Being energy efficient is important, but with a lot of appliances found in most Americans homes, it’s not exactly an easy thing to guarantee you’re going to have a miniature carbon footprint compared to your neighbours.
Mini fridges run off of standard 110V outlets, but how much power do they actually draw, and what does it all mean?
Mini fridge power usage is just like your standard refrigerator – always running, always drawing power. It’s not like your phone or laptop that lock automatically and cuts battery usage into a fraction.
We’re going to go over some energy ratings, and compare a mini fridge to a standard fridge.
How Much Electricity Does a Mini Fridge Use?
Electricity is measured in many ways, and it can get a little confusing. To simplify it, this is what you need to know:
Your electricity consumption is measured in watt hours, or kilowatt hours. A kilowatt is 1,000 watts, so if you use ten separate 100 watt devices all at the same time, for one hour, you will run 1,000 watts, or 1 kilowatt of electricity.
The more kilowatt hours on your bill, the higher it’s going to be. A mini fridge may use as little as 1 kilowatt hour in an entire day, provided that the conditions are right.
Okay, so we know how we’re running up our bill, but we also need to know how we get there.
Look at the watts that your unit consumes, and then look at the volts that you’re plugging it into. You will either have a 110V/120V outlet, or a 220V outlet. I don’t know of any mini fridges that run on the 220V.
Watts x volts = amps. Many homeowners look to lower their total amp use, because some utility companies may charge you a small fee if you go over a certain number of amps per month. You’re drawing more power than what they believe a home should, so you’re charged extra for it.
Mini fridges run 1.0 to 2.4 kilowatt hours per day, which can reflect rather nicely on your monthly utility bill.
Even if we’re looking at the high end of the spectrum, 2.4 kilowatt hours for 30 days is 72 kilowatt hours, which may be, at the very most, $7.20 per month to run in some areas.
That’s on the higher end, by the way, and I don’t see you running into this cost anytime soon (we provide averages below).
How Many Amps Does a Mini Fridge Use?
Assuming that your mini fridge runs on a 110V electrical connection (not a dedicated circuit), and it uses 80 watts, you’re looking at about 0.7 amps. That’s pretty good in terms of energy usage.
However, this isn’t going to measure on your electric bill the same. For that, the utility companies use kilowatts per hour, which is why the benchmark you want to look at during purchase is the wattage.
Mini fridges run on 110V/120V wall outlet plugs, while many residential refrigerators run on a dedicated 220V. The higher the voltage, the more dangerous it is, and thus requires a dedicated circuit unlike the outlets all throughout your home.
Mini fridges are popular for dorms, apartments, and even RVs because they use less power in general. If you plug in a residential refrigerator that has 21 cubic feet, all the bells and whistles, and runs on a 250 watt connection at 220V, you’re looking at about 1.13 amps of power.
The disparity from 7.0 to 1.13 doesn’t sound big, but it is. That’s about three times the wattage (and therefore three times the cost) of a mini fridge.
Mini Fridge vs. Regular Fridges
If you’re living alone or you just don’t use the full capacity of your residential refrigerator, then the cost difference alone is enough of a reason to switch to a mini fridge instead of running those high bills.
The average residential refrigerator has about 19 cubic feet of space (usually between 15 and 25 depending on the model), which requires a lot of power to keep going.
If you pay attention to your electric bill, you’ll see that you have kwh, or kilowatt hours, which is how your utility bill is measured. The more watts you use (or that an appliance uses), the more kilowatt hours you will use in any given month or billing cycle period.
Typically, a mini fridge uses about 80 to 100 watts to keep running. Many full-size refrigerators, depending on their energy efficiency rating and overall size, can run as low as 100 watts, but as high as about 250 watts. In short, you run the potential of running up 2.5x more of a bil with a full-sized refrigerator.
The annual estimated cost of your electricity usage in a mini fridge is about $60 up to $80, or between $5.00 and $6.67 per month to run.
A full-sized residential refrigerator is going to take anywhere from $90.00 to $200.00 per year to run, which is between $7.50 and $16.67 per month to run.
Some things are unavoidable, though. If you have a large family or your girlfriend/boyfriend just moved in with you, a simple mini fridge might not cut it anymore. It might get hectic to try and stash everything in there.
On the lower end of that refrigerator cost spectrum, you have apartment refrigerators, as well as RV refrigerators (which can be used in the home). These are about six to ten cubic feet, providing enough space for two to three people comfortably.
How to Lower Mini Fridge Energy Usage
Here are a few tips and tricks for you.
Mini fridges are relatively portable, especially since you can take advantage of standard home outlets instead of having to use a dedicated circuit. As a result, you can make the perfect conditions for your mini fridge.
1. Somewhere Cool
If you put your mini fridge in the laundry room where the water heater is, it’s actually going to take more to run it. Seriously.
The compressor heats up while trying to cool your refrigerator down, and if you put it in a hot area, it’s going to work harder and run you more time. It will use its highest threshold of electrical use, and potentially take longer to achieve the same effect.
Put your cooler close to the floor, in an area with air circulation. If you have a temperature-controlled space, such as a bedroom, that would be the best possible spot.
2. Maintain Airflow
The compressor is the key, here. If you push your mini fridge up against the wall, it’s going to put all that heat into the sheetrock.
You’re basically bottlenecking it. You need to keep a good six inches of space behind it, so the heat has space to disperse and rise throughout your room. If you want to keep airflow at an all-time high, you can put a cheap USB-powered fan behind your fridge to help cool the air down.
Just be sure to point it upward or away from the compressor, so you don’t end up pushing hot air on it.
3. Clean Regularly
If you’re really concerned about what your mini fridge may be costing you, then it’s time to make a cleaning schedule.
You can just set it on your phone, it doesn’t have to be a whole big thing. Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment, clean off the compressor, and the coils, and you should be good to go.
Doing this regularly is important to prevent wasting electricity when you don’t need to.
4. Go for an Energy Efficient Model
We have an entire guide on energy efficiency ratings, how you should read them, and what parts you should ignore.
Most mini fridges will boast a yellow tag with an annual cost, but I want you to ignore those. Even if they are speaking the truth, those are under controlled conditions, and they’re giving you the best numbers (if they are even accurate) to sell you a product.
They want you to believe you are saving money, but instead of just reading the yellow tag, throw the sales guy for a loop with your electrical knowledge.
Utility Bills and Utility
You’ll draw less power with a mini fridge, but it all depends on what you’re using as a comparable.
A 30 cubic foot monster of a refrigerator is obviously going to run tons more power than a 2.4 cubic foot mini fridge, but a 4.5 cubic foot mini fridge and a 10 cubic foot standard fridge might not be so far apart in energy consumption.
Pay attention to the yellow energy rating tags on any appliance you buy for a bit of insight.