May 27, 2014: Cool Fridge Wins Energy Star Wars

In the process of moving into the Greeny Flat, Cintia and I decided that we needed to get a new fridge. The one we had been using was an older Fisher and Paykel that we borrowed from a friend and it had icing-up problems. But it also had a 4-Star Energy Rating sticker on the door and an estimated annual energy usage of 710kWh. This sounded pretty good until I went looking for a new fridge and found one of a comparable size with a 3.5-Star Energy Rating that only uses 300kWh per year. That didn’t make much sense to me until I dug around on the internet and discovered that, a few years ago, the Energy Star Rating system was changed. So newer fridges can be much more energy efficient but have fewer stars than older fridges. This is important information for anyone looking to buy a fridge. You can’t just look at the number of stars, you have to compare the estimated annual energy consumption which is the number written on the label underneath the stars.

Energy Star Label comparison of energy efficient fridges

How can our old fridge have 4 stars and use 710kWh but our new fridge has 3.5 stars but only uses 300kWh?

The fridge we ended up getting is a Samsung SR319MW Digital Inverter model and it is wonderfully energy efficient. In fact it is one of the most efficient fridges on the market and yet it only has a 3.5-Star rating. It makes you wonder what you would have to do to get six stars. Our energy monitoring system shows us that when this fridge kicks on it only uses about 60 watts and only for brief periods at a time. I did quite a lot of research before I bit the bullet and bought this baby and I learned some interesting things about inverter technology. Fridges like this one have a DC motor (hence they need an inverter to change the power from AC to DC) which allows the motor to be ramped up and down in stages. Unlike a standard AC fridge which is either full on or full off, this fridge can just cruise along and only add a little bit of coolth when it is needed. I noticed when I first turned it on that it was drawing about 140 watts while it was cooling the whole inside of the cabinet, but now it is using much less power and only in short bursts. I also learned that, whereas the temperature inside an AC fridge varies by about a 4˚C, the temperature inside a Digital Inverter fridge should stay within about a 1˚C range. Apparently this is much better for keeping food fresh for a longer period of time and I have certainly noticed that our food stays fresher for longer in this fridge. It also has an LED light which only uses a tiny bit of power when the door is open. (Click on the photo below for more information and specs on the SR319MW).

Super Energy Efficient Samsung Digital Inverter fridge

Cool Fridge! The Samsung SR319MW Digital Inverter Fridge with LED lighting only uses about 60W for brief periods to keep our food perfectly fresh.

There was one potential drawback I had read about in various internet forums. Some people complained that their Digital Inverter fridge made an awful electronic buzzing noise. I asked the salesman at Harvey Norman to plug in the display model so I could listen to it and it seemed fine to me. But that was in a noisy showroom so I was still pretty nervous about the noise issue when I brought the fridge home. Having lived with it for a month now we are perfectly happy with it and haven’t noticed any undue amount of noise. Sure, it’s not silent (and neither of us have the most acute hearing in the world), but it’s no more annoying or obtrusive than any other fridge and we very seldom even notice it.

In general I can highly recommend this fridge. Only time will tell whether it is durable and long-lasting, but for the moment I can say that it is extremely energy efficient, reasonably quiet, well designed, and at about $750, decently priced so we’re very happy with it.

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