We've known for years that refrigerators generally use about 20 percent more electricity in our tests than their yellow EnergyGuide labels indicate. That's because our tests are tougher than the Department of Energy's regimen and better reflect consumer use.
But in our latest testing, four French-door bottom-freezer models were way off. The LG LFX21975[ST] and the LG-made Kenmore 7973 used about 50 percent more energy in our tests than the numbers on their labels. The Samsung RFG298AA[WP] was off by 33 percent, and the Samsung-made GE Profile PFSS9PKY[SS] by 39 percent. All closely matched their labels' numbers when tested under the DOE protocol. Some of these tests were done by an outside lab.
In August 2006 and October 2008 we reported similar problems with two French-door models made by LG, and we cited energy problems with a Samsung-made French-door refrigerator. After the 2008 report, the DOE stripped 22 LG-made models of their Energy Stars, and LG agreed to reimburse owners for the extra energy use.
The DOE also changed the Energy Star program requirements by forbidding manufacturers from operating their refrigerators differently at test conditions than they would at typical room temperatures. But the agency didn't specifically prohibit differences in operation between typical home use and DOE-required settings.
In our latest tests, we found that the LG-made refrigerators reduced energy use at one of the DOE-required settings, where both compartments operate at their warmest setting. At that setting, our engineers recorded a significant drop in electricity use, enough to allow those models to barely qualify for Energy Star. But it's very unlikely you'd use that setting, unless you wanted your food to spoil faster. As we went to press, the DOE removed the Energy Star from 20 current LG-made models, including the two cited in this story. But the reasons were not related to our current findings.
The DOE is revising refrigerator test requirements again, but we think the effective date of 2014 is too long to wait. Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, is pushing for clearer rules that prevent manufacturers from circumventing the test.
The agency and the Energy Star program also need to require that refrigerator test results reflect the kind of real-world energy use a consumer could expect. If those steps are not taken, even independent testing—which we continue to support—will be of dubious value.
|Efficient fridges we recommend|
|Kenmore 7930, $960||Kenmore Elite 7759 $1,950||Whirlpool Gold GS5VHAXW[Q], $1,800|
|LG LTC22350[SW], $850, CR Best Buy||Whirlpool Gold GX5FHTXV[Q], $1,700, CR Best Buy||Samsung RS275AC[WP], $1,300, CR Best Buy|
|Frigidaire Professional Gallery FPHI2187K[F], $900||Samsung RF266AB[WP], $1,500, CR Best Buy||Whirlpool Gold GC3SHAXV[Q], $2,100|
|Whirlpool Gold G9RXXFMW[Q], $820, CR Best Buy||Amana ABB2221FE[W], $950, CR Best Buy||Maytag MSD2550VE, $1,300|
|Kenmore 7997, $750, CR Best Buy||Amana AFD2535DE[W], $1,500, CR Best Buy||Frigidaire FRS6HF55K[W], $1,000, CR Best Buy|
|Kenmore Elite 7625, $1,200||Kenmore Cold Spot 5942, $1,100|
|GE GFSF2KEX[WW], $1,500|