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What to Consider When Buying a Refrigerator

Buying a new refrigerator is a big decision. Not only is the refrigerator a centerpiece among your collection of kitchen appliances, it’s a gathering place for preparing family meals. You rely on it to keep your food fresh. Even when it becomes an eye sore (hello, avocado green!), or an energy hog that’s ratcheting up your energy bill, you might be inclined to put off replacing it. Besides, the moment you walk into a store or begin your online shopping, you will encounter seemingly endless decision points – from sizes and configurations to features and more. But the time is now. Follow these easy tips, and you’ll be well on your way to big savings.

Look for the ENERGY STAR

ENERGY STAR is the simple choice for saving energy, saving money and helping to protect the climate.  After heating, cooling, and hot water, the refrigerator is probably the next largest energy user in your home. Thanks to recent improvements in insulation and compressors, today's refrigerators use much less energy than older models. In fact, a 15 year old refrigerator uses 33% more energy as a new ENERGY STAR certified model. You could save more than $200 and reduce your carbon footprint by 4,900 pounds of CO2 over the 12-year lifetime of the product.

Consider a Refrigerator with a Top-Mounted Freezer

Refrigerators are sold in many configurations including top freezer, bottom freezer, and side-by-side. Your new refrigerator doesn’t have to be the same configuration you had before, so long as you account for proper sizing as discussed below. A top-freezer refrigerator that has earned the ENERGY STAR uses less energy than a 60-watt light bulb. Top freezer models tend to use the least energy of all refrigerator configurations and are affordably priced. On average, an ENERGY STAR certified top freezer refrigerator costs about $45 a year to run, while a side-by-side costs about $77, and a bottom freezer costs about $70.

Purchase an Appropriately Sized Refrigerator

Generally, the larger the refrigerator, the greater the energy consumption. The most energy-efficient models are typically 16-20 cubic feet. When you replace an old refrigerator with a new one, do not keep the old refrigerator for extra cold storage. If your refrigeration needs absolutely cannot be met by a single refrigerator, make sure that the second refrigerator or freezer is an energy efficient model that is no bigger than what you need. Be certain to recycle your existing second refrigerator from your garage or basement.

Consider the Features that are Most Important to You

Which features do you need in your new fridge? Think about whether you’ll want an icemaker, through-the-door ice, or hot water, so that you only pay for what you use – both in the initial purchase price and over the lifetime of the product. For example, through-the-door ice adds about 84 kWh of energy, or $10 per year to your utility bill. 
Peruse the ENERGY STAR Product Finder to compare features among energy efficient refrigerator models and optimize your purchase. 

Recycle Your Old Refrigerator

Recycling old refrigerators is another important way to help prevent global warming.  Not only does it prevent energy-wasting units from ending up in someone else’s home, but it avoids the release of harmful materials. Keeping all that old refrigerant and foam from getting into the environment could prevent 4,900 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions! Learn how to Flip Your Fridge and save.

Take Advantage of Utility Rebates

Be sure to visit the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder to check for special offers from your local utility on purchasing a new refrigerator and/or recycling an old one.

Melissa Fiffer

Melissa Fiffer is the product lead for ENERGY STAR appliances. As a new homeowner, she’ll be consulting ENERGY STAR Product Finder and Rebate Finder when thinking about replacing her old refrigerator.