by , 08/15/07

Green Your Appliances! Greener Refrigerators, Green refrigerators, Eco-friendly Refrigerators, Energy-efficient Refrigeratos, Energy-Efficient Appliances, Green Appliances, Inhabitat Summer Series, Bosch, Inhabitat column on green appliances, greener gadgets, save energy at home, efficient appliances, greener appliances, greener gadgets

This summer with our new special series we’ll be investigating four different home appliances to learn about efficient energy use, green design, and eco-friendly choices. First stop on our green appliances tour: the refrigerator.

We take the humble refrigerator for granted, a machine owned by over 99.5% of Americans, but the fridge has some important history lessons for the eco-conscious consumer than can inform our choices today. Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute uses the refrigerator as an example of what happens to a product that evolved to serve American appetites, but with negative effects for the environment.

As Americans in the 60s and 70s wanted a bigger refrigerator box, designers removed interior insulation to make room inside the appliance for weekly grocery trips and larger bottles of milk. The exterior of the fridge became so cool, it would start to “sweat.” So, designers ingeniously installed mini heaters outside of the refrigerator to evaporate the dew. All of this design and workaround put bigger energy demands on these appliances, so that a refrigerator in the mid 1970s used four times the consumption of a 1950s model. Meanwhile, Europe and Japan kept their standards high, their ice boxes small, and to this day total energy use is half that of American fridges.

Green Your Appliances! Greener Refrigerators, Green refrigerators, Eco-friendly Refrigerators, Old School Seventies Refrigerator

Thanks to scientists advocating for higher efficiency standards, over time the bar has been raised. Freon, a refrigerant famous for its ability to burn holes in the ozone layer, was slowly phased out over time. The good news is that refrigerators today are 70% more efficient than those built in the mid-70s, a good reason to consider retiring your olive green vintage model.

This year, over 12 MM US consumers are expected to buy a new refrigerator. So…

What are the best options for eco-friendly designs?

First, lets consider the 12 million fridges and freezers that will be put into retirement this year. The EPA has launched a voluntary Appliance Disposal program, to make sure CFCs are carefully accounted for, and to discourage the continued use of these energy-hogging older machines. So make sure your older fridge finds a responsible place to spend its golden years as you look for a newer model.

Green Your Appliances! Greener Refrigerators, Green refrigerators, Eco-friendly Refrigerators, Energy-efficient Refrigeratos, Energy-Efficient Appliances, Green Appliances, Inhabitat Summer Series, Bosch, Old Refrigerators, Howard Berks Photography, NPR


Next, since 90% of environmental impacts occur during the use phase of a fridge, the most important indicator is energy use, and the easiest way to know you’re making a good choice in the US is to find an Energy Star rated machine. Energy Star is a program backed by the EPA, which aims for 15% higher efficiency standards than federal standards, and 40% more than models sold in 2001.

Also be sure to check the door and seals frequently- if the compressor is constantly running, it may be a sign that your door is leaking air and therefore wasting a ton of cooling energy.

Lastly, remember that refrigerators, like all most high-powered appliances, produce heat. When placing a refrigerator within a kitchen, your best bet is to locate it in a ventilated area that will help disperse some of the heat and keep your environment temperature-regulated, while minimizing excess heat getting trapped and requiring additional air conditioning, etc.

Check the facts. Sites such as the Energy Star consumer guide will tell you where to look for the most efficient fridges. You will find a range of eco-friendly refrigerators that come in sleek, high end models,
and mid-range, more standard designs.

Are you looking to upgrade your home refrigerator? We’d love to hear what models you’re considering. And stay tuned for next week’s installment of Green Your Appliances: Washers/Dryers….

GREEN YOUR APPLIANCES! Summer series starts next week, Inhabitat column on green appliances, energy efficient appliances, energy efficiency in appliance, greener gadgets, save energy at home, efficient appliances, greener appliances, greener gadgets

“Bosch is committed to preserving the environment through innovative approaches to the products we manufacture, as well as the partnerships we form with key leaders in sustainable construction and design. Sustainability, responsibility and continuous improvement are the tenets of our company and are shared by our partners across the United States.

Bosch practices low-impact manufacturing processes while designing the most efficient machines on the market. In fact, we introduced a global integrated management system for environmental issues that makes certain we maintain our high standards for environmental responsibility wherever our operations take us.

Bosch regards innovation as something more than exceptional product quality, functionality and design. Not only our technical developments, but also our commitment to society has an effect on the world of tomorrow.”

+ Bosch Green Thinking Resource Center

Jennifer Van Der Meer, o2-nyc chair, Inhabitat contributer, green design consultant

Jennifer is a leader in brand and product innovation, and is a founding principal at research design house Risqué Consulting. A former Wall Street analyst and economist, Jennifer transitioned into the design industry upon graduating with an MBA from HEC in Paris. She has held strategy and executive management positions at Organic, Inc., Frog Design, and Fahrenheit 212. A leader in the green design community in NY, Jennifer serves as chapter chair of o2-NYC, and lectures on the topic of sustainable innovation.

+ o2-NYC

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  1. PRAMOD JADHAV January 9, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Very nice and useful article

  2. Igloo Made From 300 Ref... November 2, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    […] in the western world. They may not look much different on the outside, but on the inside a new efficient refrigerator may consume half the electricity a unit using ten year-old technology. Expanding on this point, the […]

  3. fixmygeappliance January 16, 2010 at 12:42 am

    Very informative and comprehensive post. I am an advocate of all things green, too, and I agree one of the very important things any homeowner can do is research about efficient energy use and green products.

  4. fixmygeappliance January 16, 2010 at 12:38 am


  5. » Green Appliance... March 30, 2008 at 10:09 am

    […] my best to see how our choices fall in both the 2008 Consumer Reports Buying Guide and this site here.  We get Whirlpool standard, but the consensus seems to be that Kenmore and GE are good ways to […]

  6. Alyson December 8, 2007 at 4:19 am

    When considering a green choice for appliances– check for reliability and repairs. Unfortunately, it appears that all appliances today are designed to break within 5 years- likely destined to join a landfill within less then a decade. My local Habitat for Humanity will not accept any working appliances over 5 years old. I think it is a crime for the manufacturers to basically make shiny appliances of junk that are not designed for longevity. My repairman who was servicing my new refrigerator (it broke after one month) said for the most part it doesn’t matter what brand you buy anymore, they all break, some just more then others. He recommended not to buy anything with a digital panel as those are very costly to repair, and to always buy an extended warranty. It wasn’t always this way. My grandparents still have their GE stove and refrigerator from 1952. It’s nearly 60 years old and has had only had one repair job in its entire existence. It may not be energy efficient but at least it’s not filling up a landfill. I’d like to see a responsible manufacturer who makes appliances designed to last, and not fill up our landfills. I’m sure a GE appliance today wouldn’t measure up to its antiquated contender, nor would a high end Viking appliance with its’ outrageous price tag. In regards to one’s comment about equator. They are the worst. Don’t ever buy an equator machine. There is no service provider to fix your machine. And it will break within 2 years- it’s just a matter of time– and with no one to repair it- you’ll be paying someone to take it to the dump. The company advertise that it’s environmental, and energy efficient, but it really isn’t if it doesn’t last more then 5-10 years right? Where’s the article on manufacturer’s moral responsibility to produce quality appliances that are green but also reliable and durable.

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  9. Jeff S October 17, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Biggs makes a good point. The biggest problem right now is the people who have older refrigerator models that are not efficient. It is only a matter of time before this problem is eroded, but we could speed the process by producing affordable, energy-efficient refrigerators that people can buy, even if their refrigerator works, but it’s not efficient. Maybe some sort of discount or trade in. Just a thought.

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  11. John biggs August 17, 2007 at 3:45 am

    interesting article on appliance waste. this same problem exists or is on the near horizon in Eastern Europe as well, where there are issues with older or very old appliances in many homes, and especially in rural areas, and where consumerism is on the rise. However, many stores here have begun marketing appliances especially with energy efficiency ratings, A, B, C, etc. When we bought an air conditioner, we specifically looked for an A rating because of the expected energy use.

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  13. Patti August 15, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    I bought a small GE refrigerator for my mother-in-law. When they switched the door hinges, they messed up the gaskets on both the regular door and the freezer door. Come to find out the gaskets are NOT REPLACEABLE. GE manufactured this model of refrigerator so you have to replace the whole door if there is a problem with the gasket. To make this refrigerator usable, I would have to buy new doors for both the fridge and freezer, at a cost of more than I originally paid for the refrigerator, and with a huge waste of materials – there is nothing wrong with the doors, it’s the gaskets that are damaged. I was stunned that, in this day and age, they would design something to be so wasteful. I know they have energy efficient appliances that are more affordable than other brands, but I believe that’s completely offset by designs such as this one – I’ll never buy another GE product again.

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  15. Maggie August 15, 2007 at 6:50 am

    From what I can tell, the Equator Conserv is by far the greenest fridge out there. I’m wishing there was a retailer in Canada, as it’s exactly what I’m looking for.

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