Tests show errors in refrigerator efficiency ratings

February 4, 2010 6:06:01 PM PST
If you want that new appliance you're shopping for to be an energy saver, it may be tough to get what you want, at least as it pertains to refrigerators. Consumer Reports' tests show there are ongoing problems with the Energy Star program. Energy Guide labels are on all types of appliances. They tell you how much electricity an appliance uses, based on tests required by the government. Machines that do well qualify for an Energy Star. But can you rely on it? Not necessarily when you're shopping for a refrigerator, according to Consumer Reports.

"In our tests, refrigerators typically use about 20 percent more energy than it says on their yellow Energy Guide label," said Celia Kuperszmid-Lehrman of Consumer Reports. "That's because our tests are tougher, and we believe they better reflect how you'd actually use a refrigerator." And Consumer Reports' tests have found some French-door refrigerators are off by far more.

This GE made by Samsung used almost 40 percent more electricity than the number on its Guide would suggest. And Consumer Reports found this LG and this Sears Kenmore made by LG used about 50 percent more.

Consumer Reports says that the government's test procedures need to be better defined, so that manufacturers can't claim energy savings you are unlikely to see at home.

For example, Consumer Reports found those two refrigerators made by LG use significantly less energy only at the warmest settings required by the government tests.

"But you're not likely to use those settings, because your food's going to spoil faster. So you're not going to get the energy savings," said Kuperszmid-Lehrman.

But don't despair. Consumer Reports found plenty of refrigerators that pass tough tests with flying colors. A side-by-side will cost you more, but you can still get an energy-efficient machine. The Department of Energy just recently announced it has stripped 20 LG-made French-door refrigerators of their Energy Stars, including the two that had problems in Consumer Reports' tests.

While this action shows the government is addressing some of the issues with its Energy Star program, Consumer Reports says the government still needs to clarify test conditions.

On the web: consumerreports.org