Refrigerator Energy Use

 image001• The DOE publishes minimum energy performance standards for refrigerators and freezers.
• New, energy efficient refrigerators have better insulation and more efficient compressors.
• New modifications reduce compressor run time, which eliminates extra heat from the compressor.

The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) proposed minimum energy performance levels for appliances over the years, and these value have been reduced for newer vintage refrigerators as manufacturers have focused on energy efficiency. The following table shows estimate energy performance as a function of the age and size of the refrigerator.

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Estimate Energy Use by Refrigerator Age (kWh/yr)
15 Years10 Years5 YearsNew
14 cu ft Refrigerator/Freezer1,000750550400
18 cu ft Refrigerator/Freezer1,8001,5001,000450
21 cu ft Refrigerator/Freezer2,2001,7001,250575
24 cu ft Refrigerator/Freezer2,7502,4001,700750
See Energy Star NAECA Criteria for Refrigerators & Freezers for DOE performance levels.

Based on the above table, considerable energy savings are possible with an upgrade to a new refrigerator. Also, features such as automatic defrost are a standard for many homeowners today, but contribute to about 10% higher energy use compared to a manual defrost unit. For those that choose through-the-door ice service, expect a 25 to 30% increase in energy use compared to a solid door design.

 

Newer refrigerators are equipped with better insulation, improved heat transfer surfaces, more efficient compressors, and more precise temperature and defrost mechanisms. These new modifications reduce compressor run time, which in turn eliminates any excess heat caused by running the compressor. There are a number of designs on the market that have lower energy use than these federally mandated base levels that were cited in the final version of NAECA. As an example, ENERGY STAR® refrigerators must meet the following criteria if there are to receive ENERGY STAR certification.

 

ProductVolumeEnergy Star Criteria
Full Size Refrigerators7.75 cubic feet or greaterAt least 15% more energy efficient than the minimum federal government standard (NAECA).
Full Size Freezers7.75 cubic feet or greaterAt least 10% more energy efficient than the minimum federal government standard (NAECA).
Compact Refrigerators and FreezersLess than 7.75 cubic feet and 36 inches or less in heightAt least 20% more energy efficient than the minimum federal government standard (NAECA).