The real cost of running your fridge

If you’re currently suffering from bill shock and can’t figure out the reason for your high power bill, it may be time to refigure your refrigerator situation. Fridges are typically in the top three energy-sucking appliances in the home, right behind your clothes dryer and air conditioner. Fridges are a harder nut to crack than these other two though – you can easily just refrain from using your dryer or air conditioner, but that’s a bit harder for a fridge. So, how do you keep your cool while your fridge keeps your food and beverages cold?

How much does a fridge cost to run?

A typical fridge of about 400-500 litres can use around 495kWh of electricity each year, which equates to a cost of about $163.35, based on an energy usage rate 33c/kWh. Energy usage rates vary across the country, but typically around 13 per cent of your energy bill is likely to be attributed to running your fridge. Of course this is unavoidable as fridges must be run 24 hours per day to keep food fresh. But if you’re running two or more fridges, the potential savings start to become obvious.

Let’s refer to the table below, so you can get a glimpse as to how much energy your fridge uses based on its size (i.e. litre capacity):

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 410 $135.30
300-399 litres 490 $161.70
400-499 litres 495 $163.35
500-599 litres 738 $243.54
600-699 litres 1356 $447.48

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

About three quarters of Australians have just one fridge, but undoubtedly what it costs to run their fridges is going to differ wildly. Here are some of the factors that determine how much your fridge is going to cost to run:

Size and type of fridge

As you can see from the table above, having a larger fridge will equal bigger electricity bills! You’ll have to consider whether you really need such a large unit, especially if you’re living in a small household of just two or three people. You might find it viable to downsize.

Another variable is the type of fridge you have. With new-fangled technology such as ‘smart’ capabilities, LED/LCD screens, ice makers and advanced, intuitive functions, fridges of this nature can run up your power bill significantly. Take for example the Liebherr 585L French Door integrated fridge – besides its high-end purchase price of over $12,000. It has a suite of intuitive technology, but also uses 517kWh a year, which can equate to $170 in electricity. With other appliances, more expensive usually equals more economical to run. In the fridge world, more expensive often unfortunately means more features, more capacity and higher power consumption.

Shop fridges with some of our referral partners^

Energy star rating


The most obvious indicator of a fridge’s energy efficiency is its energy star rating, planted in the top right hand corner of every new fridge. Every new fridge is required to meet a minimum energy rating, and this has resulted in fridges becoming 70 per cent more economical in the last 30 years. Take for example the Electrolux 540L top-mount fridge. It boasts a five-star energy rating, which makes it a class leader. This equates to 282kWh a year, which can then equate to $93.06 to run, based on a usage rate of 33c/kWh.

This makes it a serious performer when compared with the typical energy consumption figures in the table above. The Electrolux costs less than half of what a typical fridge in its size range costs to run.  More energy stars also typically means a higher initial purchase price. The Electrolux is over $1,700, which doesn’t make it a cheap unit when you consider some other fridges in its size range are under $1,000.

Where your fridge is positioned and what’s inside

Positioning your fridge in an ideal location ensures that it performs in top condition. Placing it in a hot or cramped space can subsequently make the fridge work harder to retain its low temperature. When buying a new fridge, measure up the size of the recess where it’ll live – you’ll want ample room in the sides and in the back to ensure the fridge doesn’t overheat. Like any good-fitting suit, you don’t want your fridge to be feeling too tight or too loose in its new home.

Likewise, the amount of food in your fridge can also affect how efficiently it runs. Believe it or not, having more food in your fridge equates to more efficient cooling. Once foods are cooled down, they require less energy to keep cool than empty space in the fridge, so it makes sense to have your fridge stocked.

Not only is it a good feeling to have a full fridge, it can also be beneficial for your electricity bill! By the same token, however, placing hot food in the fridge can also result in the fridge working harder to keep a consistent temperature. Where it’s safe to do so, let food cool slightly before putting it in the fridge. Meats like chicken you don’t want to take the risk with, though!

Bar Fridges and Mini Fridges: How much do they cost to run?

Smeg bar fridge

At the higher end, let’s use the Smeg “FAB5RBKA” 42L bar fridge as an example (pictured). 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 on your energy bill.

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. It uses 336kWh annually. At the rate of 33c/kWh, this fridge would cost $110.88 to run per year. Eliminating a fridge like this from your household could save you up to $27.72 per quarter!

Having a second fridge can sure be handy for parties and the wine enthusiast, but despite being small, bar and wine refrigerators can use up massive amounts of energy relative to their size.

What can I do to keep fridge energy costs down?

Despite the doom and gloom you may be feeling about the energy use of your fridge, there are several easy methods you can use to keep the cost of your fridge down, which are:

  • 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. Eliminating a bar fridge could save you $100 off your electricity bill annually!

Running a fridge is pretty much a given cost burden for every household across Australia. Typically, you can expect your fridge to cost you anywhere from around $100 up to and over $400 to run. Choosing the right fridge for you is especially important here, and there are energy-efficient models that are well worth looking into. Apart from that there are several, fairly straightforward methods you can employ to reign in the costs of running your fridge. Overall, running a fridge is an inevitable cost for pretty much all of us – though using a few of these thoughtful tips will hopefully ease the burden of paying for your fridge’s energy use every quarter.

Compare Electricity Providers

Share this article