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If you want to know what I'm on about in the shortest time then please read the introductory first post and my current action plan. Comments are very welcome. And if you like this blog, please tell a friend. Thanks!

Thursday, 20 November 2008


Remember how pleased I was when our old electric hot water system died last year? Well I have more wonderful news to share: the fridge, which at 2kWh/day accounts for almost a quarter of all energy used in our home, has also reached the end of the line. Hooray!

Its ability to actually cool things, let alone freeze them, has been deteriorating over time. I recently replaced the seal on the freezer to stop a quite noticeable cold air leak but it really made no difference. The appliance wizard (that's what he called himself) only took a couple of minutes to diagnose a failing compressor.

Decision time. Replacing the compressor would make it cold again, but cost about half of what we paid for the fridge a decade ago. It wouldn't improve the energy-efficiency of the design. It wouldn't fix the broken shelf mount or the cracked door hinge. And it wouldn't give us the extra freezer space Michelle desperately wanted. Maybe it's time for a replacement.

Had heard great things about the efficiency of chest freezers. Actually, the really interesting idea involves converting chest freezers to chest fridges. Good insulation and a lid that opens on the top instead of the side makes for minimal loss of "coolth". However, there's no way a chest fridge was going to be acceptable in our kitchen - space issues, access issues, etc - but maybe we could use a chest freezer in the laundry.

Had also seen a standalone fridge (no freezer compartment) at a school, with an energy star rating that quite impressed me. Maybe one of those for the kitchen. Time to do some research.

The most efficient chest freezers on the Aussie market, according to the official figures, are Denmark-made Vestfrost units - the same brand modified to be a fridge in the earlier link. They have one model which is about the size Michelle would like, 250L, that's rated at a quite frugal 237kWh/year. Would have been a candidate if they weren't so physically large and surprisingly expensive. And imported from the other side of the planet.

Mid-sized efficient freezer options beyond that are surprisingly limited. We quickly narrowed it down to two: a 160L Fisher & Paykel chest rated at 307kWh/year, or a 180L Westinghouse upright freezer rated at 297kWh/year. Westinghouse looks better for us other than being imported from China. So what about the fridge?

Given our simple criteria, there was no contest. Absolutely hands-down, the winner is a brand-new model from Electrolux. A 400L upright single-door fridge that uses just 250kWh/year and it's made here in Australia. This product has the highest energy efficiency score of all 3000 refrigeration units in the database, bar none (it'd score 8 stars, but the ratings only go to six). Price is middle-of-the-range: more than the Asian products and less than the European.

So that was the plan. The Electrolux fridge and the Westinghouse freezer. Combined rated total of 547kWh/year, which is just a smidge under 1.5kWh/day.

Er, hang on. I'm going to spend a couple thousand dollars on the most energy-efficient appliances I can find and still only cut my power consumption by 25%? Admittedly I'd have room for a bit more ice cream... but... only 25%? There's gotta be a better option.

Turns out there is, if I can live with just a single six-pack in the fridge at any one time. Another member of the new Electrolux range is a fairly conventional-looking bottom-mount fridge/freezer. 359L fridge space, 156 in the freezer (more than our old one), and a rated energy use of 428kWh/year. That's good enough for a five-star badge, and it's made right here down under.

So I saved myself a few hundred bucks and improved my energy reduction from 25% to over 40% (based on rated consumption of the new fridge vs actual consumption of the one I had). The fridge was delivered today. Now all I have to do is convince Michelle that going from 120L to 156L really is a significant improvement in freezer capacity and we didn't really need a separate freezer anyway.

Yeah. Wish me luck.

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