The real cost of running your fridge

Refrigerators are the second largest energy-using appliance in a typical Australian home, right after the air conditioner. Around 13% of your average electricity bill can be attributed to your fridge. So how can you reduce the cost of keeping your food and drink chilled? The first step is to understand fridge running costs.

You can always just not use your air conditioner in a bid to save on power bills, but that’s much harder to do when it comes to your fridge – unless you like the smell of sour milk in the morning.

About three quarters of Australians have only the one fridge, with the remaining quarter having two, three or even more. Styles and sizes of fridge are heavily variable between households, but the traditional model with a freezer on the top and fridge below is still one of the most popular, cheap and energy efficient. Side by side and French door models are typically bigger and come with more features, but are also more expensive to buy and consume more electricity over time.

The biggest contributing factor to how much energy a refrigerator uses is its capacity (in litres). As a general guide to fridge running costs, the following table shows various fridge sizes and annual electricity costs to keep them running.

How much does it cost to run a fridge?

Fridge Size Typical annual energy consumption (kWh) Running cost per year
100-199 litres 358  $118.14
200-299 litres


300-399 litres


400-499 litres


500-599 litres


600-699 litres



Source: South Australian Government. Costs based on electricity price of 33c/kWh.

Do you really need a second fridge?

Having a second fridge can sure be handy for parties, but despite being small, bar and wine refrigerators can use up massive amounts of energy relative to their size. At the higher end, let’s use the Smeg “FAB5RBKA” 42L bar fridge as an example. Using the cost of 33c/kWh, and the fridge’s annual energy consumption of 313kWh, the total cost of running this fridge would be $103.29 per year! By simply eliminating the need for this fridge, this could save you $25.82 per quarter.

Wine fridges are often even worse culprits of excessive energy use. Due to the need of keeping the wine at high humidity levels at a warmer temperature to maintain taste, wine fridges can make your bill soar. Let’s use the Delonghi “DEWC46D” Dual Zone Wine Cabinet as an example, which uses 336kWh annually. At the rate of 33c/kWh, this fridge could cost $110.88 to run per year. Eliminating a fridge like this from your household could save you up to $27.72 per quarter!

Top tips for keeping fridge costs down

  • Adjust the temperature settings to strike a balance between economy and keeping food fresh and bacteria-free: this is usually 4°C for the main compartment, 0°C for the crisper and -18°C for the freezer.
  • Open the door only briefly and avoid long periods with the door ajar. Know what’s in your fridge and think about what you want before opening the door.
  • Reconsider your need for a bar fridge: pick an energy-efficient model if possible.

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