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Americans Doubling Up on Refrigerators, Cutting into Efficiency Gains

| Wednesday March 24th, 2010 | 8 Comments

Call it the must-have accessory to the super-size-me generation. The number of Americans with more than one fridge is growing–and that’s not good news for the environment.

According to a recent Department of Energy survey (PDF), about 26 percent of American homes have two or more refrigerators, and this is increasing by 1 percent a year.

This latest addition to the list of “standard” American household appliances carries an environmental double-whammy: since the second fridge is often an older, less efficient one, the energy burn more than doubles compared to single refrigerator homes.

Be honest: how old is your refrigerator?

Did you know a third of all refrigerators in use in the U.S. are over ten years old, and almost one in ten over twenty? Beyond obvious hygienic concerns, older refrigerators use a lot more energy than the newest models.

Since 1978, when California first implemented efficiency standards, average power consumption by refrigerators has dropped by over half, even as average capacity has risen by 2 cubic feet (equivalent to two big jugs of milk).

1 step forward + 1 step back = 2 refrigerators

The problem is, as those older fridges are replaced, many end up being sold or utilized as a second unit, thereby negating, or at least slowing, the effect of energy conservation programs like Energy Star. Ten percent of households keep their old fridge when they buy a new one, according to the Department of Energy report.

Jennifer Thorne Amann, buildings program director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, told the New York Times that home owners aren’t always aware of how much a second fridge can cost them. Avid hunters sometimes keep “beer and deer” fridges, as they’re known in the Redder parts of the country.

“You’re not saving any money on efficiency if you’re keeping that old one plugged in,” Amann said.

The Department of Energy said unplugging older units would save individuals $420 to $750 over the life of the fridge, and save the country 25 million megawatt hours of electricity.


▼▼▼      8 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • mgabriel1234

    I keep my old fridge because it works. What is the effect on the environment to throw away a perfectly usable appliance? Has anyone seen a lifecycle analysis of upgrading to a more energy efficient fridge? Also – what are the hygiene problems with keep a fridge to the end of it's life?

  • http://explorecincinnati.com/ Travis

    One option would be to keep your old unit but only plug it in when you need it (to chill drinks for a party, etc.). As the article mentioned, this “would save individuals $420 to $750 over the life of the fridge.”

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  • mcoc

    in case where those “beer and deer” fridges harbor a family's meat, and where that meat replaces other meat purchased through conventional means, I wonder how the environmental impacts balances out.

  • Nathan

    In my city the recently implemented tiered rate structure for electrical usage. In order to cut down on things like second refrigerators and running the A/C when not in the house, they will need to increase the price on those higher tiers, that way the people that use little electricity and punished by high electricity prices, but those that over consume help pay for that higher load.

  • http://explorecincinnati.com/ Travis

    One option would be to keep your old unit but only plug it in when you need it (to chill drinks for a party, etc.). As the article mentioned, this “would save individuals $420 to $750 over the life of the fridge.”

  • mcoc

    in case where those “beer and deer” fridges harbor a family's meat, and where that meat replaces other meat purchased through conventional means, I wonder how the environmental impacts balances out.

  • Nathan

    In my city the recently implemented tiered rate structure for electrical usage. In order to cut down on things like second refrigerators and running the A/C when not in the house, they will need to increase the price on those higher tiers, that way the people that use little electricity and punished by high electricity prices, but those that over consume help pay for that higher load.

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  • D McKinney

    I don’t see that it’s anyone’s business how many refrigerators are in a home.
    They want you to have new Smart Appliances to monitor with their Smart meters. “people,planet,profit” get it? Read up on the lovely privacy abuses.

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