Energy Star savings of a new refrigerator revisited

A couple months ago there was a lengthy discussion here about how much energy a new refrigerator uses versus an old one. It started with the claim made by the EPA that a new energy star refrigerator uses half the electricity of a 15 year old one. I just replaced my 24 year old Frigidaire 24 cft side by side with a virtually identical Kitchenaid energy star refrigerator. I did some testing using a Kilowatt meter before and after and thought I would share the results.
Before doing anything, I went to the Energy Star website where they have a calculator to estimate how much energy you will save. The calculator lets you put in your existing fridge make and model number and cost of electricity, then it tells you the difference in estimated energy usage. For my case, with electricity at 16 cents a kwh, this is what it came up with:
Yearly electricity used:
24 year old Frigidaier $327
New Energy Star $91
Savings $236/yr
And then the calculator goes on to say that in five years, that would pay for a new $1180 refrigerator. That sounded too good to be true. So, I wanted a new refrigerator anyway, but decided to take some actual measurements for a couple days of typical use before and after. I tried to keep the comparison as close as possible. Both were with units stabilized, ice makers off, no new items added, about same number of door openings, same temps, etc. Both were also side by side, with ice and water in the door. Old one was 24 cft, new one is 24.5 cft.
Here's what I found:
24 year old Frigidaire $185
New Energy Star $90
Savings $95/yr
Those results were more in line with what I would have expected. You now have a 12 year payback time, not the claimed 5 years. It would be interesting to know exactly how the EPA is calculating the energy usage of the old fridge. I would not be surprised that they are assuming leaking door seals, condenser coils covered in dirt, and who knows what else. In my case, the old one was still in relatively good shape.
Bottom line, if you're considering a new fridge, energy star or even a new non-energy star is going to save you a reasonable amount of money each year compared to 24 year old unit and can help justify getting a new one. But don't believe the hype about it paying for itself in 5 years.
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snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

I replaced my 30-year-old side-by-side with a KitchenAid top freezer of the same size in 2001. I keep a spreadsheet of kwh/month that goes back to 1989 and graphs both monthly consumption and trailing 12-month average.
My monthly average consumption had been about 320kwh/month for many years. It dropped to 200kwh: annual saving of about 120 x 0.11 x 12 = $158. I was amazed.
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Why not? I bought a new "second fridge" for the basement and I figured the payback to be 4 years. The old one was a 12 cu ft and the new one is 18 cu ft so I not only save money but I get a lot more space.
Thanks for the good information, but generalizations are generally wrong.
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Because clearly in my case, the EPA Energy Star estimate that showed it paying for itself in 5 years was wrong, because it drastically overestimated the energy usage of the old refrigerator.
 I bought a new "second fridge" for the basement and I figured the

How did you figure the payback? Did you actually measure the energy usage using a Killowatt meter?

I'm not generalizing. I'm pointing out that my case demonstrated that the EPA energy star savings claimed are wrong. Proving it wrong in one straightforward case is enough to suggest that people should NOT just believe the stated hype.
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On Thu, 26 Jun 2008 08:46:21 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Ahh, but you didn't do that. What you proved was over a couple of days, if generalized to an entire year, it would be wrong. That may or may not be accurate depending on things like efficiencies of different units at different house temps and humidities and the like.
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Oh, please. Anyone with a lick of sense knows that the difference in temp and humidity of the typical house is NOT going to account for a 24 year old refrigerator using the EPA estimate of $327 of electricity vs my measured $185. Not unless your typical house is 150 degrees. Was my testing exhaustive? No. But 2 days is enough of a sample for me to conclude that it's highly unlikely my old refrigerator is going to go from using at a rate of $185/yr up to $327/yr.
Face it. There is a very good reason for the EPA to play games with these numbers. This isn't some independent entity with no interest in the matter. Energy star is their program and they are chartered with getting people to use energy star appliances. They have a huge bureacuracy dependent on funding from Congress. Clearly they have a vested interest in giving reports to Congress and the administration that says "Look at all the energy star refrigerators sold this year, how successful this program is and what a great job we're doing."
Also, consider that the energy star test standards are arrived at not just by the EPA, but in conjunction with the manufacturers of appliances. Gee, you think the manufacturers might have an interest in over estimating the energy savings of a new refrigerator vs and old one, so they can sell more refrigerators? If you want to get down to how they test, it was pointed out a couple months ago by Richard here that the EPA tests energy star refrigerators empty, with the ice maker turned off, and with no opening, closing of the doors. How realistic is that? We don;t know how they arrive at their estimates of what a 24 year old refrigerator uses at all.
Now, before someone has a fit here, note I'm not saying a new energy star refrigerator doesn't use a lot less electricity that an identical 24 year old one. Or that you shouldn't buy one. It does use a lot less, $90 vs $185. But the $185 is no where near what the EPA claims my 24 year old one should use, which was $327. And if anyone is going to rely on the EPA calculator to justify payback, they should take that into account.
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.
You made the above statement: "Don't believe the hype about paying for itself in 5 years"
My findings say mine repaid itself in 4 years. I don't doubt that in your case things may be different, but every case is different. The payback depends on electric rates, cost of the appliance, efficiency of the old one, and a few other variables. All of that adds up to the fact that you will be wrong in many cases. You cannot make a blanket statement based on one set of circumstances where variables affect the outcome.
I agree that people should not take every statement as hard fact, but let their circumstances decide what is best for them. Had I bought a more expensive model like I want in the kitchen, the payback would be a lot longer. You just need to clarify that your statement fits your circumstances and other's will be different.
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I had asked exactly how you determined this. Did you put a Killowatt meter or similar on it and actually measure it like I did?
 I don't doubt that in your

I seriously doubt that individual Frigidaire refrigerators that are the same exact model are going to vary so much in energy usage so as to be off 44% from the EPA estimate. It's a whopping big difference between $327 and $185 per year to operate. Especially since the EPA estimate for the new refrigerator was spot on to what I measured over a couple of days.
 The payback

The payback was not based on some generic information that did not take the above into account. It was based on the savings calculator on the EPA website. Have you been there? It has you enter not only your cost of electricity, but the exact model of the old refrigerator. That's what it used to come up with the $327 a year cost to operate and the $1100 savings in 5 years, which it turns out is off by over 2X from what I measured.

All I said was not to believe the hype from the EPA calculator about a new energy star refrigerator paying for itself in 5 years, because the numbers I got out of it are highly suspect.
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I had asked exactly how you determined this. Did you put a Killowatt meter or similar on it and actually measure it like I did? ************************
Yes, and the electric bill conformed it.
I don't doubt that in your

I seriously doubt that individual Frigidaire refrigerators that are the same exact model are going to vary so much in energy usage so as to be off 44% from the EPA estimate. It's a whopping big difference between $327 and $185 per year to operate. Especially since the EPA estimate for the new refrigerator was spot on to what I measured over a couple of days. ************************************************ So you say they are correct on the new but not on the old?
All I said was not to believe the hype from the EPA calculator about a new energy star refrigerator paying for itself in 5 years, because the numbers I got out of it are highly suspect. ******************************************
Not exactly what you said before, but with this clarification I'd agree.
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On Sat, 28 Jun 2008 06:07:27 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Maybe your frig is highly suspect, or your meter is highly suspect. One incident against a whole bunch of testing, I know which I'd trust.
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Chris Hill wrote:

I'm looking for numbers in a specific case, and the reverse when I'm looking for statistical averages and trends.
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Interesting findings. Hard to argue with that since you did before and after testing in the same environment. I'm sure that the EnergyStar folks do some stretching to present "best-case" (or "worst-case" depending on your veiwpoint)
Since you have this data it might be interesting to check again in a few months. I guess it is unlikely but I wonder if there could be some "break-in" time on the compressor on the new unit where it is using a little more power right now and maybe after it is broken in would use a little less.
Also, as one of the other posters mentioned, I wonder if there is change during seasons (I would guess not since the fridge is in a fairly constant climate itself - the kitchen - maybe if it's in the garage that's different).
How much does a kilowatt meter cost? I'd be interested to test my old fridge.
-- Richard Thoms Founder - Top Service Pros, Inc. Connecting Homeowners and Local Service Professionals http://www.TopServicePros.com
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On Jun 28, 7:44 am, topservicepros <richard[at]topservicepros[dot]com> wrote:

That isn't the problem. It's not how much energy the new refrigerator uses. What I measured was spot on to what the EPA calculator said a new energy star refrigerator would use. The calculator estimated $91 and I had it running at $90. The problem is that the energy star calculator estimate for the OLD one was $327 versus a measured $185.
Personally, having some grounding in physics and reality, going from $185 from a 24 year old fridge to $90 for a new one is more in line with what I would have expected.

They are called a Kill a Watt meter and run about $20. If you get one and do some testing, compare it to what the EPA Energy Star website calculator estimates and let us know.

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topservicepros wrote:

About $20-$30. The most common one is the Kill-A-Watt meter. It's available a lot of places, Harbor Freight sells them as well as Ebay. Here's an Ebay link:
http://search.ebay.com/search/search.dll?from=R40&_trksid=m37&satitle=kill+a+watt&category0 The device is a nifty critter. It measures all the standard stuff: voltage, amps, frequency, watts, power factor. Let it just sit there and it measures killowat-hours over whatever period it's plugged in.
I saw another device recently. It consists of a remote unit and a read-out. The remote unit sticks on the glass of your electric meter and counts the revolutions of the disk per unit time. The read-out unit shows instantaneous kwh usage. The two parts are radio-frequency connected, so you can carry around the read-out unit turning on or off various appliances to see their effect.
Clever.
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