Good resource to get the full, straight story on refrigerators, efficiency, etc.

Looking to replace my current Hotpoint refrigerator if I can't easily do a DIY repair - i.e. if it isn't just a matter of replacing an internal fan - freezer works fine, refrigerator section having problems. Or maybe even if I can repair it. I'm not in immediate desperation, I'm using an old shorty "student" model that will tide me over but will want to get the big one fixed or replaced in the near future.
I've read assertions that "new refrigerators are more efficient". Looking through the archives I see some debate as to whether this is true.
How are they more efficient? How much more efficient? With a new 18 cu. ft. no-frills top-freezer Hotpoint -vs- a 1988 no-frills top- freezer Hotpoint how much of a difference am I likely to see in the monthly electric bill? For example, if I were to find the problem with my old one is relatively easy to remedy and manage to squeeze a few more years of service out of it, how much less would I be spending over those same years on a newer model if in fact it's even true? I see these tags inside the floor models with a measure of "cost per year" and comparative energy consumption, but have no idea if they're remotely realistic, or are more like the old EPA gas-mileage ratings that in no way reflected reality.
Where do you find the straight story on dependability? Is Consumer Reports really the gospel?How does anyone do a meaningful reliability test on an item with so many models and where it might take years to prove itself a "lemon" under real-world daily use. I wonder if brand name is a reliable indicator since manufacturing/corporate issues can change over time, so a brand that was possibly once regarded as great becomes crap. Further, I don't see much concensus regarding what brands are good/bad. I'm more interested in rock-solid dependability and longevity than a lot of features. I've never even had an ice- maker. Still using plastic ice-cube trays.
How would you find out the nitty-gritty on issues like where the compressor for various models come from and what makes it great or crap?
What's a good resource to learn DIY refrigerator diagnosis and repair?
Thanks.
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Check the "Energy Star" web site.

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You can maybe save 75% on operating costs vs your old unit. Shop by the Yellow Energy usage tag. a few years ago Sears were the most efficient, my 19.5cuft unit uses apx $4.50 a month in electric verified with a Kill A Watt meter, www.EnergyStar.com gives full ratings of usage, it may take a while to find the page but its there. You should buy a Kill A Watt meter and see what your old unit uses. I would not repair the old one.
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buy used and hope that the fridge wasn't the jeffrey dahmer or edward teller fan club's old fridge.

yeah, like those tv ads, "filmed on a closed circuit by professional children. please keep adults away from this car and drink responsibly"

even when hardly ever used, icemakers die in a few years. funny thing is well into the 80's even the plastic on the outside looked like the 80's icemakers. i imagine icemaker guts in new fridges are the same old 80's garbage.
i don't use ice.

imLIMITEDe, it's either refrigeration which i've never considered messing with, or it's easy stuff (of which weirdest is only the defrost timer. the rest is obvious).
moving the fridge will break your back. so maybe the largest fridge replacement expense is the medical bills :-)
no, actually i remove the innards and doors, and roll fridges strapped to hand truck on shallow ramps out the door.

in ca, utility(?) issues a list, which i saw a few years ago. $ energy use of 8 year old fridge was almost as good as new fridge. IIRC, even if you had a 15 year old fridge, purchase cost of new fridge wasn't justifiable if repair of 15 yearold was more than minor. (a pile of obnoxious minor repairs equals a bigger repair. examples: tearing gaskets on both doors, bubbly rust where gasket "seals".) in my case, i was comparing the existing 80's fridge (too damaged to repair) to a low mile (hardly even "dirty") $125 4 year old fridge. i was only curious about running costs because the benefit of the 4 year old fridge was undeniable :-)
either new or old fridge might be better than the other, if one fridge incurs terrible ordeal to delint the coils and fan, etc.
the fat doors on newer fridges seem convenient, but are pigs.
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If your freezer is working and not fridge....often there is a vent that leads from your freezer to fridge..usually located in back, on side of freezer.. if you block that vent with something, that is in your freezer, then fridge part will work very poorly...
check it out....
hope helps...have fun....sno
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Try here:
http://www.refrigeration-repair-tips.com /
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Energy efficiency ratings, like EPA mileage estimates, are just that - estimates. EPA mileage estimates assume certain things about they way the car is driven, the relative proportions of city and highway miles, and driving conditions (hilly country or flat, ambient temperatures, etc.). If your personal situation agrees with those assumptions, your mileage will pretty much agree with the estimates; if your situation doesn't, it won't. Even if your mileage doesn't agree with the estimates, the presumption is that the relative ranking will still hold true - a car rated at 30 mpg will get better mileage than one rated 20 mpg, even if you don't get 30 mpg on the first car.
I'd tend to agree that the EPA estimates are somewhat inaccurate - in my experience over the last 15 years or so, they're too LOW by a factor of ten to twenty percent.
For refrigerators, the assumptions include things like the ambient temperature, seasonal variations in temperature and humidity, whether or not anti-sweat heaters are operational, how often the door is opened, and the settings for the compartment temperature controls. The testing and calculation are technical and complex - you can read the regulation at http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-GENERAL/1997/September/Day-09/g22379.htm (and much good may it do you). The end result is an estimate intended to approximate how much electricity the appliance can reasonably be expected to consume in a typical residential setting. Almost certainly, your actual consumption will be different from that on the label, but again, the presumption is that the relative rankings will be preserved under almost all conditions.
A current energy star refrigerator uses approximately 40% less energy than a conventional refrigerator sold in 2001 (as determined by these tests). In 2005, the most efficient refrigerator-freezer in the class you're talking about was an 18.8 cubic foot Kenmore top mount with automatic defrost at 387 kWh/yr, again according to these tests. As expected, side by side models use more electricity, and interestingly, bottom mount models also use more electricity.
Is this rating realistic? If you keep the thing in a garage in Florida, or for that matter an un-air-conditioned kitchen in Florida, probably not. I'm all for healthy skepticism, but this stuff is fact based science, not political opinion. If you buy a refrigerator rated at 600 kWh/yr instead of one rated at 387 kWh/yr, regardless of what the actual electrical consumption turns out to be, it's going to cost you more to run than if you had bought the better rated model.

If the thing lasts for years, I wonder how it can be considered a lemon?

If you're going to adopt this sort of perspective, it's impossible to assess dependability. A company's track record is apparently meaningless, since this year, the year you decide to buy a new frige, they could have decided to chuck a half century's worth of sound practice in favor of maximizing this year's profit by producing something cheap that will fall apart and charging all the traffic will bear for it. The only way to tell is to buy one and wait a few decades to see if it's still working.
Actually, by this kind of standard, your current appliance is a piece of crap - it's lasted only 19 years. The fridge I had in my college apartment in the 1970's was manufactured in in the 1930's and never needed a repair. It was probably still chugging away a decade later when the building burned to the ground.
One final word on the efficiency of new vs older refrigerators. My parents had the same refrigerator for something like 20 years - all the time I was growing up in their house. They finally bought a new one, and some long period of time after that, replaced it with a newer model. About five years after buying the last one, my Dad had the electric company in to do an energy audit of their house. They GAVE him a new fridge, saying that the efficiency had improved in those five years enough to make it worth their while to replace it at no cost to him. I suppose you could be real cynical and say maybe the new fridge they gave him used more electricity than the old one, but I don't believe it for a second. If you're a senior citizen and live in Massachusetts, maybe you don't have to actually buy a new fridge. And if it's good enough for the electric company, it's good enough for me.

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If it craps out in say 4 years, as opposed to 25 years.
I appreciate the input.
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Have a look around this guy's website. I subscribe to his newsletter (archives on site) and he's got a lot of good appliance info:

J.
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