Fridges Get an Energy Upgrade

New U.S Department of Energy (DOE) efficiency standards will cut the energy use of most new refrigerators by 25%. The latest standards are based on a joint recommendation filed in 2010 with DOE by the groups and refrigerator manufacturers represented by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.

Based on these new standards, a typical refrigerator in 2014 will use about one-fifth as much electricity as one from the mid-1970s, despite the being about 20% larger in size. The DOE also estimates CO2 emissions will be cut by 344 million metric tons over 30 years, an amount equal to the annual emissions of about 67 million cars, and when in effect for 30 years, an energy savings of 4.84 quads of energy, or roughly enough to meet the total needs of one-fifth of all U.S. households for a year. Over the same 30-year period, and taking into account up-front costs, consumers will also save up to $36 billion. Smog-forming nitrous oxide emissions and toxic mercury emissions would also be dramatically reduced.

“Refrigerator standards have been quietly saving consumers money while protecting our environment for more than 35 years,” said David Goldstein, energy program co-director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “But these new standards are the coolest yet, because they show that innovation can keep driving improvements even after decades of progress. New fridges do an even better job of keeping our food fresh and providing consumer amenity, yet they use only one-fifth the electricity they used to—and that means less pollution from power plants.”

“Even as our refrigerators have gotten larger and more functional, with features like automatic defrost and through-the-door ice, their average energy use has plummeted,” said Jeff Harris, senior vice president for programs at the Alliance to Save Energy. “It’s clear that energy efficiency standards have helped to create the market certainty that drives investments in such innovations, as well as better design, improved insulation and other components that make fridges better.”

The Alliance to Save Energy, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the Appliance Standards Awareness Project and the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers all hailed the new proposed standards, noting that the standard reflects a consensus reached among appliance manufacturers and energy efficiency, environmental, and consumer advocates. The organizations are also recommending new standards for clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers and room air conditioners.

“In an era when hardly anyone in Washington can agree on anything, it’s refreshing that consumer groups, environmentalists and industry can continue our long history of working together to save energy,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. “Consumers, the environment and industry all benefit, making this standard a home run.”