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How to Choose an Energy-Efficient Refrigerator

Buy an energy-efficient refrigerator using this guide, and watch the savings add up.

| January 2012 Web

  • "Home Sweet Zero Energy Home" is a practical guidebook that clearly shows how zero energy homes can be good, livable, affordable homes. Author Barry Rehfeld identifies all the pieces of the zero energy puzzle and how they fall into place.
    Photo Courtesy New Society Publishers

The following is excerpted from “Home Sweet Zero Energy Home” by Barry Rehfeld (New Society Publishers, 2012). The excerpt is from Chapter 9: Cool and Bright Ideas Well Done. 

Energy-Efficient Refrigerators

Buying a good, inexpensive, energy-efficient refrigerator is like throwing darts at a target with only one big bullseye to hit. It’s hard to miss.

For the replacement market, it will mean zero energy-level savings over the model that is likely to be replaced. Refrigerator producers have made steady strides in improving their products’ efficiency over the past several decades. A refrigerator’s useful life is about 12 to 15 years and a model that old may be 60 percent less efficient than a new replacement, if the buyer chooses the right size and model.

The low-cost choice for the new and replacement market is the classic 18-cubic-foot Energy Star top freezer. It’s universally available, simple, dependable and suitable in size for a typical household of two to four people. Chances are it will be 30 to 40 percent more efficient than the refrigerator found in most other homes.



As with clothes washers, a few companies manufacture nearly all refrigerators. They are familiar names like Whirlpool, General Electric, Maytag and Frigidaire and they all make very energy-efficient refrigerators, including one or more 18-cubic-foot Energy Star models, at prices that should be impossible to ignore.

Just the same, the market is doing just that when it comes to the 18-cubic-foot Energy Star top freezer. Buyers have opted for models that are less efficient or that use more energy — and producers have encouraged the trend. Buyers want bigger refrigerators or home builders are giving it to them. With homes larger than in the past, there’s more room for them, too, and the bigger they are the more energy they use. Refrigerator size increased regularly in the nineties from an average of under 20 cubic feet to 22 cubic feet a decade later where they remain, even as household sizes have shrunk.



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