Refrigerators and freezers include standard-size and compact refrigerators, refrigerator-freezers, and freezers. Refrigerator-freezers have at least one refrigerator compartment and at least one freezer compartment. Standard-size refrigerators and freezers have refrigerated volumes of 7.75 cubic feet or greater, while compact refrigerators and freezers have refrigerated volumes of less than 7.75 cubic feet.
DOE finalized the current standards for refrigerators in 2011, and they took effect in 2014. The standards, which were based on a consensus agreement between manufacturers and efficiency advocates, specify maximum annual energy consumption values that vary based on the specific product type and the product’s refrigerated volume. Relative to the previous standards, which were in effect from 2001 until 2014, the current standards represent energy savings of 25% for most refrigerators.
New refrigerators sold today on average use just one-quarter of the energy of refrigerators in 1972, even as refrigerators today offer almost 30% more storage volume. Real prices of refrigerators have declined by about 50% since 1972 as efficiency has improved. Technology options to improve the efficiency of refrigerators and freezers include more efficient compressors and fan motors, improved heat exchangers, and better insulation such as vacuum insulation panels. Refrigerators and freezers meeting the ENERGY STAR specification (Version 5.0) use about 9% less energy than products just meeting the minimum standards.