I am shopping for a new refrigerator. What is the difference between Energy Star "Most Efficient" and CEE "Tier 3"?

Asked by Aaron Hirshberg
Fairfield, IA

Which is better? What other information should I be considering in my search for buying an energy efficient refrigerator?


Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS

Answered by Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS

Bainbridge Island, WA

A Kitchen That Works LLC

July 29, 2013

Dear Aaron,

I applaud you for seeking out the most energy efficient appliances you can find and I can appreciate why you found it difficult to get an answer to your question.

CEE vs Energy Star

CEE or the Consortium for Energy Efficiency is a not for profit public benefits corporation. The CEE developed the Super-Efficient Home Appliance Initiative, outlining specifications for super efficiency by rating the energy performance of clothes washers, refrigerators, dishwashers and room air conditioners in tiers I-IV with IV being most efficient. However, not every category of appliance has multiple rating tiers associated with it.

Energy Star® is a program administered by the Environmental Protection Agency of the US federal government which addresses energy efficiency in a variety of products. Unlike CEE, Energy Star administers cash rebates for qualifying product purchases.

CEE Tier III vs Energy Star Most Efficient

In general terms,

CEE Tier I. This is equal to Energy Star which equates to a 20% increase in efficiency over US Department of Energy (DOE) mandates.

CEE Tier II. This is 25% more efficient than DOE mandates.

CEE Tier III. Tier III rated appliances are 30% more energy efficient than DOE mandates and is essentially equal to Energy Star® Most Efficient 2013.

Some other considerations

Other items to consider when selecting a refrigerator:

  • Does the location for the refrigerator allow the door(s) to open sufficiently to remove the crisper bins for cleaning?
  • Do you have enough height (under an existing wall cabinet), enough width AND enough depth to accommodate the model you have selected?
  • Ice and water in the door consumes a lot of useable storage space, is difficult to keep clean and consumes more energy – think twice before selecting a model with ice and water in the door.
  • Models with dual compressors (one for the freezer and a separate one for the refrigerator compartment) will preserve food longer and you need to shop less frequently and you will theoretically waste less food.
  • Check out the lighting to make sure it meets your needs.

Good Luck!


For more information:

Energy Star's recognition criteria for the Most Efficient designation are here and Energy Star's qualified product list is here.

Also, read "How can I find out how much energy my refrigerator uses?" a Q&A answered by David Bergman.

Tagged In: energy efficient appliances

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