Energy-Efficient Refrigerators Buyers' Guide

Energy-Efficient Refrigeration: Stay Cool While Going Green

Refrigeration is essential to virtually every commercial kitchen, but traditional refrigerators can use a huge amount of power. Refrigeration uses, on average, 16 percent of the energy consumed in a foodservice operation, so energy-efficient refrigerators and freezers are an excellent way to keep food safe while keeping your utility costs low.1 Green commercial equipment will often pay for itself within a few short years.

The ENERGY STAR Refrigerator

Looking for the ENERGY STAR logo, which can only be displayed on equipment that has met strict specifications, is one of the easiest ways to shop for an energy-efficient commercial refrigerator. While participation in the program is voluntary, many manufacturers have worked to develop ENERGY STAR certified equipment.

ENERGY STAR is a program run by the EPA that develops energy-efficiency guidelines. If a manufacturer wishes to have a model certified, the equipment must undergo rigorous initial testing by a third-party lab. Off-the-shelf models are also periodically tested to ensure that the product you receive is just as energy-efficient as the one initially tested. The EPA updates each category's standards periodically, ensuring that the requirements keep up with new technology in the commercial foodservice field, which means ENERGY STAR refrigerators will use the latest innovations to reduce energy consumption.

An ENERGY STAR refrigerator or freezer will use as much as 30 percent less energy than standard commercial refrigeration. This can save up to $70 annually per refrigerator and $320 annually per freezer.2

Find the Right Refrigeration

To get the most out of your refrigerator, it is important to invest in one that best fits your needs. While it may be tempting to purchase a small unit, even energy-efficient refrigerators will strain and draw more power if overloaded. Know how much you will be storing and look for refrigeration that offers enough room to store that amount while still allowing adequate air circulation.

Another factor to keep in mind is the compressor location. Commercial refrigerators and freezers will have their compressors mounted on the top or bottom. If your refrigeration will be installed in a hot kitchen or near cooking equipment, the rising hot air can make a top-mounted compressor work harder, making it less efficient. Likewise, a bottom-mounted compressor can draw in debris that might cause strain and should be avoided in kitchens that use a lot of flour, such as bakeries and pizzerias. You may also consider a remote compressor. These can be costly to install, but have the advantage of not adding additional heat to the building, which can cause your HVAC to work harder and use more power.

Best Practices

Buying energy-efficient refrigerators is just the first step in reducing the unit's energy consumption. How the equipment is made will have a big impact on how much energy it uses, but how it is used and maintained will also affect its efficiency. Below are some tips to keep in mind when working to improve your refrigerator's or freezer's energy efficiency.

  • Disable door heaters when not in use.
  • Clean compressor coils regularly.
  • Set timers for automatic defrost cycles.
  • Clean gaskets regularly and replace when worn.
  • Use ENERGY STAR LED bulbs when possible.
  • Add strip curtains to walk-in coolers.
  • Ensure the commercial refrigerator or freezer is not overloaded.
  • Ensure doors are properly aligned.

1. Energy Conservation Sustainable Foodservice. Accessed Octover 2015.

2. ENERGY STAR Guide for Restaurants ENERGY STAR. Accessed October 2015.