Adventures in fridge-freezer buying II

  • By Stewart Muir
  • Published 26 days ago

Last week we looked at American-style fridge freezers and their much higher energy consumption and running costs, both in relative and absolute terms when compared to a ‘standard’ upright fridge-freezer. The data set produced confirmed that it’s very important to look at the Annual Energy Consumption, as well as the Energy Rating, when you’re buying an appliance.

This week we’re down at the lower end of the size spectrum looking at the current state of the market for smaller fridge freezers. With food waste concerns in the spotlight recently, how low should you go in terms of volume? What is the best choice for people who live alone, or in flats with limited space?

The smallest upright fridge freezer currently featured on Topten is a 296 litre model, standing 189 cm tall and 60cm wide. According to AO.com, this is approximately equivalent to 15 bags of shopping. Living in a 2-person household, I could certainly cope with less volume to ensure I don’t forget about food that might go off and need chucking – and I can’t even remember the last time I lugged 15 bags of shopping into the kitchen. Apparently, the big weekly shop is a thing of the past anyway, as we avoid the queues to shop online or nip out to the convenience store.

Plus, my space situation is limited – saving a few centimetres of width means I can still shove the ironing board down the side of the fridge, and anything too high would mean I lost valuable cookbook and cereal storage space on the shelf above. So what should you look for if you need something a bit smaller?

We collected declared energy performance data on smaller fridge-freezers currently sold by UK retailers, all with a total volume of under 250 litres, with the smallest coming in at 120. As it turns out, there are not so many in this size bracket, and we were only able to sample 33 unique models this time. A fridge-freezer of this size might be a secondary one for some people, but if you’re squeezed into a city micro-apartment, perhaps this is your main one.

Again, we compared the volume and annual energy consumption to the current list of Topten fridge-freezers. Here’s what we found:

Similar to the American-style fridges, most of these less ‘standard-size’ appliances achieved the current minimum ecodesign rating of A+, with only one sampled achieving an A++ rating.

The Topten models, whilst being more energy-efficient, also turned out to be more ‘energy sufficient’. For the greater volume, double in some cases, energy use of the Topten models was significantly lower.

The market trend is interesting again here. The Topten models are all rated at 180 kWh per year or lower with all bar one over 300 litres in size. Outside the popular size range, it appears that efficiency is harder to design in at the smaller scale, or that less attention is given to the less popular sizes by manufacturers – in reality the reason that none of the smaller models are super-efficient is likely some combination of both these reasons.

Ultimately then, at the current time, if space isn’t a factor and you’re keen to keep costs down, it appears you are actually better off with a slightly larger model from an energy point of view, as long as you choose an A+++ one.
Fridge-freezers under 250 litres may be fun to
stand next to and pretend you're a giant, but few
are currently achieving the top efficiency classes.

If you don’t have space for anything over 250 litres, there is a bit of spread in energy consumption values with around 70 kWh per year between some models of a similar size – this equates to around an extra tenner annually that could be worth factoring in if you’re considering full lifetime running costs. So it’s worth looking at a few and comparing the annual consumption – a lower purchase price might be false economy in the long run.

However, it would be nice to see more super high-efficiency fridge-freezers designed for smaller homes with fewer occupants – perhaps one for the upcoming review of fridge-freezer labelling regulations as part of the return to A-G.

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