How to buy an environmentally friendly refrigerator

Buying a fridge and concerned about the environment? It can be hard to sort marketing from fact when assessing your cooler.

As if often the case, it pays to heed independent consumer site choice.com.au. CHOICE insists you can do your planet and wallet a favour at the same time.

Read more: Ten tips to help you organise your fridge

It says poor temperature control in fridges compromises both your bottom line and the appliance’s energy efficiency.

“Energy efficiency is an important consideration when choosing a fridge because your fridge is responsible for around 8 per cent of your total household energy consumption. Opting for an efficient fridge will translate to big savings.

“While larger fridges will use more energy overall than smaller ones, the energy star ratings help you compare relative energy efficiency. Choose the fridge with more stars when deciding between two similar sized models because it will cost you less to run.”

It says a four-star rated fridge will cost you $886 over 10 years; a one-star model $1596.

The star rating will tell you how your fridge performs based on its size, but the number on the energy rating label gives you the raw figures, which may be more useful.

Multiplying this number by your energy cost per kilowatt hour will give you an estimate of what it will cost you per year to run your fridge:

  • your energy costs 30 cents per kilowatt hour
  • the fridge uses 400 kilowatt hours per year
  • your fridge is going to cost $120 a year to run ($0.30 x 400 kilowatt hours)
  • this works out at $1200 over your fridge’s 10-year estimated lifetime.

Outside choice.com.au, sustainabletable.org.au says choosing the right size of fridge is crucial.

“Buying a fridge freezer that is too big is going to end up wasting energy cooling empty shelves and buying one that is too small means you might need to buy a second fridge, costing you more.

“Always look for a fridge freezer with adjustable shelves that will allow you to move everything around to fit everything in. Top mounted fridge freezers tend to be the most energy efficient when you are deciding on a style. A great function to look out for is the eco/holiday mode; this function helps preserve energy during long periods of inactivity.”

Read more: A fridge that helps you decide what to cook for dinner

The Conversation reminds us that most white goods are used every day, for years.

“This means the bulk of their environmental impact comes not from their manufacture, but from their everyday use. They use electricity, for example, which is often sourced from fossil fuels.”

They say many buyers focus on retail price, forgetting “significant operating costs”.

These are the questions they urge you to consider before taking the plunge to buy:

  • How resource-efficient is this model, compared with other options?
  • How much will it cost to operate?
  • Over the life of the product, would I be better off spending more now to buy a more energy-efficient model that costs less to run?

The obvious site to visit is the government’s energy rating portal, which has an energy rating calculator to help you make the wisest choice.

British environmentalist site greenchoices.org says if you have an old (over 10 years) fridge or freezer, it could be cost effective to replace it, as energy efficiency has improved 25 per cent since 1990.

American environmentalists greenamerica.org advocate the Greenpeace-approved GreenFreeze.

“GreenFreeze uses naturally occurring hydrocarbons, mainly isobutene as the refrigerant and cyclopentane as the insulation foam-blowing agent, or the foam that insulates the doors and walls of fridges. These efficient refrigerants are thousands of times less potent as global-warming agents than fluorocarbons and don’t break down into acid like fluorolefins.”

They say natural refrigerants can fulfill most of our cooling needs, and “with economies of scale making prices competitive with conventional refrigerators, they could fulfill all of them”. 

GreenFreeze is a 1992 initiative of Greenpeace, which reacted to the ozone depletion crisis with a new fridge prototype that was more efficient and less damaging to the environment. It formed the company Foron, took on 70,000 pre-orders, and within five years had converted most of Europe to their technology. Greenpeace boasts that by 2020, 80 per cent of the world’s fridges were using GreenFreeze-inspired technology.

Read more: Are you eligible for a fridge upgrade?

How much do you know about your fridge’s environmental credentials? How much do you consider the environment when buying expensive appliances?

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Written by Will Brodie



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