How much electricity does my refrigerator use?

Direct Energy, Monday, December 4, 2023

4 minute read

How much electricity does my refrigerator use?

Direct Energy, Monday, December 4, 2023

4 minute read

You may think there’s not much you can do about the electricity costs of your refrigerator. You can't live without one, and you can't turn it off. But if you've had your refrigerator for a long time, a new one may pay for itself in a few years just  through your electricity bill savings. Indeed, many newer refrigerators use less wattage, which can really add up. 

Even if you already have a newer model, there are still a few tweaks that can help you make it as efficient as possible. Read on for tips on figuring out how much electricity a fridge uses and how to determine when it's time to start looking for a replacement.

Woman taking food out of refrigerator at home
Woman taking food out of refrigerator at home
Woman taking food out of refrigerator at home

Energy efficient refrigerators are the new normal

In the 20th century, it was fairly easy to make a ballpark estimate of refrigerator energy consumption because refrigerators weren't changing much from year to year. But refrigerator energy efficiency has progressed rapidly in the last 2 decades, and most of today's models use 25% or less of the energy consumed by the refrigerators of the 1970s.

Since refrigerators can sometimes keep running for decades, there are all sorts of fridges in today's kitchens — from ancient energy hogs to modern marvels of efficiency. So, if you're curious about how much you're spending on your refrigerator’s electricity usage, one of the biggest clues is its manufacturing date.

You can use ENERGY STAR's Flip Your Fridge calculator to quickly estimate how much you might be able to save by replacing your refrigerator with a modern ENERGY STAR refrigerator that uses less wattage. All you need to know is your refrigerator's approximate model year and size, plus your electricity retailer's kWh rate (look on your monthly bill).

How many watts does my refrigerator use?

By way of example, if you have a fridge with a top freezer from the 1980s with a capacity of 19.0-21.4 cubic feet, it's likely to use around 2,000 kWh per year. If you pay 10¢ for electricity per kWh, that means the aging refrigerator is costing you about 55¢ per day, $16.67 per month, and $200 per year.

A modern-era Energy Star-rated fridge, by comparison, might only use 350 kWh annually. At the same 10¢ per kWh price, that's around 10¢ a day, $2.90 per month and $35 per year, meaning that you're looking at annual savings of $165 by jettisoning the old refrigerator in favor of a new one.

How to estimate your refrigerator's annual electricity cost

If you ever find yourself wondering, "exactly how much electricity does my fridge use?", you can figure it out as well as your monthly costs if you determine your refrigerator’s wattage. Since 1980, appliance manufacturers have been required to participate in the Energy Guide program. Those black and yellow labels you see on every appliance sold at retail stores are designed to make it easy for shoppers to estimate electrical consumption costs before they decide what to buy.

If you saved all the original documentation that came with your refrigerator, you may still have the Energy Guide label. If not, find your refrigerator's model number by looking for a label on the back or behind the kickplate on the lower front. Once you have the model number, you may be able to look up the Energy Guide information on the manufacturer's website or obtain it by contacting their customer service department.

The most important thing the Energy Guide label will tell you is the estimated annual electricity use in kilowatt-hours, or kWh. The label will also give you an estimated yearly operating cost, but this figure is based on the national average electricity rate. You'll get a better estimate by checking your exact electricity rate on your bill and multiplying it by the kWh total you find on the Energy Guide label. To see your estimated monthly cost, just divide it by 12. Refrigerator power consumption should show very little variance month-by-month since they run 24 hours per day.

Energy saving tips for your refrigerator

You might be able to make a huge leap in energy efficiency by upgrading to a modern ENERGY STAR refrigerator, but there are lots of free and cheap hacks you can use to get a little more out of the fridge you already own:

  • Keep it clean. About every 3 months, pull your refrigerator away from the wall and dust the coils on the back of the fridge. Remove and wash the kickplate from the front of the fridge, if applicable, and use a long, thin duster or brush to clean underneath. When your fridge breathes easier, it uses less energy.

  • Check your temperature. 37° F is ideal for your fridge, and 0° F is optimal for the freezer. If you're using colder settings, you're wasting energy.

  • Seal it up. The rubber gaskets around your fridge and freezer doors are what keep cold air in. If you feel cold air leaking out, it may be worthwhile to replace the gaskets.

  • Keep only cool food inside. If you have hot leftovers, let them cool on the counter before you put them in the fridge. You'll save your refrigerator's compressor from going into overdrive.

  • Place it in a cool spot. Refrigerators expel hot air and must work harder to do so if the surrounding air is also hot. The best place to put a refrigerator is in the kitchen's coolest corner, away from the oven or big, sunny windows.

Whether you're ready to upgrade or just want to tweak your energy consumption, you're doing the right thing for your wallet and the planet. Make like your fridge and stay cool.

Explore the learning center

Explore our other categories by selecting one from the dropdown menu. 

1982472_DE Category Page Large Promos_FinalImagesforDev
1982472_DE Category Page Large Promos_FinalImagesforDev
1982472_DE Category Page Large Promos_FinalImagesforDev

Whole home protection

Energy is just the beginning. Discover protection plans that cover your home’s AC and heating system, plumbing, wiring and major appliances.

Signing up for Direct Energy is easy!

We offer a wide range of plans and even help you customize them to fit your needs! Shop our plans to find your best fit today.  

Need help placing an order?
Texas customers: call us at 1-855-461-1926
Northeast and Midwest customers: Contact us

Questions about your current service?
Texas customers: call us at 1-888-305-3828
Northeast and Midwest customers: Contact us