With energy-consuming equipment, such as water heaters and refrigerators, we have good data on energy consumption and can set clear standards accordingly. In some product categories—clothes washers, for example—Energy Star standards were adopted because those standards provide a high enough threshold to represent just the very top segment of the product market (less than 10%). In other product categories—e.g., refrigerators and dishwashers—we set a higher threshold than ENERGY STAR: for example, exceeding those standards by 10% or 20%. With lighting and lighting control equipment, certain generic products qualify, such as compact fluorescent lamps and occupancy/daylighting controls, while in other categories only a subset of products qualify. In some cases, products that meet the energy efficiency requirements are excluded, because of evidence of poor performance or durability. Microturbines are included here because of the potential for cogeneration (combined heat and power) that they offer.
Maytag manufactures several side-by-side models that meet that meet the Consortium for Energy Efficiency’s (CEE) Tier 3 level for energy efficiency. These extra-large refrigerators come with LED lighting, a “speed-cool” feature that quickly cools the refrigerator after opening, and ethylene gas absorption to help preserve produce.
The energy efficiency of refrigerators has improved dramatically in the last several decades due to advancements in refrigerator design that include increased insulation, tighter door seals, and more efficient compressors.
Much of the variation in current models is due to configurations tailored to meet consumer demand, but not all of these options are energy efficient. For example, a side-by-side refrigerator-freezer with such amenities as through-the-door ice service and automatic defrost may use nearly 40% more energy than a basic top-freezer, manual-defrost model.
Energy Star categorizes refrigerators based on volume (cubic feet of interior space): medium (<18ft3), large (18–22.5 ft3), and extra-large (>22.5 ft3). These refrigerators can have dramatically different energy consumption and per-volume efficiency, so selecting a model that matches a user’s needs is crucial. For instance, on a per-volume basis, compact refrigerators (<14 ft3) typically use significantly more energy than their larger counterparts, but smaller-volume refrigerators consume less energy overall.
Because models change rapidly, the best way to find the most efficient product for your needs is to (1) figure out how large a model and which features are really needed, (2) look for the Energy Star logo on models that satisfy user needs, and (3) use the yellow EnergyGuide label to compare the kWh per year consumption of models meeting user needs and choose the model with the lowest energy use.
Product lines listed by GreenSpec are from companies with products listed under Energy Star’s Most Efficient Refrigerator-Freezers designation, or that meet the Consortium for Energy Efficiency’s (CEE) Tier 3 level under its Super Efficient Home Appliances Initiative.
GreenSpec also lists super-efficient refrigerators that are usually sold for use in off-grid houses; some haven’t qualified for Energy Star because the companies are too small or their markets too small to justify their submitting products for testing.
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