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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

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!

What’s your favorite late night snack – that go-to treat that melts away the

troubles of the day as you curl up in front of the TV? Perhaps it’s a creamy bowl of

Rocky Road or maybe some delicious, spicy Szechuan chicken left over from a recent take-

out feast. Refrigerator-finds like these may make you feel bad about indulging in guilty

pleasures, but at least you don't have to feel bad about how high your energy bill

will be to cure your cravings. That’s because of innovative technology and meaningful

energy conservation standards put into place by the Office of Energy Efficiency and

Renewable Energy's Building Technologies Program.

In recent decades, the Energy Department has led technological innovation that vastly

improved the energy efficiency of our refrigerators and freezers (and thousands of other

household appliances). As a result, it’s a lot easier on your pocket and on the

environment to keep that ice cream at peak frosty perfection. In fact, today’s

refrigerators use only about 25 percent of the energy that was required to power models

built in 1975. Even while continually improving efficiency to meet standards,

refrigerators have increased in size by almost 20 percent, have added energy-using

features such as through-the-door ice, and provide more benefits than ever before.

Refrigerators today can be customized to fit consumer needs with touch-screen displays,

glass doors, or even a beer tap.

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


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


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.

The second refrigerator can be a homey holdover or the latest model. And, for many,

it can be aspirational. It may fulfill a yen for storage space. For others, its contents

may function as edible insurance policies during lean years. And there are countless

other reasons for a second fridge: frequent entertaining; storing kimchi or other

specialties that take time to age; a tendency toward hoarding; or simply the cost of

getting rid of a refrigerator.

But class and context matter in the world of multiple fridges, or for that matter,

freezers. (Statisticians at the Energy Information Administration call those chest or

stand-alone appliances “deer freezers” because of their popularity among Midwestern


Newer models have made owning a second refrigerator easier on the pocketbook. Once,

refrigerators routinely used more than 10 percent of a household’s total power, which

prompted old-fridge disposal or buybacks around the country during previous blackouts and

energy crises, said William McNary, a research statistician for the agency. “Now it’s

nowhere near that,” he said. Modern EnergyStar-rated models can cost as little as 10

cents a day to operate.

Despite once-valid concerns about a nation of power-sucking surplus refrigerators,

Mr. McNary knows they’re not going away — even in his own family. His in-laws keep an

avocado-colored refrigerator from the 1970s in their basement.

“I go down there, and it’s got three beers and six ginger ales in it,” he said. “

My mother-in-law complains every year at Thanksgiving and holidays that our fridge isn’t

big enough” to store sides or uneaten turkey.

Ms. Reilly remembers an Italian-American friend whose family removed shelves from an

extra fridge to hang homemade sausages.

Jonathan Ammons, a food writer in Asheville, N.C., contends that refrigerators

transmit culture as much as they chill food. “I am a third-generation multiple fridge-

freezer kid,” he said. “It is as deep a part of my culinary heritage as candied yams

and sugar beets.”

He currently owns one refrigerator and one stand freezer, packed this time of year

with discounted whole ducks and broth.

Mr. Ammons’s parents have three refrigerators, including one that he stocks with

prepared meals for his mother, who is ill and bedridden. He traces the family’s desire

to have more than one refrigerator to his grandmother’s traditions and preservation

practices, common in Appalachia.

“Her house in Bakersville had the smokehouse out back and the canning shed,” he

said. “And they had smoked meat. When the freezer came, it became an irreplaceable

thing, an ingrained thing with my grandmother, that if you have a freezer, you can

preserve things.

“I see that as an aspect of Appalachian culture: preserving the things you love and

prioritizing it — and growing enough of it that you can stay there through the hard


While conventional wisdom suggests that the more mouths there are to feed, the more

refrigerators, the statistics don’t bear that out. U.S. households with only two

occupants lead in two-fridge ownership.

People of color also have second refrigerators in disproportionately high rates.

Nearly 20 percent of Black Americans have them, as do 22 percent of Latinos and 23

percent of Asian-Americans. One-third of Native American respondents in the Energy

Information Administration’s last major survey of residential energy consumption,

completed five years ago, reported having more than one

stand up back front sliding door refrigerator.

That last figure gave Farina King some pause. She’s a citizen of the Navajo Nation

and a history professor in Tahlequah, Okla. While her parents, Phillip and JoAnn Smith,

have two refrigerators at their home in Utah, they use the second to feed patients, who

travel long distances to her father’s medical clinic, as well as friends and

missionaries in their church community.

Dr. King knows that second refrigerators are rare in the Navajo Nation, which

stretches across three states but has only about a dozen full-service grocery stores.

Some people, particularly those in urban or semirural areas, may have two fridges, but

the dominant reality is quite different.

“Many Navajos on the reservation actually do not have access to the space and

electricity” for even a first multi-deck display refrigerator, she said.