How Much Do You Spend to Operate Your Refrigerator and Freezer?

The average US household spends $91 a year to keep their food cold in their refrigerators and freezers. This cost is included in a household’s electricity bills. The amount of this electricity cost is largely dependent on the age, type, size, and quantity of refrigerators and freezers you have at home. Check out this EnergyStar refrigerator calculator to see how much you spend per year. 


Technology and efficiency requirements for refrigerators and freezers have greatly evolved over time. While operating the latest technology could cost as little as $42 per year, if your refrigerator is from the 1990s, you probably pay closer to $160 per year to power your refrigerator. Refrigerators built in the ‘80s can cost up to $260. And refrigerators built before the ‘80s are so inefficient that they can cost well over $300 per year to operate.


Refrigerators that have the freezer on top are typically the most efficient in terms of operating expenses. Refrigerator models that have the freezer on bottom use 10-20% more energy than refrigerator models that have the freezer on top. And models that have the freezer and refrigerator side by side can use up to 50% more energy than the models with the freezer on top.

Additionally, almost 35% of refrigerators in US households have a built-in ice maker and dispenser. This feature can increase the operating costs of a refrigerator by up to 20% compared to a normal refrigerator. 


Generally speaking and all else equal, the larger the refrigerator, the more expensive it is to operate. A refrigerator operates most efficiently when it is filled with food, but not crammed with food. There should be a bit of breathing room for sufficient air circulation. If a refrigerator is mostly empty, you’re wasting money cooling air that doesn’t need to be cold. 


About 35% of all households have more than one refrigerator. With smarter food shopping and storage habits, you can reduce how much space you need to keep your food cold. This means you can reduce your refrigerator quantity and/or size. Check out the next section to learn about these savings strategies. 

How Can You Save Money on Operating Your Refrigerator and Freezer?


It’s best to install your refrigerator away from hot areas like ovens or windows that let in direct sunlight. This reduces the amount of energy your refrigerator needs to stay cool. It’s also super important to make sure you have enough open space surrounding your coils so there’s room for sufficient air circulation. 


In addition to needing sufficient space for air circulation, your coils should be regularly cleaned to maintain the efficiency of your refrigerator. You can also reduce the amount of energy costs of your refrigerator by ensuring that the doors seal shut so that air leakage is minimized.

There’s a pretty easy trick for checking for air leakage. You can close the refrigerator door on a dollar bill, so half of it is inside the unit and half is sticking out. If you can easily pull out the dollar bill, your door seal is too loose. This means that cold air is escaping when it shouldn’t be. If it’s difficult to pull out the dollar bill, your door seal is in good shape.

Tight seals are especially important for keeping your food cold during power outages. As long as you don’t open the refrigerator or freezer door when the power is out, your food shouldn’t spoil within a reasonable amount of time. 

Keep the Door Shut

Even when the power is working, it’s important to open your refrigerator and freezer doors only when you need to. Even if you’re stepping away from the refrigerator only for a few seconds, it’s better to close the door than leave it open. Leaving the door open lets cold air escape, which can account for up to 10% of your refrigerator expenses. 

Smart Storage and Shopping

To reduce how often you open the refrigerator door, it’s helpful to know exactly what food you want before you open the door. So that means it’s also helpful to know exactly where that food is so you don’t waste time searching for it with the refrigerator door open. You can put leftover food in clear containers so you know exactly what it is without wasting time. You could label the containers to help with organization as well.

Smart food shopping habits can also be useful for maintaining an organized refrigerator. Buying only what you need can keep your refrigerator neat, so you don’t waste energy searching for food in your refrigerator. Smart food shopping habits can also help you save money on food waste. (Every year, the average American spends over $1,300 on food that they ultimately throw away! And that doesn’t even include how much money they pay to refrigerate that wasted food before it hits the trash!)

Lastly, another trick for reducing refrigerator expenses is to never put warm or hot food in the refrigerator or freezer. Let it cool off first, then you can store it. Likewise, if you have frozen food that you need to thaw, make sure to thaw it in the refrigerator. The cold temperature of the frozen food will cool off the food that surrounds it. 


If you’re looking to purchase a new refrigerator, make sure to find a size that most appropriately fits your household’s needs. You don’t want it to be too empty or too crammed with food. Some breathing room inside the refrigerator is good. Also, you should challenge yourself to need only 1 refrigerator. Eliminating additional refrigerators can provide huge cost savings.

Lastly, make sure your new refrigerator is EnergyStar certified. The average EnergyStar refrigerator costs only about $42 per year to operate, which is 55% less than the US average.

Disclaimer: Please consult with a professional before making any upgrades to your refrigerator, freezer, kitchen, or home. Any and all upgrades should maintain proper health, safety, and sanitation levels within your homes. It All Adds Up and its affiliates are not responsible for any household damage or personal injuries that should occur from following any suggestions from It All Adds Up.


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