Without doubts, refrigerators and fridges are some of the largest electricity consumers in most homes. Most units will last 15-20 years or even more depending on the manufacturer. Depending on the age of your refrigerator, you might be wondering whether it is working efficiently as it should, or whether you’re better off replacing it with a newer model.
So how much electricity does an old fridge use? On average, an old fridge from the late 80s and early 90s will use around 1300 – 2000 kWh per year, depending on the make and capacity. That is around $200 per year at 10 – 12 cents per kWh. It could be more for older units.
On the other hand, a newer modern-efficient model with ENERGY STAR rating or CT3 can use as little as 350 kWh or even less. At 10 cents per kWh and $2.9 per month, that’s around $35 annual cost, which is nearly 80 percent savings in energy. So you can potentially save over $160 by swapping an old-hog refrigerator for a new one.
However, it’s also important to know that most modern fridges are outfitted with ice makers. Now, for the figures above, it is assumed that the ice maker is turned off. If it was turned on, then the electricity consumption could be as much as double.
What Determines Your Fridge Power Usage
Here are some of the factors that determine the actual power consumption of your refrigerator.
- Temperature set-point
Size: Fridges with larger volumes generally consume more electricity. A good example is a side-by-side fridge.
Type: The type of fridge also determines the amount of power it will use. For instance, a bar fridge will use 10 times less power than a huge commercial display fridge.
Location: A fridge that is located in a warm position or somewhere that is poorly ventilated will likely end up using up more power.
Condition: The condition of the fridge can also influence its power usage. A unit with weak door seals or worn-out parts will likely consume more electricity.
Season: Refrigerators generally consume more power during hot summer months than they do during the winter or cold season. This is because the compressor does more work to maintain the cold temperature inside the fridge during those hot summer months.
Usage: Opening the refrigerator door too frequently or leaving it open for long causes warm air to enter inside and reduce the cool temperature. So the compressor now has to do more work to keep things cool.
Temperature Set-point: Sometimes, the default setting of the refrigerator might actually make it cooler than what is needed. In this case, you can adjust the temperature set-point to medium or low to reduce energy consumption.
Age: New fridge models from the last 15-20 years have a higher efficiency than the older models. So depending on which one you are using, your energy bills may be higher than expected.
Should You Replace Your Old Fridge?
It depends on when the fridge was made. If it was made before 2001, then you should go ahead and replace it. You will certainly save money by doing so.
Older fridges, specifically those made before 2001 are notoriously inefficient compared to new models. Some newer fridge models use less than half of the energy consumed by the older boys. In other words, by substituting a 90s fridge with a newer ENERGY STAR model, you can potentially over $1000 over the fridge’s service life.
So, if your current fridge is one of those old boys, consider trading it with a newer and more energy-efficient unit.
Besides saving energy, another reason why you might want to replace an old fridge is to reduce pollution. You can reduce carbon footprint by up to 1000 pounds.
Also, if you eventually decide to upgrade your fridge, make sure the old unit is recycled in the most sustainable way, as this also helps in reducing carbon footprint.
For refrigerators made in 2001 or afterward, it’s a bit trickier. Swapping such a fridge for a new one may help you save around $300 over its useful life. This is not even up to the cost of a new fridge.
Personally, I think any refrigeration unit that is over 14 years can be replaced as long as you’re replacing it with a more efficient unit. This is because the service life for most refrigerators is around 14 years.
Can I Put My Old Fridge in the Garage
Of course, you have the option to move the old fridge to your garage or any other room or location, and probably use it to store less essential items. But as long as the unit is inefficient, you will still be paying more for energy.
If it’s a fridge from the 90s, then you will be paying at least an extra $130 yearly to keep it running. In many cases, you will be paying more depending on the size of the unit. If the extra cost of running the system is worth more to you than having your food items ruined, then you can keep it a little longer in the garage, or else you should recycle it.
My general recommendation is to recycle the older refrigerator instead of keeping it in the garage or basement where it will only end up wasting more energy. In fact, you might be able to get rebates on some electric utilities by simply replacing an inefficient refrigeration system with a new energy star model.
How to Calculate Refrigerator Power Consumption
To find an approximate value of the power your fridge is consuming, you will need to know the wattage. You can find this on the compliance plate or a sticker on the side of the fridge.
For instance, if the unit has a wattage of 120 watts, and the usage is around 8 hours daily, then the total energy it’s consuming will be 120 Watts x 8 hours, which is 960Wh, or 0.96kWh, per day. Assuming you’re charged 25 cents for 1kWh, then the total cost of operating the fridge in a year will be 0.96 x 365 x 0.25, which will be $87.6 per year.
Of course, this is a very basic calculation, your local electricity may be different, and you may be running the refrigerator for more or less than 8 hours. There are other variables that are not accounted for in the calculations which can make it less accurate. For instance, the weather conditions, a faulty compressor, frequent door openings, and so on.
But the calculation should give you an idea of what to expect.
Here is a free online refrigerator power consumption calculator by energy star to calculate your potential savings on an old refrigeration unit.
Factors to Consider When Buying A Fridge or Refrigerator
Here are some of the things you want to look at when buying a new fridge or refrigeration unit.
- Sizing: Consider the fridge size before purchasing. This is important because, besides taking up more space, an oversized fridge will end up consuming more power than necessary. So make sure you choose a unit with the proper sizing that will fit into your space such that you can move the doors without any difficulty. It should be able to pass through your doors when moving it inside the house.
- Budget: Fridges are available in a wide range of price points. It’s up to you to decide exactly what you want. Before shopping, you should decide on how much you are willing to spend. There are some units that cost as little as $600 or even less. These include basic top freezers. There are other units like French-door fridges that cost over $1000.
- Style: When it comes to style, there are numerous types of modern fridges available to choose from. Some of the more commons are traditional refrigeration units, bottom-freezers, and side-by-side systems. Each one of these has its advantages and disadvantages. It all depends on what matters most to you. For instance, traditional refrigerators are less expensive but they don’t look as attractive as the newer modern styles. Also, side-by-side units come with smaller doors and occupy less floor space but they have very limited capacity and can’t accommodate pizza boxes and other large items.
- Features: Modern refrigerators can be divided into two broad categories – the manual defrost models and the self-defrost models. The manual defrost freezers feature simpler components and don’t come with heating elements like the self-defrost units. As a result, manual defrost freezers usually have a lower upfront cost and are less expensive to operate. On the other hand, cleaning frost manually can be quite tasking and time-consuming. In the same manner, some refrigerators may feature adjustable shelves, ice makers or dispensers, and so on. All these will add to the cost of the unit.
- Efficiency: Buying an energy-efficient model translates to lower operating costs and energy bills. I highly recommend going for a model with an ENERGY STAR rating or CT3. Interestingly, energy star has a website that contains various tools you can use to compute the savings you can get with each particular model. This should give you an idea of how much you can save in the long run.
How To Save Power Consumption In Refrigerator
While upgrading to a new fridge is a good move, there are other things you can do to save energy with your existing fridge. Let’s look at some of them:
Regular cleaning is important to enable the fridge to breathe freely. You should clean it at least every 3 months. This typically involves dusting the coils at the back, washing the kickplate, and cleaning other small parts. When there is no dirt clogging up the fridge, it’s easier for it to breathe and that reduces energy consumption
Check Temperature Set-point
If your fridge is colder than required, then energy is being wasted. The ideal temperature for refrigerators is 36 degrees Fahrenheit, while that of freezers is 0 degrees.
Check the Seal
The compressor does more work when cold air leaks out of the refrigerator. So, check the gasket and make sure no cold air is escaping whenever you close the refrigerator door. A damaged gasket can be easily replaced. The appearance of mold or mildew could also be an indication of a leak somewhere.
Check the Filters
Keep an eye on the filters, and always change them when you need to. This will ensure the unit continues functioning properly and you continue to enjoy fresh clean.
More energy-saving tips:
- Don’t store hot food in the fridge. Allow it to cool before storing it.
- Locate the refrigerator away from heat
- Minimize door openings as frequent openings can significantly increase your energy bill
- Don’t allow frost to build up. Get rid of it on time. In case you don’t know, here’s how to defrost a freezer.
I will draw the curtains here. By now, you should have an idea of how much electricity your old fridge is using.
Again, if your fridge is made before 2001, then upgrading to a new unit will help you save more money. However, if it was bought in the last decade, then you may not see any significant improvement by trading it for a new model.