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This article was originally published in the January/February 1993 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.

 

 

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Home Energy Magazine Online January/February 1993


SPECIAL SECTION ON REFRIGERATORS

 

 


Performance Versus Projections:
Does Your Refrigerator Measure Up?

 


HOW ACCURATE ARE YELLOW LABELS?

 

Every new refrigerator is sold with a bright yellow Energy Guide label affixed to the door. The label lists the refrigerator's energy consumption (translated confusingly into dollars per year) and compares that unit to other, similar models. Is the label a good indication of the refrigerator's actual energy use? Yes, on average, the label predicts actual, in-kitchen use reasonably well.

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory compiled field measurements of refrigerator energy use and compared those values to the labeled consumptions. The data came from utility measurements undertaken all over the country although most of the studies were undertaken north of the Mason-Dixon line. All together, they compared actual consumption with labels in 206 top-freezer and side-by-side refrigerators. The average use was very close to the labeled prediction although the individual use varied considerably (see Figure 1). On average, the field energy use was 15% less than the label. The variation probably reflected differences in kitchen temperatures, presence of automatic ice makers, and other factors unique to each site.

When presented separately, top-freezers appear to more closely conform to their labeled values than side-by-sides. One element of uncertainty is the automatic ice maker. Both laboratory and field studies have demonstrated that automatic ice makers can raise a refrigerator's energy use 20%. Unfortunately, the researchers could not determine which refrigerators had automatic ice makers because these are often installed after the unit is sold and are not indicated by the refrigerator's serial number.

The results of this compilation are all the more surprising because the test procedure used to measure consumption is very unrealistic. The refrigerator is placed in an environmental chamber maintained at 90deg.F with the doors kept closed during the 24-hour measurement period. No food is inserted or removed. In addition, some of the special energy-intensive features, such as the automatic ice maker and the through-the-door service, are not operated during the test.

Refrigerator electricity consumption is very sensitive to the temperature of the kitchen (see box, Keep That Kitchen Cool, p. 31). The results of this compilation are somewhat biased because most of the monitored refrigerators were in cooler, northern kitchens. Accordingly, refrigerators in Texas, Florida, and other warmer southern states, will probably use 10-20% more energy than their labels predict.

--Alan Meier

 


Figure 1. Refrigerator Energy Use

 

 

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