Burning questions

# How many watts does a refrigerator use? Cold numbers

A tenth of your monthly electric bill is your fridge’s fault. How many watts does a refrigerator use? What about mini-fridges, side-by-side refrigerators and French-door ones? Can you make it more energy-efficient? Let’s raid the fridge and see what numbers we can work with.

## Refrigerator consumption changes throughout the day

Refrigerators typically have power ratings ranging from 100 W to 400 W. You can find this information on the label of your fridge. If you only see volts and amps, multiply them to get the power.

Figuring out the exact energy needs of your fridge is tricky though. Starting a refrigerator requires a lot of extra power. On the other hand, often it simply maintains a low temperature rather than actively cooling your food, just like an AC unit. This means the refrigerator works differently when full or empty, dirty or clean, and at different temperatures.

Some experts estimate that a fridge works at full power for about 8 hours a day, using 1 to 2 kWh. You can use an electrical meter for the exact daily energy consumption, but it will vary from day to day and from season to season. Some multiply the power rating of the refrigerator by 24 hours and then divide the result by 3 to find out the approximate daily consumption.

The factors that influence the power consumption of a refrigerator include:

1. Size. Bigger fridges generally use more electricity.

2. Location. If your fridge is in a warm or poorly ventilated place, it will use more power.

3. Season. In summer, your fridge has to work more to stay cool, using more energy.

4. Appliance age. Old fridges use more energy. If yours is old, consider getting a new, Energy Star-rated one. Flipping the fridge can also help cut your electricity bill.

5. Frequency of Use. Opening the fridge a lot makes the compressor work more, using more electricity.

Finally, the different refrigerator types have different power ratings and consumption patterns. Let’s explore them a bit.

### Refrigerator type dictates its power usage

VolumeAverage power consumption
Annual energy use
Mini fridge
2 to 5 cubic feet
80-150 watts
150-400 kWh
Bottom-freezer refrigerators
Top-freezer refrigerators
15 to 25 cubic feet
100-800 watts
300-800 kWh
Side-by-Side refrigerators
20 to 30 cubic feet
200-1000 watts
500-1200  kWh
French Door refrigerators
20 to 30 cubic feet
200-1200 watts
500-1400 kWh

Compact refrigerators are small, portable units commonly used in dorm and hotel rooms, offices, or as a secondary fridge. They usually have a single door and limited storage space. A mini fridge can be a good choice for a boat or an RV.

Top-freezer and bottom-freezer models are fairly similar in terms of size and energy-efficiency. Bottom-freezer refrigerators have an advantage in a way that fresh food is always at eye level. Top-freezer ones tend to use electricity better.

Side-by-side refrigerators are a type of refrigerator that features two vertical doors, with one side dedicated to the fresh food compartment and the other to the freezer compartment. French-door refrigerators also have a double-door design for the fresh food section but with a bottom freezer drawer. These two types are stylish but bigger in size and have slightly higher energy consumption.

## Refrigerator is 5-10% of your electric bill

899 kWh

average monthly energy consumption of a US household

Even though a fridge itself needs little energy, it usually runs 24/7 to keep your food from spoiling. That’s why your refrigerator makes up about 5-10% of your electric bill.

Let’s do a little math to see how many watt-hours does a refrigerator use per day, per month and per year. We’ll then explore how it impacts your electric bill.

Say, we have a small refrigerator that is rated at 200 watts. We keep it running all day long and we’ll count the daily consumption as if it works 8 full hours. Thus, a refrigerator consumes 200W × 8 hours ≈ 1.6 kWh daily. This translates to 1.6 kWh × 30 days ≈ 48 kWh per month. Finally, the approximate annual energy consumption of this refrigerator equals 48 kWh × 12 months ≈ 576 kWh.

It’s easy to then calculate the expenses. The average cost of one kilowatt-hour of electricity in the US in 2024 is 17 cents. This refrigerator needs a quarter per day, about \$8 per month and almost \$100 annually.

Refrigerators are required by the government to have an EnergyGuide label. This label is a yellow tag you can find on many appliances. It tells how much energy an appliance consumes, gives an estimate on yearly consumption and bill, and helps to compare it to other models. More energy-efficient appliances are cheaper to run and lower your utility bills.

## 7 tips to make your fridge more energy-efficient

1. Keep your fridge full. It takes more energy to cool an empty fridge than a full one.

2. Place the fridge away from the stove and radiators.

3. Defrost your freezer regularly – it boosts the unit's efficiency. Start when the frost reaches ¼ inch thickness.

4. Clean the fridge doors, coils and sides. Dust and dirt make it harder for the fridge to cool down. Condenser coils in particular clog and pick up dust and pet hair. It makes the condenser work harder and consume more energy.

5. Cover liquids and soups in the fridge. They release moisture, making the fridge compressor work harder.

6. Old fridges use more energy than new ones. Consider upgrading to an energy-efficient model with Energy-Star labels.

7. Avoid setting the temperature too low. Lower temperatures require more energy. Aim for 37 °F for the fridge and 0 °F for the freezer.

## Run your fridge on solar generator without worries

Using a solar system greatly alleviates your electric bill. In a standard grid-tie system, you can either use electricity from your solar panels or draw it from the grid. A refrigerator is likely to use less than even one solar panel in your system produces during the day. At night it will use the grid when the rates are lower anyway. But what about off-grid systems — can you run a refrigerator on solar power?

Off-grid solar systems always require batteries or a power station with built-in energy storage. In that case, the fridge will continuously pull the energy from the battery regardless of whether solar panels are active or not. Remember that starting a refrigerator requires extra power. The power rating of a power station or battery has to be high enough to provide your device with a necessary spark. Check out our article “Finding solar panels for solar generator: Tips and tools” to learn more about PV generators.

Andrey Gorichenski
Senior Editor

Andrey had been a news editor and freelance writer for a number of medias before joining A1SolarStore team. Climate change and its impact on people's lives has always been among his interests and it partially explains his degree in Philosophy and Ethics.

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