A guide to energy-efficient fridges and freezers, and how to choose the best for your home
01 February 2021 | Matt Mostyn
Your fridge-freezer is probably the only appliance in your home that needs to be plugged in and actively working 24/7. Obviously, you can’t turn it off, or put it on standby – so it makes sense for this major guzzler of energy to be as efficient as possible.
If your fridge or freezer has a poor energy rating, it could be costing you. And it’s not only bad news for your wallet. Poor-performing fridge-freezers also take a toll on the environment, because they use more energy than they should – which affects your carbon footprint, and puts an added strain on the planet’s resources.
On the flipside, energy-efficient white goods are more sustainable, and more efficient, so they use the least possible amount of energy to keep them running.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about why modern fridge freezers are more efficient than older models. We’ll tell you how much you can save, how to make your existing fridge-freezer perform better until it’s time to invest in a new one, and much more.
What is an energy-efficient fridge or freezer?
First up, let’s talk through the gold-standard when it comes to the best, most energy-efficient fridge or freezer. Put simply, energy-efficient white goods use less electricity, and help keep your bills to a minimum. Choose an energy-efficient model and you’ll not only reduce your costs, but you’ll also place less burden on the resources that affect our environment, too.
That doesn’t necessarily mean throwing out your fridge-freezer right away – but consider replacing it with a better model once its time is up. Highly-efficient appliances may cost a little more upfront, but the savings you’ll make over time should more than cover the extra expense.
Are today’s energy-saving fridges and freezers better than their older counterparts?
Yes! New fridges and freezers are much more energy-efficient than they used to be – so if your fridge or freezer is more than 10 years old, you might want to think about replacing it. Within a few years, the energy savings you’ll make could more than cover the cost of buying it!
In recent years, fridge and freezer manufacturers have made great strides in improving designs. They’ve raised insulation standards, introduced high-efficiency compressors, and enhanced features like temperature control and defrosting. These have all helped to make new fridges and freezers more energy-efficient, and reduce their running costs.
These days, new fridges and freezers must have energy-efficiency ratings of between A+ and A+++. But if you bought yours before July 2012 it could be anything from between G and A – which means much higher running costs.
How much money can you save with an energy-efficient fridge or freeze? Is it worth the switch?
It’s been estimated that households could save as much as £113 a year, simply by switching to a more efficient fridge-freezer1. A C-rated fridge-freezer costs on average £151 a year – but the typical annual cost of a A+++ rated fridge-freezer is just £38.
And not only will switching to a more energy-efficient fridge-freezer save you money – it will also cut down your energy use by as much as three quarters! A C-rated appliance uses 816 of kWh per year, whereas an A+++ typically uses just 2062.
For further tips on energy efficiency, check out our guide on how to save energy in the kitchen.
I’m buying a new fridge or freezer – what should I look for?
Nowadays, new fridges and freezers have an energy label, rating it from A+ (the least efficient, but still pretty good), up to A+++ for the most energy-efficient models. The label will also show the appliance’s volume (in litres), frozen storage volume (in litres), and noise level (in decibels).
As a rule of thumb, the lower the decibels, the quieter the unit. To put it in perspective, a normal conversation is around 60 dB, while 30 dB is about the level of a whisper. For white goods, anything under 40 dB is ideal – but you can find fridges as low as 32 dB. Which is a wise choice if you live in a studio apartment, for instance!
Retailers can still sell old models, so you might occasionally still see a fridge or freezer rated A or B – but it will have been around since before July 2012, so it’s probably best not to buy it.
Is it better to choose a smaller A+ rated model, or an A+++ that’s a bit larger than I need?
Larger models will use more energy than small ones, even if they’ve got a better rating. So if you only need a smallish energy-efficient fridge or freezer, it’s probably still better to buy a smaller A+ rated model over a larger A+++ one that will be half-empty most of the time.
To work out which fridge or freezer will cost you the least in running costs, take a look at the figures on the label. They’ll show you how much energy it uses each year (in kilowatt hours), and the lower the number, the lower your running costs.
How are these ratings calculated?
They use an index that compares the appliance’s energy consumption with its internal volume, to show how energy-efficient it is for its size. So 2 energy-saving fridges of different sizes could still have the same energy rating.
The appliance’s energy consumption is measured by testing it in a room with a temperature of 25˚C. Before testing, it’s partly-filled – just as it might be in real life – and its internal volume is calculated once all the drawers, shelves, trays or water dispensers are in place.
By the way, this isn’t necessarily the same as the volume claimed by the manufacturer, who may have measured it without all the drawers, shelves and so on.
How can I find out the rating of an appliance?
Keep an eye out for a coloured sticker on the unit itself. That will show you its rating – which ranges from A+++ to G. The most efficient white goods are colour-coded green, while the least efficient are in red.
The Energy Saving Trust also has an extensive register of energy-efficient products. Simply type in a keyword (or the model name and number you’re looking at) and you’ll be able to see how it’s rated.
Which is more energy-efficient, a stacked fridge-freezer, or two side-by-side units?
A fridge in a side-by-side configuration could use up to 20% more energy – so if you can fit an up-and-down unit in your kitchen, this is a more energy-efficient choice.
Where’s the best place to put my new energy-saving fridge or freezer?
When your new fridge or freezer is delivered, make sure you place it away from your cooker, and out of direct sunlight. It’s important to keep it in a cooler part of your kitchen, to help it work more efficiently.
You should also make sure the back of the fridge or freezer is at least 10 centimetres (4 inches) away from the wall, so the coils can work properly. They’ll also work best if they’re clean and free of dust, so give them a vacuum every few months.
This is the one time when you should switch off and unplug the fridge or freezer for a few seconds – but remember to switch it back on as soon as you’ve finished.
8 tips to make your fridge and freezer more energy-efficient
If you don’t need (or can’t afford) to replace your fridge or freezer with a new energy-efficient model right now, there are a few ways to make sure you’re wasting as little energy as possible. Here are some ideas:
- Keep your fridge at a temperature of between 3˚and 5˚C, and your freezer at minus 18˚C.
- Keep both your fridge and freezer at least three-quarters full, so they don’t have to waste energy heating empty air.
- Don’t cram them too full, as it could stop air from circulating, which will also use more energy.
- If they’re not designed to defrost automatically, you’ll need to defrost them yourself at least once every 6 months.
- Don’t put hot food straight into the fridge, as the fridge will use a lot of energy just cooling it down. Leave it to cool first, ideally covered, to keep it fresh.
- Keep an eye on your door seals, and wipe them down if they look dirty – they’re often the first thing to go wrong.
- Try to remember to defrost food naturally, by taking it out of the freezer the night before you need it. This uses less energy than defrosting in a microwave, or cooking things from frozen.
- Never leave the fridge or freezer door or lid open for longer than you need, as it will have to use energy to cool down again.
Other ways to save energy in the home
There are all kinds of other steps you can take to help save energy at home. Here’s a list of some of the best ideas
- Top up your existing loft insulation. Increasing loft insulation thickness from 120mm to a depth of 270mm could save you £25, and 95kg of carbon per year3. That’s a good long-term saving, when you consider the relatively low cost.
- Draught-proof your windows and doors. Wiper strips, silicon sealant, compression strips, thermal curtains, draft excluder brushes and a chimney balloon are all great ideas. Find out more about these draught-proofing methods and more in our guide to energy-efficient windows and doors.
- Check out the Green Homes Grant, to find out how you can get up to £5,000 in vouchers to help you with the cost of energy-saving home-improvements.
- Here’s a fun home project! Learn how to make a sausage dog draught excluder for your front door.
- Get a smart thermostat. They’re a great way to help make your home more energy-efficient, and even save you money.
- Find out how lowering your home’s heating by just 1 degree could save you as much as £87 per year.
- Fit temporary secondary glazing film to help seal windows and doors.
- If your boiler’s more than 10 years old, think about getting a new one. Or at the very least, check out our tips to help you improve the efficiency of your current one, or our guide to the cost of repairing or replacing your boiler.
- From boiling an egg to defrosting your freezer, check out 120 other fascinating tips to help you save energy around the home.
- Check out our ultimate guide to being efficient with heating and hot water for some bright ideas on getting the most from your boiler and central heating.
- Find out more about the world’s best low carbon heating options, and how you could bring some of them into your home.
- For more inspiration on amazingly energy-efficient homes, check out our complete guide to Passive Houses.
- Cut your electricity use with our top 14 ways to save electricity at home and cut your bills.
To find out how much electricity an average UK home uses, and how your home compares, read our new guide.
Want to run your fridge-freezer in a way that’s friendlier to the planet, and still affordable? Switch to OVO, and get 100% renewable electricity as standard4 – and we’ll even plant a tree for every year that you’re with us. Get a quote in 2 minutes.
Sources and references:
3. Based on insulating a gas-heated detached home. The installation costs are unsubsidised averages and will vary.
4. The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on REGO certificates and how these work.