High power consumption is the biggest environmental impact of refrigerators.

Photograph by Huw Jones/Photolibrary

Environmental Impact

Energy Consumption

The refrigerator is the largest power-guzzler in the typical household. If you bought yours in the early 1990s, chances are it's using two to three times as much energy as current models. In fact, the fridge may account for as much as one-fifth of your annual electricity costs, according to Consumer Reports.

More energy consumption means more coal-fired power plants and more devastation caused by coal extraction. It also means more demand for hydroelectric dams and nuclear power plants, with associated hazards to surrounding areas. And it means more emissions of soot and other air pollutants into the atmosphere by power plants burning coal and other fossil fuels. Among these emissions are mercury, a brain-damaging metal that can cause learning disabilities, and carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas that is a primary culprit in global warming. For every kilowatt-hour of electricity used in your home, power plants release an average of 1.34 pounds of CO2 into the environment. All in all, reducing energy consumption is the key to a healthier planet.

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