They may be household essentials, but fridges and freezers make up a significant percentage of your energy bill – over 15% in some cases. Unlike other appliances, they can’t be switched off. If you’re in the market for a new model, read on to discover how to read energy ratings to choose the best option for your home.
Last updated: 28 May 2021
In this guide:
How much does a fridge cost to run?
How can I tell how energy efficient a fridge freezer is?
How do fridge-freezers compare to other appliances?
What’s the energy consumption of a typical fridge?
Do I need a new freezer fridge?
What is the best fridge freezer for me?
Tips for a more energy-efficient fridge freezer
How else can I save energy at home?
The cost of freezing and cooling food makes up 16.8% of the average UK electricity bill, according to figures from the Energy Saving Trust. This figure is unsurprising when you consider that both fridges and freezers are large appliances that are switched on for 24 hours of the day, every single day of the year.
The actual cost will vary depending on your fridge’s age, efficiency rating and size, as well as the energy prices in your area.
Why is it worth looking carefully at energy ratings? Because if you were to switch from a basic model to an ultra-energy efficient fridge freezer, you could save around £320 on energy over the average lifetime of the new model (around 17 years).
To compare running costs for any appliance, look at the energy label to discover its annual energy consumption (listed in kWh). The lower the kWh figure, the cheaper the appliance will be to run. For fridge freezers, this figure will also vary by the size of the unit. A 180-litre fridge freezer will cost less to run than a 500-litre fridge freezer, even if they have the same efficiency rating.
The following table reveals how much various fridge freezer models cost to run, based on energy rating and size:
|Appliance||Energy rating||Size (fridge/ freezer, litres)||Average annual energy consumption (kWh)||Average running cost (day/year)|
Models were picked randomly from an online store, May 2021. Costs based on average unit price of around 21p/kWh (including daily standing charge).
The biggest take away from this is that the most important figure to note is the average annual energy consumption, which varies substantially according to its size and capacity.
By law, all refrigeration appliances must come with a clear energy label attached. This gives an energy rating that until recently ranged from G all the way up to A+++. A new ratings label system was launched in March 2020 that simplifies the system, brings ratings up to date and provides a fairer measurement of how an appliance’s energy is measured.
The key reason for changing the label is that existing ratings had become outdated. Over the past 5-10 years, products have become much more efficient, with ever-larger numbers scoring the top A++ and A+++ ratings. By resetting these ratings, it’s easier to compare energy efficiency between different models.
The reset means that best-in-class products now rate B or C on the scale, with average performing products rating D or below – in the case of fridge freezers, they all currently rate F on the new ratings scale. This is a deliberate move to encourage future innovation and further energy efficiency improvements.
The new energy label has also been designed to provide a more accurate rating based on a new series of tests designed to better reflect typical conditions in the home. As a result, it’s impossible to directly translate an old rating to a new one: three models that would have scored A+++ on the older system may now rate differently due to the changes in testing, for example.
The kitchen and utility room is where much of your electricity is consumed. The following table provides you with rough estimates of average household consumption for other kitchen appliances, which you can then use to compare with the table above to see how your refrigeration fits into your annual consumption:
|Appliance||Typical annual consumption (kWh)|
|D-rated 8kg washing machine||175 (based on 240 washing cycles)|
|C-rated 7kg vented tumble dryer||520 (based on 160 drying cycles)|
|B-rated 7kg condensing tumble dryer||504 (based on 160 drying cycles)|
|3kWh kettle||274 (15 minutes per day total)|
|800w microwave||73 (15 minutes per day total)|
|2.0-2.5kWh fan-assisted oven||165 (based on 90 minutes per week)|
|D-rated 15-place dishwasher||314 (run once per day)|
|800w toaster||29.2 (6 minutes per day)|
To calculate its monthly cost, divide the figure in the table above by 12. To work out how much the appliance costs to run per day, use the following equation:
Annual consumption x Unit cost (see your bill) ÷ 365 (days per year) = daily cost (pence)
Going by average watts, fridge energy consumption looks quite low. The average power rating falls between 40 and 120 watts, you need to keep in mind, however, that the relatively small figure adds up over the course of a day because the fridge is permanently switched on.
Fridges’ energy consumption will vary quite widely depending on their size, shape, features and age. Older models will consume more energy, as will larger American-style fridge freezers.
If you’re in the market for a new appliance, you’ll see that all models come with an energy label attached, and some may even come with two labels attached. That’s because the UK switched over to a new energy labelling system in March 2020, phasing out the old A+ to A+++ ratings in favour of more straightforward A-G labelling.
Right now, virtually all fridge-freezers rate F on the new scale, which means you need to look more carefully at the annual consumption in kWh. This will also be determined in part by the appliance’s size. Larger fridge freezers use more energy as they must work harder to cool a larger interior space. This means that a small G rated model might be more efficient in the long run than a massive F-rated one, particularly if the latter sits half-empty most of the time.
The refrigerator is placed in a room heated to 25 degrees Celsius. The fridge or freezer is partially filled, and its interior volume calculated after all the fridge’s water dispensers, drawers, shelves, and trays have been considered. This can differ from the manufacturer’s reported volume, which doesn’t include these bits, to provide a more realistic comparison with real-life use.
The placement of your fridge or freezer will also impact how efficiently it runs. It’s a good idea to place it away from direct sunlight, for example. You should also make sure that the back of your fridge is a minimum of 10 centimetres away from the wall, so that there’s plenty of space around its coils. These should be kept clean and dust-free for maximum efficiency.
It’s also best to place the fridge away from the oven or cooker. If the oven is located too close to the refrigerator, it can heat it up which makes the fridge work harder in response. This uses more energy and can shorten the appliance’s lifespan.
If you do need to place these two appliances near one another due to limited kitchen space, insulate the area in between them with a sheet of foam. Some appliances come with built-in insulation, so look out for these.
Fridges and/or freezers are built to last for many years, but there are a few signs that it might be time to buy a new one. Modern fridges and freezers are far more energy-efficient than in the past, so if your current appliance is over ten years old it’s worth considering a replacement.
Even if your old fridge is in fine working shape, the energy savings could make a replacement worth the cost, thanks to various improvements including:
High efficiency compressors.
More accurate temperature and defrost mechanisms.
All these technologies make newer fridge freezers far more efficient than earlier models. Current models – even though they’re rated F – are far more energy efficient than those manufactured a decade ago.
If you’re on the hunt for an energy-efficient fridge freezer, you should first look at the energy label mentioned above. Products with the top performance will carry an Energy Saving Recommended logo, which means they’ve passed the test set by the Energy Saving Trust. They’ll also make your kitchen a little greener. Apart from this, there are a few other considerations to find the best fit.
A refrigerator’s measurements will have a major impact on its efficiency. You should purchase the smallest fridge or freezer that matches your lifestyle, because smaller appliances cost less to run. Look at the annual consumption figure listed in kWh as you compare models, as well as their measurements in litres or cubic feet. Purchasing a massive fridge and leaving it half-empty is a huge waste.
Many of us prefer the convenience of a combined fridge and freezer unit, rather than purchasing two units separately. With this type of design, look for models that stack the units vertically – the rise in popularity of American-style fridges means it’s increasingly common for designs to pair the two side-by-side, which is less efficient than the traditional stacked formation. Naturally, you’ll also need to look for a unit that fits the dimensions available in your kitchen.
Purchasing a brand-new energy-efficient model with all the latest features can help cut your electricity costs. Whether you buy something new or stick to your older unit, here are a few additional ways to save energy.
Proper maintenance will help keep your freezer fridge working at peak efficiency. Take care to make sure the door seals are kept in good condition, locking in cold air.
It takes more energy to chill food that’s still hot, so let your meals cool first before placing them in your fridge.
Maintain a temperature between three and five degrees Celsius in the fridge, and -18°C in your freezer. These temperatures ensure a consistently cold environment that keeps food fresh and energy bills low.
We’ve already mentioned that it’s a good idea to position your fridge a minimum of 10 cm away from the wall to give the coils plenty of space. You should also clean and vacuum this area every now and then to keep them clear of dust. Be sure to unplug the unit before hoovering.
If your fridge is bare, it’s wasting energy to keep air cool. This makes the appliance work harder, so it’s important to keep your fridge and freezer about three-quarters full. If you’re in between shopping days, fill empty spaces with bottles of tap water or even wads of newspaper.
However, don’t overstuff your fridge-freezer because this keeps the cold air from circulating properly.
Defrost your unit regularly. It’s common for a layer of ice to build up over time, which can prevent your fridge and freezer from working at their best. A good rule of thumb is every six months – look out for models that defrost automatically.
Don’t leave the fridge or freezer door open for any longer than necessary, because the unit will then have to use more energy to cool itself down again. Many new models give a warning beep if the door’s been left ajar.
There are many ways you can save energy at home, from making sure your dishwasher is being used as efficiently as possible to big insulation projects that ensure heat isn't being lost through your walls or attic. Staying in the kitchen, you can also do your best to cook in an energy-efficient way – try different things to match your current habits and circumstances for maximum effect.