“How old is your current fridge?” is a good question to ask in any kitchen remodel. Even better: “Do you know how much your old fridge is costing you?”
Remodelers have a unique opportunity to make a difference in the energy use of existing homes. Air sealing and insulation are the obvious measures, but a lot of efficiency can be gained just by replacing old appliances. And old fridges — and freezers — are high on the list. A refrigerator or freezer manufactured before 1993 costs more than double to operate than a new ENERGY STAR qualified model; fridges and freezers from the 1970s cost four times more.
Remodelers looking to help clients reduce their energy costs have a new resource in the U.S. Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR Make a Cool Change Campaign. The campaign gives remodelers and homeowners the tools to calculate the operating costs of existing appliances and the savings from replacing old units with ENERGY STAR qualified models.
Together, U.S. households have 44.5 million fridges over 10 years old. These inefficient refrigerators eat up $3.9 billion a year in energy costs. Of these 44.5 million, nearly 12.7 million are second fridges. Just retiring the old ones will add up to big energy savings.
So on your next kitchen remodel, think beyond the kitchen: is there a second fridge in the garage or basement? Ask your clients how often it’s used and if they could manage without it or with a smaller unit. In addition to the immediate energy savings from unplugging an old unit, some utilities, cities, and counties are paying consumers to get their old, second units off the grid, and to properly recycle the steel and other materials they contain. You might just see a bump in your job budget!
When it’s time to choose a replacement model, recommend an ENERGY STAR qualified fridge, available in a wide range of price points. They must be at least 20 percent more efficient than the minimum federal energy standard; ENERGY STAR qualified freezers must be at least 10 percent more efficient. These models offer advanced technologies that keep food fresher, longer. Certain smaller models may also meet your customer’s needs, including compact dorm-size units and units designed for the garage. On average, replacing a standard-size pre-1993 fridge or freezer with an ENERGY STAR qualified unit can save your customers up to $100 per year on their energy bills. Replacing a unit from the 1970s can save up to $200 a year.
Use ENERGY STAR’s refrigerator calculator at www.energystar.gov/recycle
to determine potential savings and find rebates on new models.
Remind your customers that many of the rebates available for new appliances require proof of recycling the old one. After all, to help the environment, the old unit must disappear from the grid, not re-emerge elsewhere as a donated or second-hand energy hog. If your local appliance store doesn’t handle recycling, you have a nice opportunity for a green-minded, value-added service: offer to recycle it for them. Find recycling facilities at www.energystar.gov/recycle
About the Author:
Lani MacRae is the ENERGY STAR Communications Manager for the U.S. Department of Energy.