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High-Efficiency Refrigerators

New high-efficiency refrigerators exceed the federal energy requirements and can save consumers a substantial amount of money

Photo of a refrigerator.

Because a refrigerator is one of the most energy-consuming household appliances, federal regulations have mandated energy ratings and efficiency improvements for all refrigerators. New high-efficiency refrigerators exceed the federal energy requirements and can save consumers a substantial amount of money.

Today’s generation of high-efficiency refrigerators include more insulation, high-efficiency compressors, better door seals, and more accurate control of temperature than older models. Depending on refrigerator volume and level of efficiency, they use between 450 kWh per year (for a 15 cubic foot top-freezer model) and 850 kWh per year (for a 26.7 cubic foot side-by-side model). This compares with the past typical new home refrigerators (with top-freezer) that used about 700-kWh per year and the typical 1973 model that used nearly three times the electrical energy. Furthermore, refrigerators certified by the EPA/DOE ENERGY STAR® program must yield at least a 10 percent improvement over the federal standard.

Some additional factors influencing the amount of energy that a refrigerator consumes include refrigerator size, configuration (side-by-side or top-mounted freezer), and optional features features such as icemakers and antisweat heaters.

In general, the larger the volume, the more energy the refrigerator uses. Automatic defrost models can consume up to two times more energy than manual defrost. Side-by-side models can use more energy than top-mounted freezer models. Refrigerators with some optional features will use more energy than a standard model (e.g., through-the-door water uses an additional 10 percent, automatic icemakers use an additional 14 to 20 percent).


Energy Efficiency

High-efficiency refrigerators reduce electric consumption and operating cost over conventional models. They offer the additional benefit of quieter operation. However, high-efficiency refrigerators may cost between $70 and $250 more than a standard-efficiency refrigerator.


Easy

As stated above, there may be higher initial cost for high-efficiency refrigerators.


Costs of these refrigerators range from $70 to $250 higher than standard models.


Replacing a ten-year-old refrigerator with a new, high-efficiency refrigerator can save a homeowner $100* in average annual energy costs.

* Dollar values assume a national average energy cost of $0.084 per kWh.


The Federal Trade Commission requires that all refrigerators display the yellow and black EnergyGuide label that gives consumers information about the energy use of the product. Except for the Energy Star®-labeled refrigerators, however, it may still be difficult to identify high-efficiency refrigerators unless federal appliance efficiency standards are clearly labeled or identified by the manufacturer.


Asdal Builders: Henderson, Nevada

MADE Project: Bowie, Maryland


High-efficiency refrigerators are installed in the same way as conventional refrigerators. All refrigerators should be kept away from heat sources (such as dishwashers or stoves) for maximum efficiency. In addition, refrigerators should be installed to allow adequate ventilation of the motor to minimize heat buildup.


Warranties usually cover the entire unit for 1 year and sealed components (compressor, refrigerant piping, etc) from the second through the fifth year. However, warranties will vary among manufacturers.


High-efficiency refrigerators reduce electric consumption and operating cost over conventional models. They offer the additional benefit of quieter operation. However, high-efficiency refrigerators may cost between $70 and $250 more than a standard-efficiency refrigerator.

Disclaimer: The information on the system, product or material presented herein is provided for informational purposes only. The technical descriptions, details, requirements, and limitations expressed do not constitute an endorsement, approval, or acceptance of the subject matter by the NAHB Research Center. There are no warranties, either expressed or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of this information. Full reproduction, without modification, is permissible.