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Fridges and freezers

fridge-freezerModern fridges and freezers are a lot more energy efficient than models made 10 years ago. This can mean big savings on your electricity bill.

For example, a modern family fridge/freezer with a 3½ star energy rating label costs around $100 per year to run. A 10-year-old fridge of the same size could cost twice as much. As the average age of a fridge/freezer in New Zealand homes is around 16 years, the savings made over the life of the new fridge/freezer can be as much as the initial purchase price.

It's also worth bearing in mind that old fridge/freezers often work longer and harder to maintain the right temperature. This means they tend to be noisy and may not keep food cold enough.

Choosing a fridge and freezer

You can cut down on running costs by choosing the right fridge or freezer for your needs. It's worth considering:


Consider the number of people in your household, how often you shop and how often you entertain. Don't buy a bigger fridge/freezer than you need. While it's more efficient to run one large fridge/freezer than two small ones, it's inefficient to run one that's far bigger than you need. An over full fridge/freezer has to work harder to stay cool as well.


Fridge/freezers with the top and bottom configuration are often more energy efficient than a side-by-side arrangement.


Most upright freezers have auto defrost features, which are convenient but use more electricity. Chest freezers are slightly more efficient than upright models, but have the inconvenience of needing to be defrosted, as well as food being harder to organise and find.

Water and ice dispensers

Through-the-door features such as cold water and drinks dispensers and ice-makers use more electricity, so cost more to run.

Choosing by labels

Look for energy rating labels to allow you to compare fridges and freezers.

If comparing similar size and types of fridges or freezers, use the stars on the energy rating labels. The model with the most stars is the most efficient.

If you are comparing different style or size model, (say comparing a larger fridge with a smaller fridge-freezer) then look at the energy consumption figures on the label. The model with the lowest consumption will be the cheapest to run.

Fridges or freezers with the ENERGY STAR® mark will be one of the most energy efficient available and on average will use 40% less electricity than non-qualified models.

To get the most out of your fridge:

Set up:

  • Don't put your fridge next to the oven or in direct sunlight
  • Make sure there's an air gap all around it. Check the manual to find out how big the gap needs to be
  • Check that the temperature is set correctly. Freezers should be between -15°C and -18°C, while fridge compartments should be at around 3°C to 4°C. You can buy fridge thermometers to check these temperatures.


  • Clean and check the seals on the door regularly. Try putting a piece of paper in the seal and closing the door. If the seal is working properly it will hold the paper firmly. Another test is to turn a torch on and put it in the fridge with the door closed. If you can see light through the seals, they need replacing
  • If your fridge doesn't auto-defrost, make sure you defrost as required (when the ice build up is more than 2cm thick)
  • If your fridge has coils on the back, dust them every year
  • When away for a longer period, turn off, empty and clean your fridge, and leave the door ajar.

Day to day use:

  • Allow food to cool before putting it in the fridge (but don't let it sit at room temperature for too long - this could be a health risk)
  • Try not to open the door too frequently and don't leave the door open
  • In freezers, food packages should be scattered and should not be grouped or stacked so they freeze together.

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