How can I find out how much energy my refrigerator uses?


How can I find out how much energy my refrigerator uses?

Asked by Dawn Nesiba

I have a 2.7CU Whirlpool refrigerator Model #El03PPXMQ, and I would like to know how much energy it uses. Can you help me with that?

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David Bergman's picture

Well, there's an easy way and a hard way to figure out how much electricity a refrigerator is using. And since your frig is a mini, the hard way actually isn't that hard. Which I guess means there are really two easy ways.

First, the harder way

The harder method of the two (keeping the best part for last) is to unplug the frig and then plug it in through a Kill-a-Watt meter.

  • This inexpensive and small meter would then tell you exactly how much energy the frig is using, BUT you'd need to monitor it over a short period of time to see how much energy it draws in different power cycles.
  • The tougher part, usually, is getting to that plug. A regular full-height frig would have to be rolled out from the wall.
  • With your mini frig, though, I'm guessing it wouldn't be as difficult to access the plug to use the Kill-a-Watt.

A simpler way

In either case, we have a much simpler way to find refrigerator energy usage and we've referred to it in a previous post (see "Are old appliances green because we are reusing or not green because they are not Energy Star?").

Energy Star has an online calculator that tells you not only how much energy your frig is using, but how much money you can save by switching to a newer energy-efficient frig.

  • Your Whirlpool mini-frig is a recent model and is Energy Star labeled.
  • According to Energy Star'sonline calculator, it uses 291 kWh (kilowatt-hours) annually and, using your Washington state location, costs you about $23 per year to run.
  • If you replaced it with a more efficient model, you'd save a whopping $2 per year.

A more typical situation looks like this

Let's look at a more typical situation, though.My refrigerator is a mid-90s, apartment-size unit -- 18 cubic feet, with a top freezer.

  • The calculator tells me that, here in New York, it costs me about $154 per year to run.
  • If I replaced it with a newer Energy Star qualified unit (the existing one is also Energy Star qualified, but under older standards), I could reduce that to $73, saving more than $400 over five years.
  • (Assuming, by the way, that electricity rates don't go up! If they do, the savings increase further.)

That sounds pretty good until you consider the cost of the new frig. If the frig is, say $800 (a price chosen primarily to make the math easy), it would take ten years to pay for itself in reduced electricity bills. And that's not considering other environmental aspects such as what happens to the old, still-working guy when it leaves its current home.

Energy Star's site has some general advice:

  • "If you still have a fridge from the 1980s, replace it with an Energy Star qualified model and save over $100 each year on your utility bills."
  • "Replace a fridge from the 1970s and save more than $200 each year!"

Rightsizing your refrigerator

Another interesting factor here is the size of your frig. If that mini is your only refrigerator, more "power" to you; you're already being way more efficient than the vast majority of Americans. Most people, of course, have far larger models.

One of the other ways to decrease energy usage is to have a "right-sized" model that is kept pretty full, rather than a partially empty equivalent of an underutilized SUV.

If, on the other hand, the mini is an accessory unit, you might want to look at how necessary it is or isn't. Maybe the way to go is not using a second frig at all and incurring what Amory Lovins calls "negawatts": the power not used due to conservation or efficiency.

For more information:

Read "Are old appliances green because we are reusing or not green because they are not Energy Star?" a Q&A answered by David Bergman.