When purchasing a new refrigerator or freezer, the initial purchase price is only part of the picture. You should also consider the operating cost of the appliance. Less efficient appliances can cost more in the long run because they consume more energy. Therefore, the slightly higher purchase price of more efficient models can be offset by the energy savings. Over the life of the appliance, the energy-efficient model will often be the more economical choice.

The Energy Guide Label

The easiest way to determine and compare the operating or energy cost of different models is to use the EnergyGuide label. The federal government requires that all refrigerators and freezers (not just energy-efficient models) display this yellow and black label. This label identifies the type of appliance, make and model number, and estimated annual energy cost based on average electric rates and use. It also shows how that model compares with models having the highest and lowest energy costs, and contains a table showing the average costs for different electric rates.

Life-Cycle Cost Comparison

An appliance's life-cycle cost is the most realistic measure of its true cost, as it takes into account not just the purchase price but the operating cost as well. By using the EnergyGuide label, you can compare the true costs of different makes and models of refrigerators and freezers. The following simple calculation can be used to estimate the actual long-term cost of these appliances.

General Tips

  • Select the proper size refrigerator or freezer for your needs. Generally, the larger the unit the greater the operating cost will be.
  • Automatic-defrost models will generally have higher operating costs than manual-defrost types. Most people, however, consider this additional cost worthwhile, considering the convenience.
  • Models with an "anti-sweat" feature will have slightly higher operating costs, as they have a small heating coil to prevent condensation on the outside during humid weather.
  • If purchasing a separate freezer, the chest type with the door on top will generally use less energy than an upright model, as the cold air does not "spill out" every time the door is opened.
  • Refrigerators and freezers should be installed with enough space behind and above the unit to allow proper air circulation around the condenser coils.
  • Condenser coils should be cleaned at least twice a year to remove dirt or dust that can reduce the unit's efficiency.