August 11, 2010

Energy Star Fridges Worth Buying

Almost two years ago I wrote an article Should you replace an old refrigerator to save money on energy? that discussed whether or not buying an Energy Star fridge was worth while.   I originally decided that paying extra to get an Energy Star fridge wasn't worth it, but now I think it is.    It appears things have changed enough in the past two years to make that no longer true.   

Today it looks like Energy Star fridges are certainly worth buying.

When I wrote that original article I compared buying an Energy Star fridge versus a standard non- Energy star fridge.  The Energy Star model as $701 and used $41 electricity a year and the cheaper model was $449 and used $48 electricity a year.   Given that choice I decided it wasn't worth paying $250 extra to save $7 a year.   That made sense to me then.  

But today it seems that most fridges are Energy Star and there isn't much of a cost difference between the Energy Star models and the less efficient models. Looking at Sears or Home Depot it seems 2/3 of the fridges on the market are Energy Star and there doesn't seem to be a significant premium for Energy Star.

Energy Star versus Non-Energy Star

The very cheapest fridge at Home Depot is an Americana model for $400.    That is not an Energy Star fridge and it uses $41 per year of electricity.   The cheapest Energy Star fridge is a Hotpoint fridge for $450 which uses $38 a year of electricity. 

The Hotpoint Energy Star qualified model is $50 more and uses $3 less electricity.  Alone that amount isn't really too great of a deal.   If your fridge lasts over 17 years you would recover your cost but that isn't counting other uses of your money and you may need or want to replace the fridge before then.   Spending $50 more for $3 back a year isn't a great payback on your money.   But it should be expected to pay for itself in the life of the fridge.   

On the other hand if I look at Sears I find a non-Energy Star Frigidaire model for $384 on sale.   That model uses $47 electricity a year.   They also have a Frigidaire model which is Energy Star that uses just $38 a year.   The Frigidaire models are just $16 difference in cost but  $9 different in annual electricity costs.   Spending $16 initially to save $9 per year is a very good buy.   Your payback period is 2 years.

The two fridges at Home Depot are a borderline case.   The example of Energy Star versus less efficient models from Sears is clearly in favor of the Energy Star.   I believe with a little informed shopping around you should be able to find a good purchase where Energy Star model makes sense and is worth the price.

Replacing an Old Fridge

I'll look at replacing my own fridge with an Energy Star model.   My current fridge is a basic 14-15 cu foot, top freezer, model from 11-12 years ago that uses $69 electricity a year.

I did a quick search on and and found Energy Star fridges for $400 and $450.  Sears had a Frigidaire model on sale for $400 and Home Depot had a Hotpoint for $450.   (I'm not considering delivery costs just for simplicity.)

Both fridges are Energy Star and about 14 cu. ft. with top freezer.   They are basic models in white color.  
The Frigidaire model from Sears uses $38 a year and the Hotpoint model from Home Depot uses $35 a year.   My fridge uses $69 a year.   So we'd be saving $31 or $34 a year.
 Plus both of the models would qualify me for $100 cash back through the electric utility and a state rebate.   So the actual cost would be $300 or $350 out of pocket.   What rebates that you might qualify would depend on your state and utility company.
I could also sell the old fridge pretty easily on Craigslist for $50 or more.

Here is how the two fridges compare:

Frigidaire Hotpoint
Cost  $400 $450
Rebates ($100) ($100)
Sell old fridge ($50) ($50)
Total cost $250 $300
Energy saving /yr $31 $34
Payback 8.1 8.8
ROI 12.4% 11.3%

The payback is in terms of years and the ROI is simple figure of the savings per year / total cost.  

Either of these would be a pretty good buy to replace my current fridge which is similar in size and features to these models.   Given the energy improvements in the past couple years, replacing a 10-15 year old fridge with a newer more efficient model may be well worth it.

Rebates available in some areas make Energy Star appliances well worth while. Many (if not most) states and utilities offer tax credits or rebates for the purchase of Energy Star appliances.   If your state or local utility offers any kind of incentive then getting the Energy Star model may be a no brainer.


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