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Refrigerators

Scope

ENERGY STAR-certified refrigerators save energy and money for consumers
ENERGY STAR-certified refrigerators save energy and money for consumers

Install a new refrigerator in a new home.

  • Select an energy-efficient refrigerator.
  • Look for ENERGY STAR-certified models.
  • Look for a model that can meet all of the household’s refrigeration needs so that a second refrigerator won’t be necessary.
  • Install the new refrigerator.

See the Compliance Tab for related codes and standards requirements, and criteria to meet national programs such as DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home program, ENERGY STAR Certified Homes, and Indoor airPLUS.

Description

A refrigerator is an appliance with a thermally insulated cabinet connected to a heat pump, which transfers heat from inside the cabinet to the external environment. Refrigerators maintain an internal temperature of 40 °F or below to keep food cold.  A freezer or the freezer compartment of a refrigerator also uses refrigerant cycle technology to maintain a temperature of approximately 0 °F to keep foods frozen. Due to recent improvements in insulation and compressors, today’s refrigerators and freezers use much less energy than older models. (See Figure 1.)

ENERGY STAR-certified refrigerators save energy and money for consumers
Figure 1. ENERGY STAR-certified refrigerators save energy and money for consumers (image Courtesy of U.S. DOE).

More than 99% of U.S. households own a refrigerator, making it one of the most widely adopted technologies in homes, according to 2015 data from the Energy Information Administration (2015 EIA Residential Energy Consumption Survey). Once installed, refrigerators operate continuously and thus consume energy continuously. Refrigerator models are available on the market that consume up to 30% less energy than models that just meet the Federal Standard, offering a viable opportunity for consumers to save energy and money over the product lifetime.

How to Install a New, ENERGY STAR-Certified Refrigerator

1. Select a new energy-efficient refrigerator.

  • Before choosing a new refrigerator (or helping the homeowner to choose a new refrigerator), use a tape measure to determine the space constraints in the spot designated for the clothes washer. Remember to account for side clearance requirements (typically, a half inch on each side) as well as the recommended air gap behind the cabinet (typically, two inches behind and above the metal plate on the back of the unit). Models with through-the-door features may require more ventilation space. Review the refrigerator’s user manual to determine the manufacturer’s recommended space allowances.
  • Use a tape measure to determine the space constraints of doorways and hallways to ensure that the model you purchase can be moved to its installation location.
  • Look for a model that meets the needs of the family so that a second refrigerator won’t be necessary.
  • Use the ENERGY STAR Product Finder to identify and determine the energy usage of ENERGY STAR-certified refrigerator models.
  • Compare EnergyGuide labels (Figure 2) as another way to identify energy-efficient refrigerator models.
  • Check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency® or the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder to determine whether a particular refrigerator model is eligible for a rebate or incentive in your area. 

Figure 2. Use the EnergyGuide label to identify and compare energy-efficient refrigerators (image courtesy of the (Federal Trade Commission).

2. Install the new refrigerator.

  • Many appliance vendors will install the new refrigerator. If you are installing it, use the following installation instructions or see the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
  • Before bringing the refrigerator into the home, remove all shelves, drawers, and other components inside the unit so they aren’t damaged during transport and installation.
  • Remove the doors from the refrigerator if necessary to fit through doorways. Make sure to check the user’s manual for details on how the doors should be removed and reattached.
  • If the doors will stay on, use packing tape to keep them closed during transport.
  • Consider using floor mats or paper to protect the floor. Consider using blankets or other soft material to protect doorways or cabinetry. Use a hand truck, dolly, or pneumatic appliance mover to move the refrigerator, tilting the unit on one side so the weight is balanced. Try to keep the unit as upright as possible while moving it. Do not put the refrigerator on its side or upside down because this can weaken or damage the refrigeration system.
  • Before moving the refrigerator into its footprint, sweep out the space to remove any dust or dirt.
  • While the refrigerator is a few feet from its footprint, connect the water supply first according to the guidance in the user manual. Do not connect electrical power yet.
    • Turn off the main water supply and turn on the nearest faucet long enough to clear the line of water.
    • If you are installing the refrigerator in an area where the temperature will go below freezing, use PVC or rubber tubing. Otherwise, use the copper tubing provided by the manufacturer.
    • Make sure you are connecting to a cold water pipe. Determine the length of tubing you need. Measure from the connection to the water pipe. Add 7 feet to allow for cleaning. Be sure both ends of the copper tubing are cut square.
    • Using a grounded drill, drill a ¼-inch hole in the cold water pipe you have selected.
    • Fasten the shutoff valve to the cold water pipe with the pipe clamp. Make sure the outlet end is solidly in the ¼-inch drilled hole in the water pipe and the washer is under the pipe clamp. Tighten the packing nut. Tighten the pipe clamp screws slowly and evenly so the washer makes a watertight seal. Do not overtighten or you may crush the copper tubing.
    • Slip the compression sleeve and compression nut on the copper tubing. Insert the end of the tubing into the outlet end squarely as far as it will go. Screw the compression nut onto outlet end with an adjustable wrench. Do not overtighten.
    • Place the free end of the tubing in a bucket, container, or sink, and turn on the main water supply. Flush the tubing until the water is clear. Turn off the shutoff valve on the water pipe. Coil the copper tubing.
    • Attach the other end of the copper tube to the refrigerator valve inlet using a compression nut and sleeve. Tighten the compression nut. Do not overtighten.
    • Use the tube clamp on the back of the refrigerator to secure the tubing to the refrigerator. This will help prevent damage to the tubing when the refrigerator is moved into its footprint.
    • Turn the shutoff valve on.
    • Check for leaks. Tighten any connections (including connections at the valve) or nuts that leak.
  • Connect the power into a grounded three-prong outlet. Do not remove the ground prong, do not use an adapter, and do not use an extension cord. Failure to follow these instructions can result in fire or electrical shock.
  • Use the hand truck or dolly to slowly move the refrigerator into its designated space, making sure to accommodate the air gap behind the unit, as recommended by the manufacturer. This gap allows air to circulate so heat can be removed from within the refrigerator and exhausted externally. Ignoring the air gap will make the refrigerator operate less efficiently and decrease the life of the unit.
  • Install any shelves, trays, and drawers that were removed. Close the refrigerator doors and let the refrigerator operate. It may take a few hours for the refrigeration system to cool the unit. If there is no temperature drop in 24 hours, contact the seller or manufacturer and ask for assistance.

3. Set up an Internet-connected refrigerator.

  • The refrigerator manufacturer will have an app available for download on a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device. Download the app on your (or the homeowner’s) preferred device. The app will guide you through all of the steps to connect the refrigerator. Below are some general steps.
  • Open the app on the device and sign in or create a WiFi connect account. This will associate any connected appliances with the homeowner’s device.
  • On the app, click “add an appliance” and choose “refrigerator.”
  • On the refrigerator control panel, select the “ready to connect” mode. Now press “next” on your app.
  • Press “start” on the refrigerator, which should then display the network name and password.
  • In the app, type in the password found on the refrigerator display. You will be directed to join the network listed on the refrigerator display. This will start communication between the app and the refrigerator.
  • After the app has connected to the refrigerator, choose your home WiFi network to connect your device back to the home network. The connecting process will start. The refrigerator is connected once the app says “connected.”

4. Provide product literature and instructions to the homeowner.

  • Provide the home owner with any manufacturer product literature and warranty information.
  • Submit, or supply to the homeowner to submit, paperwork for any applicable utility rebates or tax incentives.
  • Give the homeowner any maintenance or special cleaning instructions.

Ensuring Success

  • Turn off the main water supply and turn on the nearest faucet long enough to clear the line of water.
  • If you are installing the refrigerator in an area where the temperature will go below freezing, use PVC or rubber tubing. Otherwise, use the copper tubing provided by the manufacturer.
  • Make sure you are connecting to a cold water pipe. Determine the length of tubing you need. Measure from the connection to the water pipe. Add 7 feet to allow for cleaning. Be sure both ends of the copper tubing are cut square.
  • Using a grounded drill, drill a ¼-inch hole in the cold water pipe you have selected.
  • Fasten the shutoff valve to the cold water pipe with the pipe clamp. Make sure the outlet end is solidly in the ¼-inch drilled hole in the water pipe and the washer is under the pipe clamp. Tighten the packing nut. Tighten the pipe clamp screws slowly and evenly so the washer makes a watertight seal. Do not overtighten or you may crush the copper tubing.
  • Slip the compression sleeve and compression nut on the copper tubing. Insert the end of the tubing into the outlet end squarely as far as it will go. Screw the compression nut onto outlet end with an adjustable wrench. Do not overtighten.
  • Place the free end of the tubing in a bucket, container, or sink, and turn on the main water supply. Flush the tubing until the water is clear. Turn off the shutoff valve on the water pipe. Coil the copper tubing.
  • Attach the other end of the copper tube to the refrigerator valve inlet using a compression nut and sleeve. Tighten the compression nut. Do not overtighten.
  • Use the tube clamp on the back of the refrigerator to secure the tubing to the refrigerator. This will help prevent damage to the tubing when the refrigerator is moved into its footprint.
  • Turn the shutoff valve on.
  • Check for leaks. Tighten any connections (including connections at the valve) or nuts that leak.

Climate

No climate specific information applies.

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Compliance

The Compliance tab contains both program and code information. Code language is excerpted and summarized below. For exact code language, refer to the applicable code, which may require purchase from the publisher. While we continually update our database, links may have changed since posting. Please contact our webmaster if you find broken links.

DOE Zero Energy Ready Home

Zero Energy Ready Home (Rev. 06) Exhibit 1, Item 5, requires that all installed refrigerators … are ENERGY STAR qualified.

ENERGY STAR Certified Refrigerators Criteria

ENERGY STAR calls for refrigerator models to meet certain criteria to receive qualification for the ENERGY STAR label and promotion on the certified products list. 

This Retrofit tab provides information that helps installers apply this “new home” guide to improvement projects for existing homes. This tab is organized with headings that mirror the new home tabs, such as “Scope,” “Description,” “Success,” etc. If there is no retrofit-specific information for a section, that heading is not included.

SCOPE

Install a new refrigerator as a replacement for a primary or secondary older refrigerator in an existing home. 

  • Select an energy-efficient refrigerator model that meets the household’s refrigeration needs.
  • Look for ENERGY STAR labeled products.
  • If the home has more than one refrigerator, determine whether the secondary refrigerator is necessary for the household’s refrigeration needs. If so, determine its approximate age and energy-efficiency performance. If it is old or inefficient, assist the homeowner with selecting energy-efficient replacements.
  • Remove and recycle the old refrigerator(s).
  • Install the new refrigerator(s).
  • Please follow safe work practices as described in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Standard Work Specifications when removing or installing refrigerators and/or freezers in single-family homes and multifamily homes

DESCRIPTION

Advances in refrigerator technology have cut energy usage in refrigerators about 75% over the past two decades offering the potential for substantial energy and cost savings for homeowners who decide to replace their older model refrigerators. Approximately 32 million single-family homes have two or more refrigerators. More than 25% of these secondary refrigerators are 15 years old or older. These older models have less insulation and less efficient motors and are likely to have door seals and insulation that has deteriorated. In addition, the majority of these refrigerators reside in garages where adverse temperatures make operation less energy efficient (2015 EIA Residential Energy Consumption Survey).  Homeowners with old secondary refrigerators should assess whether they are used frequently. If not, these households can save a lot of money on their energy bills by recycling their secondary refrigerators. If the additional refrigerator is used often, the household should consider upgrading to a new, ENERGY STAR-certified model to save money on energy bills over the long-term.

How to Replace the Old Refrigerator with an ENERGY STAR-Certified Model

1. Select a new energy-efficient refrigerator.

  • Use the ENERGY STAR Refrigerator Savings Calculator to receive an estimate of the energy and monetary savings for retiring or replacing the existing refrigerator(s). To use this calculator, you will need the existing refrigerator’s configuration, capacity/size, and year of manufacture. If some of this information is unavailable, approximations will suffice.
  • See the Description tab for more on selecting the right model.

2. Remove the old refrigerator.

  • Plan ahead when helping homeowners remove and recycle their old refrigerator. Refrigerators and freezers contain refrigerants, oils, and other compounds that, by federal law, must be removed and recovered. The steel, metals, selected parts, and foam insulation can and should be recycled. Appliance recyclers will often remove and haul away an old refrigerator at a modest charge. If the homeowner purchases a new refrigerator from a major retailer, the old refrigerator is often hauled away for a small charge or for free when the new unit is delivered. See the ENERGY STAR Find a Fridge or Freezer Recycling Program page for information on how to locate a recycler in your area.
  • If you plan to disconnect and remove the refrigerator yourself, you may want to begin the process 24 hours before the move. Remove any food from the refrigerator and freezer. Turn the refrigerator and icemaker to off. This allows time for the evaporator to defrost along with any ice accumulated inside the freezer. Empty the ice collection bin and set it aside. Remove the doors from the refrigerator so they don’t accidentally open during transport. This also prevents the possibility of children playing in the refrigerator and becoming trapped. Remove the shelves, storage bins, and drawers so they don’t open during transport.
  • Move the refrigerator forward, away from its footprint, so you can access the electrical plug. Unplug the refrigerator from the electrical outlet. Tape the cord to the refrigerator using duct tape or packing tape so it isn’t in the way during transport.
  • Turn off the water valve for the water supply line to the refrigerator. If you’re unsure where the valve is located, trace the water line from the refrigerator to the water source.
  • Unscrew the water line at the refrigerator. Be prepared to drain the contents of the water line over a bucket. If the icemaker is connected to the water line in the refrigerator door, remove the door first to access the water connection. Disconnect the tubing in the door, then drain the water line over a bucket. 
  • Locate the drain pan under the refrigerator. Remove the refrigerator's front grill plate. Use a towel to dry the pan. Refer to the owner's manual if you have trouble locating the pan.
  • If the homeowner wants to ensure that the old refrigerator is recycled instead of being resold in the secondary market, use a wire cutter to cut the power cord near its source at the refrigerator. Due to the effort required to replace the power cord, this decreases the possibility that the refrigerator will be resold.
  • Use a hand truck or dolly to move the refrigerator out of its footprint to the location where it will be hauled away. Exercise caution when tipping the refrigerator, it can fall and cause injury. Never move a refrigerator up or down stairs without at least two strong people. Consider using floor mats or paper to protect the floor. Consider wrapping blankets or other soft material around the refrigerator to protect doorways or cabinetry.
  • If you are loading the refrigerator in a van or truck, keep it standing upright. Secure the refrigerator using tie-down straps.

Recycle old refrigerators so refrigerants, oils, metals, insulation and other compounds are recovered. (Source: U.S. EPA)

3. Install the new refrigerator.

  • Many appliance vendors will install the new refrigerator. If you are installing it, use the installation instructions provided in the Description tab.

More Info.

Access to some references may require purchase from the publisher. While we continually update our database, links may have changed since posting. Please contact our webmaster if you find broken links.

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References and Resources*

  1. Author(s): Department of Energy
    Organization(s): DOE
    Publication Date: April, 2017

    Standard requirements for DOE's Zero Energy Ready Home national program certification.

  2. Author(s): EIA
    Organization(s): EIA
    Publication Date: June, 2016

    Federal statistics about national energy consumption in residential homes.

  3. Author(s): U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    Organization(s): EPA
    Publication Date: December, 2014

    The ENERGY STAR criteria for refrigerators, refrigerator-freezers, and freezers.

  4. Author(s): FDA
    Organization(s): FDA
    Publication Date: November, 2017

    When it comes to protecting yourself and your family from foodborne illness, one of your most effective tools is the kitchen refrigerator. 

Last Updated: 12/12/2017