If you’re in the market for an environmentally friendly fridge, then pat yourself on the back: You're making an ethically and economically responsible choice. We're here to help you find an energy-efficient model to fit your space and storage needs.
How We Measure Efficiency
Plenty of fridges have Energy Star certifications, but that logo doesn't mean that they're equally efficient. When we look at efficiency, we find the ratio of yearly operating cost to total usable capacity. A lower ratio is better.
Efficiency Ratio = Yearly Operating Cost / Total Usable Capacity
A larger fridge will naturally cost more per year to operate, but they can conceivably be more energy efficient if it costs less to cool each additional cubic foot.
When a manufacturer advertises fridge capacity, they account for the entire interior space. We, however, subtract the space taken up by light fixtures, shelves, and other spaces blocking food storage. This gives us the usable space, a more accurate measure of how much food can fit.
Smaller-sized refrigerators will be those with less than 13 cubic feet of usable space. These aren't as small as the mini fridges found in a college dorm, but they're a decent size for a small apartment. Our most efficient fridge in this category is the Frigidaire FFHT1817LS ($849), which costs $27.17 a year to operate, but provides 12.37 cubic feet of usable space. The efficiency ratio (yearly cost divided by capacity) is 2.2.
If you're feeding a family, you probably want something between 13 and 16 cubic feet of usable space. These medium-sized fridges often cost more to run per year than smaller models (this depends on the fridge), but the extra capacity actually makes some of them more efficient.
Our most efficient medium-size is the GE GSL25JGCLS ($1,099), with a yearly operating cost of $32.57 and 15.16 cubic feet of usable space, making the efficiency ratio 2.15.
If your kids keep bringing home the whole neighborhood for dinner, a large sized fridge might be in the cards. They're also the most energy-efficient fridges we've tested. These models have usable capacity of 16 or more cubic feet. They can be expensive, but a fridge is a long-term investment, and you'll save on long-term energy costs.
Leading the pack is the Kenmore 79302 ($1,289.99), with an efficiency ratio of 1.77. This score makes it the most efficient out of all sizes of refrigerators we’ve reviewed.
The Whirlpool WRT351SFYW ($999) is the second most-efficient in its size class, and also overall, with a score of 2.02. We then have the Bosch Linea B22CS30SNS ($2,169) at 2.24, the LG LFX31925ST ($1,919.99) at 2.35, and the Kenmore 72023 ($2,349.99) at 2.38. There really isn't a bad one in the bunch.
Let us know in the comments if you've heard of some especially efficient fridges that you'd like to see us review!