Most Energy Efficient Refrigerators
The refrigerators listed below are the result of a time consuming analysis of Energy Star’s data, consisting of hundreds of refrigerator models of different designs, sizes, and efficiencies. By and large Sun Frost refrigerators performed the best, but there are a couple other brand models that are notably efficient. I based the criteria on what models cooled the most amount of space for the least amount of energy (yielding the unit kwh/cu.ft).
Avoid: Sun Frost RF-19
Sun Frost rates this model at a consumption of .77 kwh per day, or 281 kwh per year. Unfortunately, it is not verified by Energy Star and I cannot necessarily recommend it.
I compared Sun Frost’s quoted daily energy usage at 70 degrees Fahrenheit with Energy Star’s actual test data for the RF-12, RF-16, and R-19. As can be expected for any manufacturer, the quoted efficiencies of their products performed lower than actual third party testing. The RF-12 performed 38% less efficiently than quoted, the RF-16 31% less, and the R-19 41% less. Using the average of these results, it can be estimated that the RF-19 will use 443 kwh per year, based on their quoted consumption.
This is hardly impressive for its size and cost. While other Sun Frost models have demonstrated fantastic technology with third party verification, this model for some reason seems to be sorely lacking.
Energy: 281 kwh per year (unverified)
Sun Frost RF-12
The Sun Frost RF-12 is the most energy efficient, Energy Star, refrigerator-freezer on the market. A comfortable size for 1 to 2 people, this unit amazingly uses far less energy than the smallest micro-fridges available anywhere.
Energy: 171 kwh per year
Storage Capacity: 10.12 cu.ft.
Efficiency: 16.9 kwh/cu.ft.
Cost: $2,395 (AC model)
Sun Frost RF-16
A good size for 2-4 people, the Sun Frost RF-16 is just slightly less efficient than the smaller RF-12. Containing over 14 feet of storage, it also uses less energy than just about any micro-fridge, making it a good long term investment in lowering utility bills and environmental stewardship.
Energy: 254 kwh per year
Storage Capacity: 14.31 cu.ft.
Efficiency: 17.75 kwh/cu.ft.
Cost: $2,949 (AC Model) ($68 below retail price)
The Samsung RF266AB is a spacious, elegant, affordable, and feature rich option. It features 5 spill proof glass shelves, french doors, and a twin cooling system with power freeze/cool options.
Energy: 470 kwh per year
Storage Capacity: 25.84 cu.ft.
Efficiency: 18.19 kwh/cu.ft.
Refrigerators (Without Freezers)
Sun Frost R19
The Sun Frost R19 utterly dominates the competition in energy efficient refrigeration. In terms of energy-to-size ratio, the Sun Frost refrigerator is 25% more efficient than any stand alone Energy Star refrigerator, and 53% more efficient than the Federal Standard. This refrigerator is also more spacious than the Sun Frost refrigerator-freezer combos.
Energy: 204 kwh per year
Storage Capacity: 16.14 cu.ft.
Efficiency: 12.64 kwh/cu.ft.
The Sub-Zero B136RS* ranks second best in energy-to-size ratio out of all Energy Star refrigerators. It rates 21% above the Federal Standard and has storage volume comfortable for the needs of 4 to 6 people.
Is it worth it?
For houses that run off on-site renewable energy (such as solar or wind), a rule of thumb is that $1 invested in energy efficiency saves $3 in the cost of power generation. Therefore, if you spend $1,000 for an extra efficient refrigerator you may be able to save $3,000 on the solar panels or windmill needed to run it.
Furthermore, if you live in a warm climate or somewhere with higher cooling costs than heating costs (which is most of the U.S.), a more efficient refrigerator will actually cut down on your net cost of heating and cooling. This is because ultimately, 100% of a refrigerator’s energy is converted into heat, due to the entropy of the refrigeration cycle. Being one of the largest household loads, a more efficient refrigerator significantly reduces the workload of the cooling system, especially for warmer climates.
Looking for Something Cheaper?
If you just need something cheap and energy efficient to plug into your electrical outlet, see the most energy efficient refrigerators under $1,000.