The Most Energy Efficient Refrigerators, 2012 Edition

by Nicola Temple on April 11, 2012

I’m following in the blog’s footsteps this year and listing the most energy efficient refrigerators available in 2012. So, if you’re considering a new fridge, read on.

If you’re not sure whether you need a new fridge, you might need to do some energy calculations to determine whether a new efficient fridge will save you money.

If your fridge dates back prior to 1993, chances are a new model will cost you about half as much energy to run… so recycle it!

If your fridge was manufactured between 1993 and 1999, you might consider replacing it with a more efficient model if your electricity rates are higher than the national average, if it’s an inefficient side-by-side (they use 25% more energy), your fridge capacity no longer meets your needs (it’s either too big or too small), or if it’s in need of repair.

I’ve listed the fridges under different types: top freezer, bottom freezer, side-by-side and based on some feedback from last year’s list, a new category featuring those with ice-makers.

I’ve used the same criteria as last year:

  • The refrigerator meets Energy Star requirements.
  • It is a full sized refrigerator and freezer combination, which is defined as 16 cubic feet or greater, with two separate compartments (no fridge-only, freezer-only, single-door, or compact models).
  • The refrigerators listed use the lowest number of kWh/yr for their particular type and capacity.
  • The refrigerator must be commonly available at the usual retail outlets. In order to maximize the chances of that, I included only models that were made available after January 2011 AND that are listed as currently active by Energy Star. I also included only the best-known brands (GE, Kenmore, etc.) since the vast majority of people will be looking for one of these brands.

I’ve made a slight change from last year in that instead of listing the top three efficient models in each category, I’ve listed the most energy efficient popular brands and models with small, mid-, and large capacities. The smallest capacity fridges will always be the most energy efficient, but sometimes bigger households simply need a bit more capacity, so I wanted to include some choices based on your needs.

most energy efficient refrigerator

The GE GTH17DBCBB is one of the most energy efficient refrigerator models on the market for 2012.


Top freezer models are the most efficient as a category by far.

Small capacity:  The leaders in this group have an annual energy use of 300 kWh/year and a capacity of 16.5 cubic feet.



  • HTH17BBC****
  • HTH17BCC****
  • HTH17CBC****
  • HTH17GBC****
  • HTJ17CBC****
  • HTN17BBC****

 Mid-capacity: Leaders with slightly more capacity are about 18.1 cubic feet and have an annual energy use of 311 kWh/year.


  • GTH18EBC****
  • GTH18ECC****
  • GTH18FBC****
  • GTH18HBC****
  • GTH18HCC****
  • GTJ18HCC****
  • GTT18HBC****
  • GTH18HCC****
  • GTJ18HCC****
  • GTT18HBC****
  • GTH18ABC****
  • GTH18CBC****
  • GTH18CCC****
  • GTN18BBC****
  • GTT18BBC****


Hotpoint HTH18GBC****

Large capacity: Kenmore 6216*11* and 7216*11* comes in at the top of the large capacity top-freezer models at a 20.65 cu ft capacity and annual energy use of 361 kWh/year.


Bottom freezer models are generally less efficient than top freezer models.

Small capacity: The leaders in this category are the Bosch B30BB830SS and three models by Thermador T30BB810SS, T30BB820SS, and T30IBB800SP. Each of these models are 16 cubic feet in capacity with automatic defrost and an annual energy use of 388 kWh/year.

Mid-capacity: With a slightly larger capacity at around 20 cubic feet, the most energy efficient models are:

  • LG LFC21776** – 20.7 cu ft, 400 kWh/year
  • KitchenAid KFFS20EY** – 19.55 cu ft, 425 kWh/year
  • Maytag MFF2055YE*0*, MFW2055YE*0*, and MFB2055YE*0* – 19.55-19.62 cu ft, 425 kWh/year
  • Whirlpool WRF560SEY*0*, WRF560SFY*0* and WRF560SMY*0* – 19.55-19.62 cu ft, 425 kWh/year

Large-capacity: The most energy efficient bottom freezer refrigerators around 25 cubic feet are:

  • LG LFC25776** – 25 cu ft, 416 kWh/year
  • Samsung RF263HE** – 25.84 cu ft, 415 kWh/year
  • Samsung RF267HE** – 25.79 cu ft, 422 kWh/year


Side-by-side models generally offer a lot more capacity, but at the cost of efficiency. They use about 25% more energy than top or bottom freezer styles.

Small capacity: The most efficient side-by-side fridge with the smallest capacity is a series of models by GE – GSH22JGC****, GSH22JSC****, and GSL22JGC**** all have a 22.1 cu ft capacity and an annual energy use of 438 kWh/year.

Mid-capacity: The mid-capacity category is a bit more vague with this style of fridge. However, GE comes out on top again with a series of models that have a 25.25 cu ft capacity and an annual energy use of 469 kWh/year. They are GSF25JGC****, GSH25GGC****, GSH25JGC****, GSH25JSC****, and GSL25JGC****.

Large-capacity: The Electrolux EI26SS30J* is the winner here at 25.95 cu ft and energy consumption of 509 kWh/year. However, close behind are two models with 26.4 cu ft and an annual energy use of 514 kWh/year: KitchenAid KSF26C4XY*0* and Maytag MSB26C4XY*0*.


If having through-the-door ice service is a make or break feature, then here are the most energy efficient refrigerators with this feature. Top freezer style fridges don`t come with this option.

Bottom freezer style: LG LFX21976** and LSFS213** – 20.5 cu ft, 461 kWh/year.

Side-by-side style: Again, it’s the small capacity side-by-side series by GE that I’ve listed above: GSH22JGC****, GSH22JSC****, and GSL22JGC****  - 22.1 cu ft, 438 kWh/year.

That sums up the most energy efficient refrigerators for 2012 – happy fridge hunting!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Loren Amelang May 31, 2012 at 6:36 pm

As you show above, the current Energy Star refrigerator list has several models like
GE GTH17BBC**** Top Freezer Automatic No No 17 19 300 463 35% 3/24/2011
from GE, Hotpoint, and other brands, that seem impossibly efficient. They are reported to use less power than my 10cf Summit which I chose for its low power consumption.

The Energy Star list shows all these 17cf models at 300 kWh, and the similar 18cf models at 311 kWh. But on the GE site they show the yellow label for the current production GTH17 which says 370 kWh. I’d believe 370, but I’m afraid 300 for a 17cf fridge would require magic!

Digging more deeply, GE shows 300 kWh for the “BC” models, which are “no longer manufactured”. For the current “BD” models, they show 370, like the listings for those models farther down the Energy Star list.

So were there really 17cf models at 300 kWh? If so, buyers need to study every letter in the model number, because the current production clearly uses 370 kWh. Was the 300 value completely in error, or do I want to look for one of those obsolete models?

I’ve asked the Energy Star people…


Ludlow Bushmatt July 2, 2012 at 1:25 am

Hmmm… I just went through the process of shopping for a large capacity top freezer. Good luck finding the supposedly ‘commonly available’ Kenmore 6216*11* and 7216*11*. I only found Kenmore models 6215 and 7215 – with annual energy use of 410 kWh/year (vs 361 kWh reported for 6216/7216)

I ended up purchasing the 21.1 cu ft Whirlpool WRT351SFYx – annual energy use of 364kWh. One of the very few large capacity top freezer models with a CEE Tier III rating I was able to find. And it truly is commonly available because I was able to get quotes from a half dozen retailers within 25 miles of my home and ultimately have a unit delivered the next day.


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