Keep a cool head when buying a fridge or freezer

A new fridge/freezer can chew through $600-$2000 worth of electricity over a 10 year period, so there’s more to think about than the purchase price.

Choosing a fridge or freezer

Two ways to use the Energy Rating Label 

  • Look for more stars. The Energy Rating Label shows which fridge or freezer runs on less energy, generating fewer emissions.
  • The right size is neither too big nor too small. Too big will waste energy but if crammed full, it’ll struggle to cool food evenly.
  • Give it space. Allow for an air gap all around it (the manual says how big). Don’t position it in direct sunlight.
  • Buy only what you need. If you shop weekly, a fridge/freezer might save the need for a separate freezer.
  • Check the energy efficiency of different configurations. Fridge/freezers arranged top and bottom often use less energy than side-by-side versions.
  • Freezer convenience vs energy use. Upright freezers are easier to defrost and organise but often use more energy than chest freezers.
  • Dispense with dispensers. Through-the-door features such as cold water dispensers and ice-makers use more electricity, so cost more to run.

A fridge/freezer with 7 stars on the Energy Rating Label emits 70% less emissions than a similar fridge/freezer with only 1 star.

Get more for less

Reduce the amount of energy it takes to run your fridge and freezer:

  • Cool food before you put it in the fridge. Warm food takes more energy to cool. (Just don’t leave it on the bench so long it becomes a health risk.)
  • Get what you need, shut the door. Try not to leave the door open longer than you need, or open the door too frequently.
  • Set the right temperature. Fridges should be 2-4°C and freezers between -15°C and -18°C. You can buy a fridge thermometer to check it.
  • Check the seal. Close your fridge or freezer on a piece of paper. If it can’t hold the paper firmly, check for wear – it might need replacing.
  • Easy maintenance. Clean the seal regularly with warm, soapy water. If your appliance doesn’t auto-defrost, remove ice when it starts to build up. If it has coils at the back, wipe/vacuum off dust every year.

When is it time to pull the plug?

Fridges and freezers become inefficient over time, using more electricity and generating more emissions. Pull the plug when your appliance:

  • is more than 16 years old (or 20 for a freezer)
  • runs continuously to maintain the right temperature
  • no longer reaches the right temperature - 2-4°C for a fridge, between -15°C and -18°C for a freezer.

They contain recyclable metals and extremely potent greenhouse gases, so search out a local recycling station that will extract useful components and recover the gas.


Your checklist for smarter shopping

By making clever appliance purchases, you can lower your cost of living while reducing your household emissions (and new appliances look pretty good too) – it's a win-win-win!

Before you walk into the shop, it pays to consider costs beyond the price tag. We’ve crunched the numbers and developed a checklist for you – to help you buy smarter.