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A top-freezer refrigerator that has earned the ENERGY STAR label uses less energy than a 60-watt light bulb.

The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides acquisition guidance for residential refrigerators, a product category covered by ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements. Federal laws and requirements mandate that agencies purchase ENERGY STAR-qualified products or FEMP-designated products in all product categories covered by these programs and in any acquisition actions that are not specifically exempted by law.

FEMP's acquisition guidance and associated ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements for residential refrigerators are technology neutral, meaning that one technology is not favored over another. However, ENERGY STAR's product specification requirements are limited to electric refrigerator and refrigerator/freezers; compact refrigerators and refrigerator/freezers; and built-in refrigerators and refrigerator/freezers. All other refrigerator products are excluded, including but not limited to commercial refrigerators and freezers, wine refrigerators, and products covered by other ENERGY STAR program requirements.

This acquisition guidance was updated in December 2021.

Find Product Efficiency Requirements

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides residential refrigerator efficiency levels and product specification information on its ENERGY STAR website. Manufacturers meeting these requirements are allowed to display the ENERGY STAR label on complying models. Get a list of ENERGY STAR-certified residential refrigerators.

Make a Cost-Effective Purchase: Save $56 or More by Buying Energy Star

FEMP has calculated that the required ENERGY STAR-certified residential refrigerator saves money if priced no more than $56 (in 2020 dollars) above the less efficient model. Table 1 compares two types of product purchases and calculates the lifetime cost savings of purchasing efficient models. Federal purchasers can assume products that meet ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective.

Table 1. Lifetime Savings for Efficient Refrigerator Models
Performance Best Available ENERGY STAR Less Efficient
Annual Energy Use (kWh) ===== 362 404
Annual Energy Cost ===== $31 $35
Lifetime Energy Cost ===== $484 $540
Lifetime Energy Cost Savings ===== $56 =====

View the Performance and Model Assumptions for Table 1

Performance Column

Annual Energy Use: Based on ENERGY STAR values and the test method referenced in 10 CFR 430, Subpart B, Appendix A for an 18.1-ft3 capacity, top-freezer type refrigerator with automatic defrost, listed in kilowatt-hours.

Annual Energy Cost: Calculated based on an assumed electricity price of $0.09/kWh, which is the average electricity price at federal facilities throughout the United States. Learn more about Federal Government Energy/Water Use and Emissions.

Lifetime Energy Cost: Calculated as the sum of the discounted value of the annual energy cost over the assumed product life of 16.2 years, from DOE's Technical Support Document, Energy Efficiency Standards for Consumer Products: Residential Refrigerators, Refrigerator-Freezers, and Freezers (EERE-2008-BT-STD-0012-0128). Future electricity price trends and a 3% discount rate are from Energy Price Indices and Discount Factors for Life-Cycle Cost Analysis–2021: Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135 (NISTIR 85-3273-36).

Lifetime Cost Savings: The difference between the lifetime energy cost of the less efficient model and the lifetime energy cost of the ENERGY STAR model or best available model.

Best Available Model Column

As of December 2021, no models in this product category exceeded the ENERGY STAR efficiency levels.

Energy Star Model Column

Calculated based on December 2021 ENERGY STAR efficiency levels; values shown are rounded to the nearest dollar. Federal agencies must purchase products that meet or exceed ENERGY STAR efficiency levels.

Less Efficient Model Column

Calculated based on typical products used in non-federal applications.

Determine When ENERGY STAR Products Are Cost-Effective

An efficient product is cost-effective when the lifetime energy savings (from avoided energy costs over the life of the product, discounted to present value) exceed the additional up-front cost (if any) compared to a less efficient option. ENERGY STAR considers up-front costs and lifetime energy savings when setting required efficiency levels. Federal purchasers can assume ENERGY STAR-qualified products and products that meet FEMP-designated efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective. In high-use applications or when energy rates are above the federal average, purchasers may save more if they specify products that exceed federal efficiency requirements (e.g., the best available model).

Claim an Exception to Federal Purchasing Requirements

Products meeting ENERGY STAR or FEMP-designated efficiency requirements may not be life cycle cost-effective in certain low-use applications or in locations with very low rates for electricity or natural gas. However, for most applications, purchasers will find that energy-efficient products have the lowest life cycle cost.

Agencies may claim an exception to federal purchasing requirements through a written finding that no FEMP-designated or ENERGY STAR-qualified product is available to meet functional requirements, or that no such product is life cycle cost-effective for the specific application. Learn more about federal product purchasing requirements.

Incorporate Federal Acquisition Regulation Language in Contracts

These mandatory requirements apply to all forms of procurement, including construction guide and project specifications; renovation, repair, energy service, and operation and maintenance (O&M) contracts; lease agreements; acquisitions made using purchase cards; and solicitations for offers. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 23.206 requires agencies to insert the clause at FAR section 52.223-15 into contracts and solicitations that deliver, acquire, furnish, or specify energy-consuming products for use in federal government facilities. To comply with FAR requirements, FEMP recommends that agencies incorporate efficiency requirements into technical specifications, the evaluation criteria of solicitations, and the evaluations of solicitation responses.

Find Federal Supply Sources

The federal supply sources for energy-efficient products are the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). GSA sells products through its Multiple Awards Schedules program and online shopping network, GSA Advantage!. DLA offers products through the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia and online through FedMall (formerly DOD EMALL). Products sold through DLA are codified with a 13-digit National Stock Number (NSN) and, in some cases, a two-letter Environmental Attribute Code (ENAC). The ENAC identifies items that have positive environmental characteristics and meet standards set by an approved third party, such as FEMP and ENERGY STAR.

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a worldwide classification system for e-commerce. It contains more than 50,000 commodities, including many used in the federal sector, each with a unique eight-digit, four-level identification code. Manufacturers and vendors are beginning to adopt the UNSPSC classification convention and electronic procurement systems are beginning to include UNSPSC tracking in their software packages. UNSPSCs can help the federal acquisition community identify product categories covered by sustainable acquisition requirements, track purchases of products within those categories, and report on progress toward meeting sustainable acquisition goals. FEMP has developed a table of ENERGY STAR and FEMP-designated covered product categories and related UNSPSC numbers.

Residential Refrigerator Schedules and Product Codes

The DLA ENAC for residential refrigerator models is "LK".

The UNSPSC for domestic refrigerators is 52141501 and for domestic combination refrigerator-freezers is 52141509.

Buyer Tips: Make Informed Product Purchases

Select refrigerators that are an appropriate size for the number of people and level of use. Oversized refrigerators will increase purchase costs and waste energy. Because side-by-side refrigerator-freezers and products with through-the-door ice typically use more energy than other models, federal buyers should avoid these features.

Residential refrigerators were one of the product categories included in EPA's ENERGY STAR Most Efficient 2016 program. EPA uses this new distinction to recognize products that deliver cutting edge energy efficiency along with the latest technical innovation. Several bottom-freezer type refrigerators earned this award, which represents the best of ENERGY STAR.

Some utilities offer rebates or other incentives for the purchase of ENERGY STAR-qualified products. Use the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder to see if your local utility offers these incentives.

User Tips: Use Products More Efficiently

Set the temperature in the refrigerator compartment between 36° Fahrenheit (F) and 40°F. Temperatures below this will unnecessarily increase energy use while providing no additional benefit to food storage. Temperatures above 40°F increase the chances for food spoilage.

Set the temperature in the freezer compartment between -5°F and 0°F. Be careful not to set the temperature above this because doing so will shorten the time food items can be stored. Because few residential refrigerators display this information, use an inexpensive appliance thermometer to monitor the interior temperatures and adjust the settings as necessary.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provided supporting analysis for this acquisition guidance.