SAY YOU GO SHOPPING for a new refrigerator, and you’re on a budget. The best buy is the fridge with the lowest price, right? Not necessarily. If you buy the lowest-priced refrigerator, you might end up spending more than if you bought a more expensive one. How? The true cost of owning a home appliance has three components: the initial purchase price, costs of repairs and maintenance, and operation costs.

To figure out how much you’ll spend over the lifetime of the appliance, you must look at all these factors. The appliance with the lowest initial purchase price—or even the one with the best reliability record— isn’t necessarily the one that costs the least to operate over time.

Refrigerators with the same capacity can vary in the amount of electricity they use. For one popular size and configuration, annual electricity consumption can vary by as much as 400 kilowatt-hours over the course of a year. Some may use as little as 400 kWh per year, and others may use up to 800 kWh. Based on national average electricity prices, that means the annual cost to operate this size and configuration of refrigerator can range from about $30 to $70.

A $40 difference in annual operating costs might not sound like much, but remember, you will enjoy these savings year-after-year for the life of the appliance. However, you only save the difference in purchase price once. As a result, you may save money in the long run by buying the more expensive and energy-efficient model.

You can learn about the energy efficiency of an appliance by reading the yellow-and-black EnergyGuide label. The Federal Trade Commission’s Appliance Labeling Rule requires manufacturers to put these labels on refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers, water heaters, furnaces, central and room air conditioners, heat pumps, and pool heaters.

Some appliances may also feature the ENERGY STAR logo, which means the appliance is significantly more energy efficient than the average model. To compare how updating appliances and making other changes around your home can affect your electric bill, visit

To be sure you’re buying the right appliance:

  1. Read the EnergyGuide label.
  2. Compare the energy use of competing models.
  3. Estimate the difference in energy costs.
  4. Consider both purchase price and estimated energy use when deciding which to buy.


Save on your Electric bill and Request our Farmers EC Home Energy Efficiency Guide in the Efficiency hub.