Your refrigerator may be the biggest energy drain in your home! A bold statement for sure, but it is very possible. People use their fridges to keep things cold around the clock and expect them to run without incident for years. If your fridge has been running for decades, it is most likely time for an energy efficient replacement. Even if your fridge hasn’t been around since the last ice age, a newer fridge can actually pay for itself over time.
Start by looking for Energy Star refrigerators. The Energy Star program was created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1992. While not a 100 percent foolproof method due to the way different sizes and layouts are rated, it’s a good place to start. About 80 percent of currently produced refrigerators are Energy Star compliant. According to Energy Star, “an estimated 170 million refrigerators and refrigerator-freezers are currently in use in the United States. More than 60 million refrigerators are over 10 years old, costing consumers $4.4 billion a year in energy costs. By properly recycling your old refrigerator and replacing it with a new Energy Star certified refrigerator, you can save $260 over the next five years.”
Refrigerators with the freezer on top typically use 10 percent to 25 percent less energy than refrigerators with the freezer on the bottom or side. Side-by-side models, with the fridge on one side and the freezer on the other are big energy drains. These use the most energy compared to other types of refrigerators. This is doubly true if it has an in-door ice machine. Also, avoid buying a refrigerator with an automatic ice maker or dispenser in the front. These models tend to use 14 percent to 20 percent more energy than normal internal icemakers.
Keep your fridge or freezer away from the stove, dishwasher or windows. Placing your fridge near heat sources increases the power needed to keep things cool. It seems simple, but is often overlooked when arranging your kitchen. If you have a separate freezer unit, keep it in an out of the way place. That can be a basement, garage or laundry room.
If you’re renting an apartment or a house, you may be stuck with the fridge installed in your place. However, if you own your home, you have options. Consider buying a fridge in the 16-18 cubic foot range. Most commonly-used European refrigerators are 10-15 cubic feet, roughly half the size of American units, and they use much less energy. Studies have shown that jumbo-sized fridges also contribute to weight gain. Yes, it can be said, “My fridge is making me bigger.”
Several manufacturers are at the forefront of making efficient refrigerators. A good option is the Sun Frost model RF-16 if you don’t mind a high initial cost. This unit can even run in homes with solar power because of its fantastic efficiency. A much more affordable option is the GE model GTH17. A current search places this model’s real world cost at $570 with free shipping or pickup at an appliance store near you. Other manufacturers like Summit, Avanti, Frigidaire and LG are rated highly on the Energy Star website.
The amount of energy that refrigerators draw has dropped significantly over the past couple of decades because of government regulations and manufacturer’s creativity in design. This means the buying public has a variety of choices that look fantastic and draw minimal power. With all the options available, there is little reason to stick with an energy-draining refrigerator!