National Consumer News

Why a second fridge is a bad choice for your home


By Clark Howard

There could be a monster sitting in your basement eating money out of your wallet while you think it’s saving you money.

Nearly 1 in 3 of us have a second refrigerator in our homes, according to The Washington Post. When we buy a new fridge, we often take the old one and put it in the garage or the basement instead of ditching the thing. A lot of us think, “Hey, now we can buy more frozen foods when on sale.”

It turns out that’s the wrong move!

A second fridge is a money-eating monster

The reality is older fridges consume massive amounts of electricity. The cost of running a new fridge is next to nothing; older ones, though, can be hundreds of bucks a year to run.

Just look at the ugly yellow Energy Guide tag (see below) in a new fridge the next time you’re at an appliance store if you don’t believe what I’m saying.

In truth, that money you think you’re saving buying food on sale, you’re actually spending on your electric bill! Even worse, if  you stick that fridge in the garage, the lack of insulation may end up making that fridge work harder just to keep the contents cold.

When I found out about this 4 years ago, we got rid of that garage fridge. If you do so too, you will see that your electric bill goes down.

If you really need a second fridge in your home, you’re better off just buying a second new fridge than to keep running the old one. A good no frills second fridge can be purchased for $300 to $400. You’ll make that money back in electricity in a couple of years and from that point forward, all you do is save money.

Shop by looking at the ugly yellow Energy Guide

If you’re skeptical of the Energy Star program because of some past blunders, how should you as a consumer be making the best choice when you buy an appliance?

Look at the actual cost of energy consumption, which is usually indicated on a yellow-and-white tag either on the front of or inside the appliance (aka the Energy Guide).

This is a continuum scale that will show how the model you’re looking at will perform relative to other models. Look at estimated yearly operating costs and there will be range from the least to most efficient. See where your unit ranks before you buy.

Remember, it’s not just the purchase price that matters, but the cost of energy or other resources (such as water) that it will consume over time.

Image below courtesy of

Fridges in particular are now being manufactured to meet higher energy standards. That’s expected to drive up the price by about $30 to $40, which is really nothing when you’re talking about the price of a fridge.

Best of all, the new energy standards mean the average fridge will save about $200 in electricity over its lifetime, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

But again, don’t get hung up next time you’re buying a fridge about the new vs. old energy standards. Just look at that yellow label to make a Clark Smart shopping decision!

My appliance purchase choices

I recently had to buy a new washer. So I simply looked at how much it would cost to run per year. I wound up willingly paying $180 more for a unit than I would if I’d purchased a similar model that ate more energy. But I know I’ll be making that money up (and more) over the lifetime of the washer.

About 10 years ago, I bought a new fridge for one of my rental properties. Of course, it goes without saying that I’m probably the only Looney Tune who worries about what energy will cost my tenant! But that’s just the kind of guy I am. I wound up buying a fridge that was not Energy Star certified because it had lower energy consumption than one with the Energy Star logo.

Remember, with any appliance, just open the door and look for that white-and-yellow tag that tells how much it costs to operate per year. Forget about the cutesy little blue Energy Star logo!

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