Choosing an energy efficient fridge or freezer

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A woman shopper inspecting a fridge

Fridges are one of the highest energy users in the home, on average, 13% of your energy bill. Choose a model with a high Energy Rating to save money and energy.

It’s important to consider more than the upfront cost of the fridge/freezer. Running costs over ten years could be between $600 and $2000.

Choose the right fridge or freezer for your needs to minimise running costs.

Things to consider when buying a new fridge or freezer

Size

  • Don't buy a bigger fridge or freezer than you need
  • If you overfill your fridge or freezer it will struggle to cool food evenly
  • It’s more efficient to run one large fridge/freezer than two small ones.

Model

  • Choose a model with the freezer on top, as these models generally consume less energy than those with the freezer at the bottom
  • A two-door fridge with the top and bottom configuration is more energy efficient than a side-by-side model
  • Models with door alarms will remind you to close the fridge or freezer door.

Size

  • Most upright freezers have auto defrost features but they use more energy
  • Chest freezers are generally more efficient but they require defrosting. It may also be hard to organise food.

Water and ice dispensers

Models with cold water dispensers and ice-makers tend use more energy and will cost more to run. Check the annual energy consumption on the energy rating label.

Smart use of fridges and freezers

Set up

  • Don't place fridges next to the oven or in direct sunlight
  • Leave an air gap of at least 5cm around the fridge.

Temperature setting

You can buy a model with thermostat controls or you can buy a fridge thermometer to check the temperatures are set correctly.

  • Freezers should be between -18°C
  • Fridge compartments should be 3°C.

Maintenance

  • Clean your door seals regularly
  • Check the door seal by placing a piece of paper in the seal and closing the door. The paper will hold firmly if the seal is working
  • If you don't have an auto defrost model, defrost your fridge when the ice build-up is more than 5cm thick
  • Dust the coils on the back of your fridge once a year
  • If you will be away for long time, empty and clean the fridge and turn it off. Leave the door ajar to prevent odours.

Day-to-day use

  • Allow food to cool before putting it in the fridge
  • Don't overfill your fridge or freezer as this will interfere with the circulation of cold air
  • Try not to open the door too often or leave it open too long
  • Avoid stacking food packages together in freezers so they won't freeze together
  • If you have a second fridge that is only used occasionally, turn it off, and only turn it back on when you need it.

Running costs

The table below provides estimated running costs for different types of fridges and freezers based on star rating and volume.

Volume (litres) Energy star rating Annual running cost* Energy use (kWh/yr) Annual GHG emissions (kg)**
2-door frost-free fridge
200 1.5 star rating $117 366 432
3.5 star rating $69 217 256
350 2 star rating $135 422 498
4 star rating $80 250 295
500 2 star rating $163 510 602
4 star rating $96 302 356
Side-by-side
600 2 star rating $184 578 682
3.5 star rating $125 391 461
700 2 star rating $201 631 745
3.5 star rating $136 426 503
Chest freezer
150 2 star rating $87 274 323
3.5 star rating $59 185 218
350 2 star rating $132 413 487
3.5 star rating $89 279 329
Upright freezer
250 2 star rating $111 348 411
4 star rating $66 206 243
350 1.5 star rating $150 471 556
3.5 star rating $89 279 329

* Calculations assume an electricity tariff of 31.9c/kWh, based on a typical Melbourne tariff. This does not include any pay-on-time discount, which would reduce the amount paid.
** GHG = Greenhouse gas emissions, expressed in kg of carbon dioxide equivalent. A greenhouse coefficient of 1.18 kilograms per kilowatt hour of electricity has been used.

Check the Energy Rating Label

  • When comparing similar sizes and types, the model with the most stars will be the most efficient
  • When comparing different sizes and types, check the energy consumption figures. The model with the lowest consumption will be the cheapest to run.

Compare star ratings

energy rating label

The Energy Rating Label makes it easy for you to compare the energy efficiency of similar appliances. The Energy Rating Label displays a simple star rating - the more stars, the more energy efficient the appliance is. All new appliances available for sale in Australia must display the Energy Rating Label.

If you're comparing models for energy efficiency, they must be of the same type, that is, similar in capacity and features

When choosing an appliance, you should compare annual energy consumption figures (kWh per year). The model with the lowest annual energy use will be the cheapest to run.

The Energy Rating Label is administered by the Equipment Energy Efficiency (E3) program. E3 is a cross jurisdictional program through which the Australian Government, states and territories and the New Zealand Government collaborate to deliver a single, integrated program on energy efficiency standards and energy labelling for equipment and appliances.

Disposing of your whitegoods responsibly

When buying a new fridge, ask the retailer if they can take away your old fridge upon delivery.

Contact your local council to find out if they will collect the item during a Hard Waste Collection or if it can be dropped off at your local resource recovery centre. Planet Ark’s Recycling Near You website offers further information.


Examples of energy and water rating labels

Energy rating labels

Energy rating labels help you compare appliances so you can and choose the most energy and water efficient, and save money on running costs.

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Energy rating label

Energy rating calculator

The Energy Rating Calculator and app allows you to calculate the energy consumption and running costs for an appliance before you buy it.

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