Is Your Refrigerator Burning Too Much Coal?
by David Fessler, Investment U Senior Analyst
Refrigerators run nearly all the time. Units produced in 2009 consume about 450 kilowatt-hours per year or about 5 percent of the average household's annual energy usage, like leaving 11 40-watt incandescents on all the time.
My parents, who are in their late 80s, have an old Crosley in their basement that was made just after World War II. It's still chugging along, but they refuse to part with it.
There are still a lot of older units out there.
Residential energy surveys conducted in 2005 and 2009 indicate that households are holding onto their refrigerators longer, and not replacing them with newer units. Fully 30 percent of all units still in use are from 1990 or older.
Sales of new refrigerators peaked around 2005 and then plummeted along with the housing market before rebounding slightly in 2010.
According to Appliance Magazine, over 90 percent of new refrigerators are purchased to replace existing units, an expense that strapped homeowners aren't willing to undertake. (If it's not broke, don't fix it.)
Whirlpool Corporation (NYSE: WHR) stock is down over 40 percent since the beginning of the year.
I believe most of our members can read much faster than the average person.
Here's some anecdotal information bearing on the subject. With a 1992 refrigerator and using a device to measure actual energy used, the measured consumption is 1,672 kwh/yr. At $0.11/kwh that is $183.96/year. Two unrelated appliance repair businesses said that new refrigerators do not last as long as older ones and repairs are more costly. Both said replace yours when it stops working.
If (a very big 'if') a new refrigerator did cut consumption in half, the saving would be $92/yr and would require 10 years to recoup, so there's little incentive for people to discard perfectly good refrigerators for expensive and shorter-lived new ones.
Keep that vintage Crosley fridge running by keeping its coils clean and making sure the rubber seals are tight by trying to pull a dollar bill past them. New rubber seals are inexpensive, should they be needed.