Here's some welcoming news from the U.S. Department of Energy as we approach the season when we truly put an average home's most energy-guzzling appliance, the refrigerator, to the test: new standards proposed by the DOE will require refrigerator manufacturers to increase the efficiency of new models by 20 to 25 percent. The standards will be finalized by the end of this year and manufacturers will have until 2014 to act on them.
Under the new guidelines, the energy consumption of standard 20-cubic foot top-mount refrigerators must be reduced to 390 kilowatt hours (kwh) per year, quite a drop from the 900 kwh/year rule established in 1990. In the early 1970s, average fridges consumed a whopping 1,700 kwh/year. The guidelines also state that compact fridges must use 10 to 25 percent less electricity while stand-alone freezers are required to be 25 to 30 percent more efficient.
According to the DOE, the standards "will save nearly 4.5 quadrillion Btu and would avoid 305 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the following 30 years. By 2043, the standard would also eliminate the need for up to 4.2 gigawatts of new generating capacity, equivalent to eight or nine coal-fired power plants." In terms of savings, the standards have the potential to save consumers over $18.5 billion over a 30 year period.
Even though refrigerators have become much more energy efficient, they still account for about 10 percent of household electricity use. With the new standards, consumers will not only save energy, they'll also have a better picture of total energy use, because the ratings will include automatic ice makers.