While every situation is a bit different, buying a new refrigerator can cut your electricity expenses for keeping food cold in half, from annual operating costs in the neighborhood of $100 to something in the neighborhood of $50. What a nice neighborhood! And look at all the great refreshments!
Technological advances in refrigeration over the last 10 years mean that the once-valid decision to park the old fridge in the back of the garage as extra storage for party food made pretty good sense. Today, refrigerators are so much more efficient that you might as well feed that party food to a dinosaur as keep the old wattage-eating chill-box around. Advances have made home refrigerator/freezers so much more efficient that the US Department of Energy’s “Flip Your Fridge” program offers a calculator that can use your ZIP code and choice of model to show you just how much you can save with a new refrigerator.
Energy Efficiency of New Refrigerators
Signs of energy efficiency? According to the DOE, a top-freezer refrigerator that meets Energy Star standards operates on less energy than a 60-watt light bulb! As of 2014, Energy Star refrigerators were rated as using approximately 9 percent less energy than those meeting federal energy-efficient minimum standards, and standards have been raised to 10 percent since 2014 according to this Energy Star Table. So the dinosaur in your garage may be storing your food, but it’s eating your electricity. Time for a change.
One reason it was easy to hang on to the old refrigerator was that it used to be cumbersome and difficult to get rid of. Heavy, clumsy, and what do you do about leftover Freon? Participation in recycling by Texas electricity companies has changed that scenario permanently. If you are buying a new refrigerator, call your utility provider to find out about appliance recycling programs.
Electricity Providers Participate in Appliance Recycling Programs
Many electricity providers participate in these programs, making it easy to get rid of the heavy old box and dispose safely of the old chemicals and metal parts inside. (In the City of Austin, surprisingly, you may have to call a private recycler. Austin’s 11-year municipal program was so successful that it has now been shut down, due to the decline in old refrigerators needing disposal.) Many utility companies in many Texas communities still offer recycling services. A number of them add a financial bonus for your environmental activism; in El Paso, for example, recycling your old fridge can yield a $50 rebate check from El Paso Electric.
In spite of all the enthusiasm and even the Energy Star calculator, some of the savings you experience will be the result of your model preferences for your new appliance. Energy Star notes that size makes a difference: the most energy-efficient models seem to fall in the 16-20 cubic-foot range, and refrigerator/freezers above 39 cubic feet are excluded from Energy Star eligibility standards. (You can read more here.) Models eligible for certification include top-freezer, bottom-freezer, side-by-side, double-door (or French door) models, refrigerators only, chest freezers and standing freezers. Energy Star models can have ice-makers, but all models with through-the-door dispensers (ice, cold water) are excluded from ratings.
Take Care of Your Refrigerator to Save Energy
Taking good care of your refrigerator results in energy savings. Refrigerators should not be located next to the stove, in the direct path of a sunny window or next to other heat-generating appliances like a dishwasher or clothes washer/dryer. Several inches of clear airspace on all sides and the back of the refrigerator cabinet permit easy cleaning and heat dissipation. And, as generations of owners have said to those standing in front of the fridge, it’s storage, not shopping—shut the door.
Refrigeration technology has moved rapidly. Some of the newest models are owned by people who still refer to them as “the icebox.” What was still a luxury only a few generations ago is now taken for granted. You’ve saved money on electricity—and made room for the exercise bike in the garage! Pour a cool drink and relax. You’ll be glad you “flipped your fridge.”