Refrigerators are one of the more energy-hungry items in a household, so it’s no surprise that many manufacturers have made considerable effort to reduce energy consumption and improve performance. Even the more economical models tend to be pretty decent in terms of basic energy-efficiency, while higher-end models often have specific measures to conserve extra power as needed.
The thing is, energy efficiency isn’t the only measure by which to judge the eco-friendliness of a refrigerator. Unfortunately, most companies are not up front about the type of coolant they use, which, in the US, likely means they’re still using hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Some of the best options at first glance may, therefore, turn out to be bad for the environment.
So, to begin, we as conscious consumers should definitely take energy efficiency into account when selecting a new fridge, but we also want to know what type of coolant the manufacturer used.
- HFCs, CFCs, HCFCs in refrigerators
- Top pick – Liebherr Monolith MRB3000 30-Inch Built-In Panel Ready Refrigerator Column
- Runner up – Smeg 24-Inch 50s Style Refrigerator
- The best eco-friendly refrigerator brands
- Other models to consider for eco-friendly refrigerators
- Solar powered refrigerators
- Energy efficient refrigerators for the garage
HFCs, CFCs, HCFCs in refrigerators
Companies who do not use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), or HFCs tend to clearly advertise this fact. These companies include Bosch and GE. Indeed, GE were the first company to apply to the EPA for approval to use isobutane as a coolant instead of HCFCs or HFCs back in 2011. After approval, GE launched the first HFC-free refrigerator in the US, the built-in Monogram 30-inch ZIK30GNHII Refrigerator (View Price on Home Depot) with an optional glass door, with cyclopentane as the insulating foam. Miele’s refrigerators are also free from CFCs and HFCs, with the company instead using the same as Bosch and GE (isobutane and pentane).
These substances are easily processed when the time comes to recycle your appliance and are far more environmentally friendly than CFCs and HFCs. Also, all of GE’s appliances and components are labelled for recycling.
Despite GE’s achievement in getting EPA approval for isobutane, other manufacturers have mostly failed to follow suit. Isobutane has been widely used in household refrigerators in Europe and parts of Asia for several years, but HFCs and HCFCs remain redolent in US refrigerators. Of course, this should all start to change in 2019 as HCFCs and HFCs begin to be phased out, even in the US, especially as California has now banned HFCs entirely.
Top pick – Liebherr Monolith MRB3000 30-Inch Built-In Panel Ready Refrigerator Column
Liebherr, a German company, make HFC-free refrigerators that perform well and are one of my top picks at Leaf Score. They are one of only two companies to earn a Leaf Score of 5 for any refrigerator model (Smeg are the other). In 1993, Liebherr became the first manufacturer to convert their entire appliance range to HCFC/CFC-free refrigerants and Liebherr Appliances in North America was one of the first refrigeration manufacturers worldwide to be fully RoHS compliant by restricting the use of hazardous substances.
Liebherr also use environmentally-friendly powder coatings without using any solvents when finishing their sheet metals, and heat generated during manufacturing processes is recycled as heating energy for their offices and production sites. They also label the plastic components in products to ensure easy and optimum recycling, and all their production sites are certified to the international quality standard ISO 9001 and to the international environmental management standard ISO 14001. You can read my full review of the impressive Liebherr Monolith MRB3000 30-Inch Built-In Panel Ready Refrigerator Column or for shopping options, we have included an Amazon link (View Price on Amazon).
Runner up – Smeg 24-Inch 50s Style Refrigerator
Smeg are another excellent option for HFC-free refrigerators, and earn a Leaf Score of 5 for the Smeg 24-Inch 50’s Style Refrigerator, which is also very attractive (View Price on Amazon). The Italian company demonstrates an impressive commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship, in addition to offering energy-efficient appliances that are RoHS and REACH compliant.
The best eco-friendly refrigerator brands
While I cannot currently recommend most household names in large appliances, this will likely change in the next couple of years as companies make the switch to planet-friendly coolants.
For now, the companies I recommend most highly for eco-friendly refrigerators include:
Other models to consider for eco-friendly refrigerators
Along with GE, who also participate in the EPA’s RAD recycling program, Bosch are another excellent choice for an eco-friendly refrigerator as they use R600a (isobutane) and pentane in most of their fridges and freezers in addition to having an impressive environmental record and sustainability policies.
Bosch B11CB50SSS 24-inch refrigerator
One of my top choices at Leaf Score is the Bosch B11CB50SSS 24-inch refrigerator. This model, with its compact size, is a great choice for urban living. City dwellers who want to keep their use of resources to a minimum, while also getting a great refrigerator that will fit into smaller spaces should definitely consider the B11CBB50SSS. This unit will fit into your kitchen, but is also more likely to fit into your building’s elevator and through the front door (unlike for sofas, there isn’t a refrigerator doctor in New York City). There isn’t an ice maker or water filter though, so do keep that in mind if that is a must have.
Blomberg BRFB1312SS 24″ Energy Star Counter Depth Bottom Freezer Refrigerator
Blomberg is another brand to look for. They were the 2018 ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year in the Product Brand Owner category and manufacture their refrigerators, which are at least 85 percent recyclable, in factories that are ISO 14001 certified (i.e. which are mindful of the safe and responsible use of materials, energy, and natural resources). They also claim that their refrigerators are built with 99.9 percent lead-free materials and are 100 percent free from ozone-depleting greenhouse gases.
Samsung Freestanding Top Mount refrigerator
And, finally, companies such as Samsung, relative newcomers to the market, are pushing the envelope for innovation, offering energy-efficient appliances with higher-end features at a mid-level price. The Samsung RT18M6213WW 29-Inch Freestanding Top Mount Refrigerator is a great option, for example, as is the Samsung RF23M8590SG 36 Inch Counter Depth 4-Door French Door Refrigerator with Family Hub™, especially if you’re into integrated home technology.
Solar powered refrigerators
EcoCool are a newer company offering refrigerator and freezer models that are impressively energy efficient. So much so that they can be run on a single solar panel, making them an excellent option as a refrigerator for a tiny home, boat, cabin, or other smaller household.
Frigidaire make some of the most economical energy-efficient refrigerators and include features such as a powered-down mode for when you’re away for a few days or longer. Higher-end models such as Epicure French offer the ability to set different temperatures for different shelves. Indeed, one Epicure model consumes less energy than a 75W light bulb.
Energy efficient refrigerators for the garage
If you’re in the market for an eco-friendly mini-fridge, perhaps for a garage or “man-cave,” there a number of good options to consider.
Danby Designer DCR044A2BDD 4.4 cu. ft. Compact Refrigerator is one of your best options. Other good options include the Midea WHS-160RB1 Compact Single Reversible Door Refrigerator and Freezer and the EdgeStar CRF321SS 3.1 Cu. Ft. Dorm Sized Energy Star Compact Fridge/Freezer.
Before making any purchasing decisions, be sure to check out the other articles in this Leaf Score series on eco-friendly refrigerators: