How Long Does a Refrigerator Last?

According to research, the average refrigerator lasts about 12 years. If you think it might be time to retire your refrigerator, check out Energy Star’s Refrigerator Retirement Savings Calculator. This handy tool that lets you input the model number of your current fridge to see how much more you’re spending on energy use annually versus a new, Energy Star refrigerator. Now let’s play by the numbers.


The number of years in the average refrigerator’s lifespan, according to research. The life span reflects how long the first owner of a refrigerator used it, which doesn’t necessarily mean that it broke down.


Amount cubic feet of fresh food storage space in the average refrigerator, based on active models.


Cubic feet of average amount of freezer space, based on active models. Guess that means the average refrigerator unit is just under 22 cu. ft.


Average price of Energy Star refrigerators in 2009.


Average price of a standard refrigerator in 2009 (not much difference, eh?).


Amount of years it takes for the lower operations costs of an Energy Star refrigerator to make up, or “pay back,” for the initial sticker price difference.


Net savings (energy savings minus initial higher cost) of an Energy Star refrigerator over its expected lifetime of 12 years.

Energy Star refrigerators save $50/year over 1990s fridges

This is an outdated picture of my kitchen, but you get the idea.

I’m replacing my 15-year-old refrigerator this month with a more roomy, smarter-designed and better-looking new fridge.

Best of all, it’s an Energy Star refrigerator, which means that it uses at least 20 percent less energy than a non-Energy Star fridge. Plus, although Energy Star refrigerators generally cost more upfront, you should consider overall cost of the appliance — which includes how much energy it uses compared to other models.

Energy Star estimates that over the lifetime of your refrigerator, you will cut your energy bills by $165 versus if you used an non-Energy Star model.

So think of how much you save when you unplug the refrigerator you’re using right now? Actually, see the handy chart below.

So my fridge from the ’90s costs about $97 per year compared to an Energy Star refrigerator, which uses an average of $48, according to this chart. (And actually, my new fridge is 10 percent better than the Energy Star standards; its energy use is estimated to cost about $43 per year.)

Obviously, I have to buy the new fridge, but I’ve budgeted for that. Now, what will I do with the $50? Better question: what will do with the $600 in usage cost savings I’ll realize over the average life (12 years) of my refrigerator?

Beware of Pet Hair In Your Kitchen

Manufacturers say that most people don’t need to regularly clean their refrigerators’ condenser coils.

But, you should clean the condenser coils on refrigerators in greasy, dusty environments – and homes with “significant pet traffic” (which just sounds like a kitten parade, right?) – every two or three months.

What’s that? Cleaning stuff is a pain in the butt? Yeah, well so is replacing stuff. Regular maintenance not only ensures your refrigerator runs efficiently (aka for less money) but it will help it run for longer.

I’m betting it’s been about the suggested time span (times 10?) since you have cleared out what lies beneath, so here’s a refresher course:

How To Clean Refrigerator Condenser Coils

1. Unplug refrigerator or disconnect power. (We don’t need any heroes, people.)

2. Take off the kick plate, or “grille.” How you do this depends on the configuration of your fridge (e.g. top freezer, side by side), but the “wiggle and pull” method seems pretty universal. For more help, consult your Use & Care manual.

3. Clean the kick plate, the open area behind it and the front surface area using either a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment.

Proper Appliance Installation Boosts Efficiency

So you’ve replaced your kitchen and laundry room with energy-saving Energy Star appliances.

Great. You’re on your way to saving 10 percent to 50 percent more water and energy over standard new appliances.

But you’re not there yet.

Energy-efficient appliances get their ratings based on optimal conditions, obviously. And if you use a professional install team like Warners’ Stellian’s service, you know the install is being done to a high standard of integrity and efficiency. (Heaven help you if you had Big Box X’s outsourced Acme Delivery Co., just saying…) Our guys wear our brand on their nametag, and I proudly report that our delivery/install department receives the most compliments than any in our company.

But not everyone will install your appliances properly or to the maximum efficiency, because it often takes more expertise and more time.

I can’t overstate the importance of leveling. If any appliance is out of balance, it won’t run properly and you’ll be stuck footing the energy bill. When we install a refrigerator, we level slightly tipped back so the door swings shut instead of lingering open and cooling your kitchen.

Enough clearance is also important. The tendency can be to try to cram in the largest fridge you can fit into the available space, but try to resist. Your refrigerator needs about an inch of space on top and all around (check manufacturers’ recommendations for specifics on your unit) to efficiently exhaust all that heat it builds up when keeping your ice cream rock solid.

Things you can do? Keep the gasket moistened to ensure a tight seal, clean the coils and change the water filter.

Pinched water lines and improper drain hoses (it should be high-looped so waste doesn’t back up) can cause inefficiency in your dishwasher. Because dishwashers are built-in, it’s harder for the average homeowner to determine whether this is the case, so I feel kind of bad bringing this up so late in the game (sorry).

But you can still save energy by running your kitchen sink until the water is warm before you turn on your dishwasher. That way the dishwasher doesn’t have to take as long to heat the water.

Again, level your washer. An out of balance washer won’t be able to spin to its maximum speed, meaning less water extraction and thus longer dry times.

If the hot and cold water hoses are reversed — and this does happen — you’ll use more hot water because instead of cold water rinses, you’ll have hot water rinses. Ninety percent of the energy used by a washer is to heat the water.

And now that we’re on the subject, cold water washes will sufficiently clean most of your clothes, unless they’re oily and greasy.

Venting is very important, not only to the well-being of your energy bill, but to your family’s safety. Ideally, dryers vent using rigid metal ducting, which is the best at exhausting moisture and preventing lint buildup. Buildup + restricted airflow = longer dry times.

You can easily check to make sure your home doesn’t use white plastic venting, and also check to make sure venting is kinked or smushed anywhere.

Some new homes are built with critter-control cages around the outdoor dryer vent, but lint gets caught on them. Better quality vents should have a spring-loaded damper to keep nature’s friends out of your laundry room.

Most importantly, you should be cleaning your dryer vent every few months. See Dryer not drying? Check the dryer vent.

Cooking With Gas vs. Electric

Hands down, the majority of people would get a gas cooktop or range if given the choice.

We watch celebrity chefs use them on TV, we’ve heard about the power and for some, we like seeing the flame getting bigger or smaller when we turn the knob.

But what’s better? You might be surprised.

When our sales associates attend product training, some brand representatives place pots of water on adjacent gas and electric cooktops with the question, “Which will boil faster?”

Does Gas or Electric Boil Faster?

The newer associates often balk at this question and quickly answer gas.  But lo and behold, the pot on the electric burner boils first (that’s generally the case until you get into pro-style cooking).

Electric? Really?

Yes, really.

It doesn’t look as cool, but the power is there.  Gas still trumps electric cooking in the responsiveness of its burners.

Responsiveness of Gas Burners

For example, if a recipe calls for a dish to be brought to a rolling boil and then be brought down to a simmer, it will take an electric burner longer to decrease its temperature down to the lower heat setting. So, you could find yourself moving your pan to another burner so you won’t ruin your dish.

In gas, you turn the burner down to simmer, and the heat decreases.  Some gas burners also can simmer at a lower BTU, which can be important for cooking sauces and melting chocolate.

Induction Cooking

The real winner, though, is induction cooking.

Frigidaire Induction Cooktop With Pot of Water Boiling

Induction cooking delivers the best of both worlds: speed, responsiveness and power.

Plus, because induction cooking only heats the pan, there’s very little heat loss, making induction often the most energy-efficient choice.

The smooth, electric surface is also a lot easier to clean than ceramic grates.  Downsides do exist in induction cooking.

The price point is a little higher, you can only use magnetic pans (ex: coated cast iron), it’s not as professional looking as gas, and there are fewer options available per brand — especially when purchasing a range.

If choosing gas or electric (or induction), it’s good to consider your lifestyle. Do you mostly prepare quick meals or do you cook more complicated and delicate recipes? Is ease of cleaning a concern?

What cooktop type do you prefer? Let us know in the comments.