How Much Energy Does a Mini Fridge Use?

How Much Energy Does a Mini Fridge Use?

When you only need a little bit of food cooling capacity — or when you only have a little space — a mini fridge can be a perfect fit. But just how much energy does a small refrigerator use?  

How Much Energy Does My Mini Fridge Use?

The tricky thing about estimating the energy consumption of a refrigerator is that even though the fridge is always “on,” it’s not always “running.” The compressor that keeps the refrigerator cool cycles on and off, and there are lots of factors that affect how often this happens. The temperature setting on the fridge, the amount of food inside, the frequency with which you open the door and even the temperature in the room can all make a refrigerator compressor run more or less often.

Fortunately, there’s also an easy piece to this puzzle: The EnergyGuide label.

Compact refrigerators are part of the federal EnergyGuide labeling program, which helps consumers understand the estimated energy consumption of major appliances. When shopping for refrigerators online or at retail, look for the bright yellow and black sticker that says “EnergyGuide” at the top.

There are two helpful numbers on the EnergyGuide label: the annual estimated energy cost and the annual estimated electricity use. The first number tells you approximately how much it will cost you to run the mini fridge for a year, assuming a kilowatt-hour (kWh) rate of 12 cents, which is the national average. The second number tells you approximately how many kWh the mini fridge will consume in a year, so if you know your exact kWh rate, you can multiply that rate by the kWh on the label for a more accurate estimate.

To find the EnergyGuide label for a mini fridge you already own, look for the same model with online retailers. It’s often posted with the product specifications. If you have an older model that is no longer for sale, check the manufacturer’s website or contact the manufacturer directly with your model number ready. Keep in mind that all refrigerators lose some efficiency over time, so if yours is very old, it may be consuming even more electricity than the label indicates.

Are Mini Fridges Expensive to Run?

If you take a few minutes to browse online for mini fridges and check out the EnergyGuide stickers on various models, you’ll see that the operating costs vary quite a bit. Most of the models on the smaller end, between one and five cubic feet, tend to fall between $20 and $40 per year in operating costs.

In addition to the little differences among brands and models, there are a couple of bigger reasons that account for this variance. The first is size — smaller refrigerators generally consume less energy, and larger ones generally consume more. The other big factor is whether or not a mini fridge has an automatic defrost feature. While convenient, this feature can add quite a bit to the energy load.

Annual operating costs of less than $40 are pretty affordable, but if you’re deciding between whether to use a mini fridge or a full-size fridge in a particular space, it’s worth comparing the operating costs. Full-size refrigerators tend to consume around twice as much energy as compact models, but they may have six to eight times as much cooling capacity. So while mini fridges are still cheaper to run, you’re paying more per cubic foot of cooling space.

Looking for a low-wattage mini fridge? Look for the ENERGY STAR label. Mini fridges that carry the label consume 10 percent less electricity or more than the federal energy efficiency standard.

And if you’re looking to save energy with the mini fridge you already own, try these tips:

  • If the fridge is completely empty, leave it unplugged.
  • Clean all vents and coils periodically to ensure proper airflow.
  • Do not store a mini fridge in an enclosed cabinet.
  • Keep the mini fridge away from external sources of heat, like an oven or HVAC vent.

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Josh Crank is a freelance writer with a background in legal journalism, travel writing and marketing. He's found his perfect fit in writing about home maintenance and repairs, energy efficiency, smart home technology and other topics to help readers make home life green and comfortable. Josh lives with his wife, two sons and endlessly howling beagle-basset hound mix in New Orleans.