Refrigerator Efficiency Ratings: New Vs. Old


Of all the appliances you have in your home, your refrigerator takes the biggest bite out of your electricity dollar. According to the California Energy Commission, refrigerators consume close to one-sixth of all the electricity you use each year. The old saying about “throwing good money after bad” really does apply to refrigerators made before 1990. Unfortunately, there is nothing like a “weight watchers” program for older refrigerators to make them stop consuming so much energy. The best solution is to replace your old refrigerator with a new energy-efficient model. Your wallet will thank you for it.

New Refrigerators

  • On average, new refrigerators use up to 60 percent less electricity than refrigerators made 20 years ago. This is because the federal government and states, such as California, have been very proactive in getting manufacturers to raise the bar in terms of efficiency since the 1990s. Purchasing the most efficient refrigerator you can afford will pay off in terms of lowering your utility bills. Plus, given the fact that refrigerators can last more than 10 years, the savings you reap may very well exceed the price you paid for the refrigerator within less than 10 years.

Old Refrigerators

  • Older refrigerators can consume about 1,400 kilowatt hours each year, while a spanking new model (with all the new bells and whistles that you are missing out on) will only use about 450 kilowatts each year. That’s less than one-third of the amount that older refrigerators use, and will save you $100 a year, according to Older models with a bottom freezer are also bottom feeders, and take an even bigger chomp out of your budget. They use 15 percent more energy than refrigerators with freezers on top, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

EnergyStar Rating

  • You’re looking in the right direction if you look for the EnergyStar label while shopping for a new refrigerator. The U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency developed the EnergyStar program. The bright yellow label is only placed on models that exceed federal targets for energy efficiency by 20 percent and higher. The label will also tell you approximately how much you can expect to pay for energy (gas or electricity) in one year.


  • Look for the EnergyGuide label in addition to the EnergyStar label. The EnergyGuide will tell you how to compare the efficiency of similar refrigerator models. The EnergyGuide label is bright yellow with black lettering, similar to the EnergyStar label. What’s different and special about the EnergyGuide label is that it will give you an estimate for the amount of energy that the model will use, in terms of kilowatt hours in a year, in comparison to other models. There’s a line on the bottom that gives you figures for kilowatt hours used by models similar to the one you’re looking at, with an arrow that shows you how the one you’re looking at measures up in terms of being on the low end, on the high end or in the middle in terms of energy use.

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