Energy-efficient fridges and freezers

This guide is intended to provide general guidance only. It is not intended to give you advice on your personal financial circumstances. You should seek independent professional advice if you’re unsure about anything mentioned in this guide or what choices to make.

Keeping your fridge and freezer energy efficient is a great way to keep your fuel bills down. You’ll also reduce your carbon footprint, so that’s good news for our planet, too.

Fridges and freezers make up a huge chunk of your electricity bill – and of course you can’t ever switch them off at the wall, or even put them on standby. They’re using electricity 24 hours a day, so it’s really important to make sure they’re running as efficiently as possible.

Are today’s energy-saving fridges and freezers better than their older counterparts?

Yes – modern fridges and freezers are much more energy efficient than their ancestors, so if your fridge or freezer is more than 10 years old you might want to think about replacing it. The energy savings you’ll make could pay for cost of buying it within a few years.

In recent years, fridge and freezer manufacturers have improved insulation standards, introduced high-efficiency compressors and enhanced the mechanisms for temperature control and defrosting. These have all helped to make new fridges and freezers more energy efficient and reduce their running costs.

Under EU legislation, 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, with much higher running costs.

I’m buying a new fridge or freezer – what should I look for?

Every fridge or freezer you look at will have an EU 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 show the appliance’s volume in litres, frozen storage volume in litres and noise level in decibels.

Retailers can still sell off 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 small A+ rated model or an A+++ that’s really 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 an A+ rated small model than an A+++ one that will be half empty most of the time.

To work out which fridge or freezer model will cost you least in running costs, check out the annual fridge power consumption comparison figure on the label. This will be in kilowatt hours (kWh), [link to kilowatt hours article] and the lower the figure is, the lower the running costs of the appliance will be.

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 two 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˚ Celsius. The energy-efficient fridge or freezer is partly filled, as it might be in real life, and its internal volume is calculated once all its drawers, shelves, trays or water dispensers are in place. 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.

Which is more energy efficient, a fridge-freezer with one on top of the other, 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 will be a more energy-efficient choice.

Where’s the best place to put my new energy-saving fridge or freezer?

When your new energy-efficient 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 you should vacuum them gently 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 vacuuming it.

How can I use my current fridge and freezer more efficiently?

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 ways to make sure you’re wasting as little energy as possible. Here are some ideas to help you:

  • Keep your fridge at a temperature of between 3˚ and 5˚ Celsius and your freezer at minus 18˚ Celsius
  • Keep both your fridge and freezer at least three-quarters full so they don’t have to waste energy on heating empty air
  • But don’t cram them too full, as it could stop air from circulating and that will also use more energy
  • If they’re not designed to defrost automatically, you’ll need to defrost them yourself at least once every six 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, but make sure it’s covered to keep it fresh and clean in the meantime
  • Keep an eye on your door seals and wipe them down if they look dirty – they are 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 freezer lid, open for longer than you need – the fridge or freezer will have to use energy to cool down again


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