How long does a refrigerator last?

This post is the latest in the series “How long do appliances last?” They’re written in a style I learned in journalism, called “By The Numbers,” which was often just another way to say “I need to take up space and do something visual.” Voila.


The number of years in the average refrigerator’s lifespan, according to data published by Appliance Magazine in 2010. 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 all active models in 2009.


Cubit feet of average amount of freezer space, based on all active models in 2009. 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.

5 thoughts on “How long does a refrigerator last?

  1. How things change – my Mum got a new Frigidaire the year I was born – it lasted until the year her first grandchild arrived, 30 years later.

    1. That’s such a great story! But it’s funny, stories like that are SO common — which can be damaging to current customers’ expectations. I think our job is to educate the customers so they can have realistic expectations and budget for future repairs and replacement.

  2. Hello Julie:

    Interesting blog entry. I would be interested in your source(s) for the statistics cited. Is it the Appliance Mag you reference?

    The last stat about net $71 seems curious to me. You note a $30 average premium for an Energy Star refrig ($1,180 versus $1,150 for a non-Energy Star rated frig). And, you reference a 2.8 year payback for the Energy Star unit — a reasonable payback stat, although I’ve seen faster payback estimates for same appliance. And, the lifetime savings is $71 for Energy Star….hmmm.

    Folks should know that utilities are jacking up kwh rates faster than inflation, and instituting graduated/scaled rates (the more you use, the higher your per kwh rate it). I suspect that payback speed and the lifetime savings — even if you can defend those stats now — will look even better for Energy Star appliances in the not so distant future.

    Best wishes,

    Kevin McDonald
    Mpls, MN

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for your comment! I should’ve included more detailed citations, you’re right. I used the Energy Star website’s Refrigerator Savings Calculator (see

      I tend to stick to Energy Star’s official numbers, though I’d be willing to share information from other sources for the interest of readers. I’m sure that some are faster…they probably use a different set of variables. I say, play around with the numbers in the calculator and see what you get. I stuck to the defaults.

      The next generation of Energy Star refrigerators will be 30% more efficient than today’s federal standards, versus the current 20% improvement. So I know you’re correct in your last statement.

      Thanks for pointing out my omissions.

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