Refrigerators use a lot of energy. Buying a refrigerator that is more efficient than Energy Star standards can help decrease energy bills.

Photograph by Huw Jones/Photolibrary

Updated by James Robertson

for National Geographic

Shopping Tips

Your refrigerator is probably the most power-hungry appliance in your house, though newer models are an improvement over old ones. You'll save money and energy by replacing any model made before 2001. A typical 1990 refrigerator costs about $75 per year to run and releases more than 1,200 pounds of CO2 each year. Even post-2001 models may not be as efficient as the newest versions; use Energy Star’s refrigerator calculator to compare them.

  • Energy Star: The most efficient machines are Energy Star-rated and use at least 20 percent less energy than federal standards.
  • Top-freezer models: These are the most energy-efficient and low-maintenance of the configurations offered, followed by bottom-freezer models. Side-by-side refrigerator/freezers are often more convenient, but they're more likely to need repair and can use 7 to 13 percent more energy than top-freezer models. Automatic icemakers increase energy use by 14 to 20 percent.
  • Capacity: Buy a large enough refrigerator to accommodate everything, rather than buying a new one while keeping your old fridge to store overflow. It's much more economical and eco-conscious to store all your food in a single refrigerator.

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