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Refrigerators

Now here's a cool idea: a metal box that helps your food last longer! Have you ever stopped to think how a refrigerator keeps cool, calm, and collected even in the blistering heat of summer? Food goes bad because bacteria breed inside it. But bacteria grow less quickly at lower temperatures, so the cooler you can keep food, the longer it will last. A food meat refrigerator is a machine that keeps food cool with some very clever science. All the time your refrigerator is humming away, liquids are turning into gases, water is turning into ice, and your food is staying deliciously fresh. Let's take a closer look at how a refrigerator works!

The dramatic rise in efficiency began in response to the oil and energy crises of the 1970s when refrigerators typically cost about $1,300 when adjusted for inflation, a hefty price to pay for an energy waster. Refrigeration labels and standards have improved efficiency by two percent per year since 1975. Due to research, useful tools, partnerships with utilities and other organizations, and market initiatives that helped enable top open air curtain refrigerator and other appliance standards, the Energy Department has helped avoid the construction of up to 31 1-GW power plants with the energy saved since the first Federal standards in 1987. That’s the same amount of electricity consumed by Spain annually.

The Department will soon have strengthened the standards for household refrigerators three times. Each time, manufacturers have responded with new innovations that enabled their products to meet the new requirements and often to exceed them. Refrigerators that performed above and beyond the minimum standards qualified for the ENERGY STAR label, motivated consumers to care about energy usage, and primed the market for continued efficiency improvements.

Decades worth of progressive energy-efficiency standards for refrigerators have translated into big savings for consumers. Compared to refrigerators of the 1970s, today's refrigerators save the nation about $20 billion per year in energy costs, or $150 per year for the average American family.

The next proposed increase in refrigerator and freezer efficiency -- scheduled to take effect in 2014 -- will save the nation almost four and a half quadrillion BTUs over 30 years. That’s three times more than the total energy currently used by all refrigeration products in U.S. homes annually. It’s also the equivalent amount of energy savings that could be used to power a third of Africa for an entire year

The Energy Department is continuing to invest even more in future innovations for energy efficient products. So go ahead and indulge with those late night snacks and frozen treats. Your fridge has you covered.

To learn more about Appliance Standards and how they save consumers money go to the Building Technologies Program website.

In this position, Roland Risser was responsible for leading all of EERE's applied research, development and demonstration for renewable energy, including geothermal, solar, and wind and water power.In this position, Roland Risser was responsible for leading all of EERE's applied research, development and demonstration for renewable energy, including geothermal, solar, and wind and water power.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The beige-and-brown General Electric top open glass door refrigerator, circa 1982, whirs in a dark corner of Doris and Anthony Vincent’s basement.

Mrs. Vincent, a 70-year-old churchgoer and longtime community volunteer, can date its purchase with precision. In her home here, appliances mark milestones. And that nearly 40-year-old model — one of three refrigerators she owns — tells a story of her re-entry into the work force after having a daughter.

She spent much of her first paychecks from her job as a counselor at Bennett College on the refrigerator-freezer combo, with the external ice dispenser and other bells and whistles of its era. “I’d been a stay-at-home mother, you know,” she said.

When the couple built their 5,000-square-foot home in 1992, the G.E. went to the basement, to make room for a stainless steel upgrade that holds last night’s dinner and the morning’s juice.

But the second refrigerator is no afterthought appliance. It occupies pride of place in many American homes — often because, Mr. Vincent said, yesteryear’s fridges were built to last. That didn’t stop the couple, however, from buying a third model for the basement apartment they keep for guests.

Around 35 million U.S. households have two refrigerators, and the Vincents are among the six million households that report owning more than two refrigerators, whether full- or dorm-size units, according to the Energy Information Administration, a federal agency that tracks appliance ownership. That number has climbed from 14 percent of all homes in 1978, when the agency first started surveying Americans, to 30 percent in 2015. About 27 percent of today’s urban homes and almost 40 percent of rural ones have at least two refrigerators.

Those numbers will likely change again as the pandemic continues and with the average 10-year life span of newer refrigerators. When stand-alone freezers sold out in stores nationwide in the spring of 2020, months of back orders set off a buying spree on refrigerators. In April, Consumer Reports urged those who couldn’t find a freezer to consider a second upright back sliding door refrigerator instead.

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