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Is it Time to Replace Your Refrigerator and Freezer?

Fridge and freezer

Fridges are a necessary appliance in any average Australian household and it’s almost impossible to find a house without one. As such a necessary and important part of our lives, picking out a fridge should be a carefully made decision. Whether your current fridge has finally reached the end of its life, or you think it’s finally time for an upgrade, read below to discover how to find the perfect fridge for your household and why it matters.

Why should I get a new refrigerator?

Whether your fridge has finally kicked the bucket, or it’s just old and you’re due for an upgrade, there are plenty of reasons it might be time for a new refrigerator. Upgrading your old fridge might be a big upfront cost, but buying a new one has a multitude of benefits.

 Improved energy efficiency: If your fridge is over ten years old, it’s probably time for an upgrade. Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) have gotten increasingly strict over the last decade, leading to more and more efficient refrigerator models becoming the standard.

 Reduce food waste: Old fridges often don’t have good temperature regulation and might be allowing your food to spoil more quickly which wastes food, energy, and money. You might be able to get away with changing worn seals and buying a new thermostat but if your fridge is older, it’s probably better to just replace it entirely.

 Stop weird noises: If your fridge has been making more noise than a gentle hum, there could be a problem with the compressor. While the occasional strange noise, and continuous hum, are normal refrigerator noises, anything louder might be a sign it’s time for a new fridge.

 A better fit: If your fridge is too big, or too small, it might not fit your needs anymore. If you have too much excess space in your fridge, it might be time to downsize as empty fridges use more energy to cool the empty space around food.

 Go high-tech: New fridges these days often come with cool features, such as a wine-cooler, ice-maker, or touchscreen with smart features. If your fridge is old, you might want something a little fancier when you upgrade.

How to pick out the right fridge for your household

Choosing the right fridge is an important matter, as the wrong fridge can take up more space and use more energy than necessary.

Here’s how to pick the right refrigerator for your household:

 Measure the space: You’ll want to make sure your fridge fits into the space you’re trying to put it. Make sure you leave at least 5cm of space around the sides and top of the fridge to allow for proper ventilation, ensure you can easily open the door, and make sure the space designated for your fridge is somewhere out of direct sunlight.

 The right size fridge: Having the right sized fridge is incredibly important, and bigger is not always better. Fridges with lots of empty space use more energy to keep cool, driving up your energy bill. A fuller fridge uses less energy by retaining cold more easily. It’s important to consider your household’s habits when looking at fridge size. A small household of two people who frequently entertain guests might need a bigger fridge than a larger household that often eats out or orders delivery.

 Pick your style: Just like washing machines and dishwashers, there are a number of different models sizes and loading styles for fridges. Your home design and aesthetic, as well as lifestyle, will dictate what style fridge you ultimately decide.

Types of fridges and freezers
Type of fridge Description of fridge style
Top-mount fridges The top-mount fridge is the traditional design and is available in a number of sizes and finishes. Its running costs are lower than other refrigerator models, and it’s the most cost-effective option to purchase
Bottom-mount fridges Bottom-mount fridges put the freezer component on the bottom and the refrigeration component on top. Both parts have swing-out doors (unlike the freezer drawers of a French-door model), but unlike a top-mount model, the less-used freezer is at the bottom while the fridge is at eye level for easier access.
French door fridge French door fridges are refrigerators with side-by-side fridge doors on top, and freezer drawers on the bottom. French door fridges have extra-wide shelves up top at eye level, making it great for entertaining guests, and the possible freezer drawer combinations mean it’s easy to keep your freezer organized.
Side-by-side fridges Side-by-side fridges have their fridge and freezer components next to each other, not stacked on top of each other like older models. The narrow doors mean the open fridge takes up less space, and often have more storage space than traditional fridges particularly the freezer which makes it handy for buying in bulk or meal prepping.
Smart fridge Smart fridges connect to your home’s wifi, turning your kitchen into a smart kitchen. With a smart fridge, you can check what’s inside your fridge while out shopping, get alerted when food is about to expire, order groceries from the touch-screen, and even stream music from built-in speakers.

 Look at energy efficiency: Choosing a more energy-efficient model might be expensive upfront, but it will save you money by using less energy over the year. Energy efficiency is measured using a star-rating system and it’s recommended to choose at least a 4-star fridge.

 Design and layout: It’s important to purchase a fridge that makes you happy. There are so many options and styles these days that it is possible to find the perfect fridge. Whether that means big shelves for meal prepping, a wine rack or extra bright LED lights, you don’t need to settle for a fridge you don’t like.

Choosing an energy-efficient fridge and freezer

All domestic fridges and freezers come with an Energy Rating Label, a star-rating label that visually shows how energy efficient a home appliance is. Simply put, the more stars a fridge or freezer has, the more energy-efficient it is and the less it will cost you to run. The only caveat is that energy-efficient appliances often cost more upfront, so it’s important to calculate your annual running cost of an energy efficient fridge and compare it to how much you would save using a less efficient option.

Traditionally, the Energy Rating Label was out of six stars, with six being the most energy-efficient option. However, as technology continues to advance, an extra row of stars has been added to the label for a total of ten stars for super-efficient fridges.

Refrigerator price: How much does a new fridge cost?

Asking how expensive a new fridge and freezer is, is a lot like asking how long is a piece of string. The size, energy efficiency, style, material, and features your new refrigerator has can bring the price down to $500 for a basic top-mounted fridge, up to $10,000 or more for a side-by-side fridge with all the bells and whistles. On average, however, the average new fridge and installation will cost the average Australian between $1,000 and $2,500.

How much electricity does a fridge use?

Fridges are basically a necessity for all Australian households, which therefore means the cost of running a fridge is just a part of life. How much you pay every year for the energy your fridge consumes, however, depends greatly on a number of factors including the size and efficiency of the model, as well as how cold you keep it. Fridges are one of the most energy-consuming appliances in our home, and choosing a fridge with a high-star rating can reduce running costs by 23% for every additional star.

Annual energy consumption and cost of a fridge
Fridge type Energy star-rating Energy consumed annually Annual running cost
300 Litres
4-star 202 kWh per year $62.13 per year
600 Litres
5-star 190 kWh per year $58.34 per year
300 Litres
4-star 313 kWh per year $96.04 per year
600 Litres
5-star 316 kWh per year $97.05 per year

Source: Energy Rating Calculator

How to reduce the energy consumption of your refrigerator

Fridges can be expensive to run, but there are ways to reduce the cost of running your fridge year after year and therefore reduce your total energy bill.

 Purchase energy efficiently: As shown above, energy-efficient fridges can make all the difference in annual energy cost and consumption. Choosing a more efficient model can save you hundreds over the lifetime of your fridge.

 Make sure there’s space: Fridges need adequate ventilation around their sides and top. Usually, 5cm is the recommended amount of space to ensure ventilation, but some manufacturer warranties require more.

 Set the right temperature: Keep your fridge at the right temperature to ensure your food stays safe and you’re not using too much energy. Fresh food should be kept between 0º and 4º, a freezer should be kept to -18º, and the crisper should be kept as close to 0º as possible.

 Adjust your home's ambient temperature: Heating and cooling your home can have an effect on your refrigerator's efficiency. In wintertime, if you don't have heating, you may need to raise the internal temperature of your fridge so it doesn't work as hard. Conversely, in summer you will likely have to lower the temperature of your fridge to keep your food cool. If you have an air conditioner, however, you may not need to change anything.

 Keep it full: Empty fridges require more energy to keep cool. If you have a well-stocked fridge, the produce acts as insulation which keeps the heat out and the cold in. Make sure your fridge is usually well-stocked, and consider a smaller model if you find there’s a lot of empty space.

 Invest in the bells and whistles: Just as smart TV's took over, the new trend in refrigerators is the smart fridge. If you're the forgetful type, a smart fridge can help you save money with open-door alarms, adjustable defrost, and smart temperature technology.

 Keep it away from hot appliances: Having a refrigerator next to your clothes dryer oven, or gas water heater can cause fluctuations in the ambient temperature and make your refrigerator need to work twice as hard. Underfloor heating may also cause your refrigerator to work a bit extra.

Learn more about heating with our guides to hydronic heating and ducted heating for your home.

Fridge & freezer FAQ

What temperature should my fridge be?

When setting the temperature of your fridge, you should aim for between 0º and 4º Celsius for your fridge and as close to 0º as possible for the crisper or produce storage. Your freezer should be set to -18º Celsius.

What temperature should my freezer be?

Your freezer should be set to -18º Celsius, while your fridge should be between 0º and 4º Celsius. Produce, or your crisper drawer should be set to as close to 0º Celsius as possible.

How do refrigerators work?

Refrigerators work similarly to a portable air conditioner. They send cooled refrigerant liquid through coils. A compressor constricts the refrigerant into a vapour, which raises the pressure and pushes the vapour to the coils outside of the fridge.

The hot, pressurized gas gets cooled down from the cooler air temperature in the kitchen, which turns the refrigerant into a liquid. The cooled liquid flows into the fridge and freezer and absorbs the heat inside which cools down the air. Finally, the refrigerant evaporates back into a gas and is sent back into the compressor again.

How big should my fridge be?

Choosing the right size fridge is an important decision. While the best size fridge depends on your lifestyle and size of your household, as a general rule:

How big should my refrigerator be?
Number of people in your household Estimated size of fridge
1-2 people 200-400 litres
3-4 people 500-600 litres
5+ people 700+ litres

What’s the minimum Energy Rating Label I should choose for my new fridge?

Choosing an energy efficient fridge and freezer can be a good investment, with the increased upfront cost being offset by how much energy you’ll save during the refrigerator’s lifetime. As an average rule however, you should look for:

  • At least 4-stars for a refrigerator
  • At least 3.5-stars for a chest freezer
  • At least 4.5-stars for an upright freezer
With each additional star saving you up to 23% on your annual energy bill.

What’s the average life expectancy of a refrigerator?

The average life expectancy of a fridge varies depending on the model and type. In general, however, the average refrigerator is expected to last between 9 and 13 years, but some models could last up to twenty years.

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