Fridge & Freezers

In this guide we investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 49 fridge, freezer and fridge-freezer brands.

We also look at HFCs, energy saving, food waste, shine a spotlight on the ethics of Ebac (Norfrost) and give our recommended buys. 

About Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

What to buy

What to look for if you are buying a fridge or freezer:

  • Does it have an A+++ energy label? We found the difference between the A+ rated fridge-freezer and the A+++ one is about 5% of an average household’s total electricity use. The difference between the C rated one and the A+++ rated one is a full 20%.

  • Will it last? While energy efficiency of fridges has dramatically increased recently this is not set to continue so even if there is an argument for replacing old fridges it is still worth investing in one that will stand the test of time.  

Best Buys

The best buy brand for this guide:

Recommended Buys

The recommended buys for this guide are the A+++ models from Gorenje, Belling, Britannia, LEC and New World which all scored well but did not qualify as a best buy due to having a worst rating for Supply Chain Management.

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying a fridge or freezer:

  • Could you do without a fridge? We offer some advice on alternatives to electric fridges such as cool cupboards, larders and evaporative coolers.

  • Does the fridge contain HFCs? These powerful greenhouse gases are now banned in all domestic fridges and freezers in the EU but they can still be used in commercial refrigeration. Their use is also widespread in some countries outside the EU such as the US. 

  • Is the company contributing to climate change? A number of the companies we rated lost marks in the climate change category. Make sure your fridge manufacturer isn't negating the energy efficiency of your new fridge. 

Companies to avoid

We recommend avoiding Whirlpool Corporation brands due to recent criticism over its failure to recall dangerously faulty tumble dryers.

  • Whirlpool
  • Amana
  • KitchenAid
  • Hotpoint
  • Indesit
  • Jenn-Air

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20)

Gorenje A+++ fridges & freezers [E]

Company Profile: Gorenje Group
10

White Knight Fridges and Freezers

Company Profile: Crosslee Plc
9.5

Belling fridge

Company Profile: Glen Dimplex Home Appliances
9

Brittania fridges

Company Profile: Glen Dimplex Home Appliances
9

LEC Fridges and freezers

Company Profile: Lec Refrigeration Plc
9

Miele fridges & freezers

Company Profile: Miele & Cie. GMBH & Co
9

New World fridge

Company Profile: Glen Dimplex Home Appliances
9

Norfrost chest freezer

Company Profile: [TEST] Ebac Holdings Limited
9

Smeg fridges

Company Profile: Smeg SpA
9

Swan fridges

Company Profile: Swan Products Limited
9

Baumatic fridges and freezers

Company Profile: Baumatic Ltd
8.5

Candy Fridges and Freezers

Company Profile: Hoover Candy Group
8.5

Hoover Fridges and Freezers

Company Profile: Hoover Candy Group
8.5

Daewoo fridges and freezers

Company Profile: Dongbu Daewoo Electronics Corporation
8

Essentials Fridges

Company Profile: PC World
8

Fisher and Paykel fridges

Company Profile: Haier Group
8

GE fridges and freezers

Company Profile: GE Appliances
8

Haier Fridge-freezers

Company Profile: Haier Group
8

Kenwood fridges

Company Profile: Kenwood Appliances plc
8

Liebherr A+++ fridge freezers [E]

Company Profile: Liebherr-International AG
8

Logik Fridges

Company Profile: PC World
8

LG Fridges & freezers

Company Profile: LG Electronics Inc
7.5

Aga fridge

Company Profile: AGA Rangemaster Group plc
6.5

Servis Fridge

Company Profile: Vestel A.S
6.5

AEG fridges & freezers

Company Profile: AB Electrolux
6

Beko Fridges and Freezers

Company Profile: Arçelik AS
6

Blomberg fridges & freezers

Company Profile: Blomberg
6

Electrolux fridges

Company Profile: AB Electrolux
6

Flavel fridge

Company Profile: Arçelik AS
6

Frigidaire fridges/freezers

Company Profile: AB Electrolux
6

Grundig fridges & freezers

Company Profile: Grundig AG
6

Samsung fridges & freezers

Company Profile: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd
6

Zanussi fridges and freezers

Company Profile: AB Electrolux
6

Panasonic fridges & freezers

Company Profile: Panasonic Corporation
5.5

Amana fridges and freezers

Company Profile: Whirlpool Corp
5

Hotpoint Fridges & freezers

Company Profile: Whirlpool Corp
5

Ikea fridges & freezers

Company Profile: IKEA Ltd
5

Indesit Fridges and Freezers

Company Profile: Whirlpool Corp
5

Jenn-Air Fridge

Company Profile: Whirlpool Corp
5

KitchenAid Fridge

Company Profile: Whirlpool Corp
5

Maytag fridge

Company Profile: Whirlpool Corp
5

Russell Hobbs fridges & freezers

Company Profile: Russell Hobbs
5

Whirlpool fridges and freezers

Company Profile: Whirlpool Corp
5

Kenmore fridges and freezers

Company Profile: Sears Holding Corp
4.5

Bosch fridges & freezers

Company Profile: BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH
4

John Lewis fridges and freezers

Company Profile: John Lewis Plc
4

NEFF Freezers and freezers

Company Profile: BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH
4

Siemens Fridges & freezers

Company Profile: BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH
3

Bush fridges

Company Profile: Home Retail Group
2.5

What is most important to you?

Animals
Environment
People
Politics
Product sustainability

Our Analysis

High-profile future-fridge talk is currently all about ‘smart’ fridges, which will use their little fridge brains to order more margarine for you when you’re getting low. Such things are coming, but they aren’t here yet.

However, while the changes that fridges have actually undergone may be more mundane-sounding than this, they are very important.

On the energy efficiency front, fridges and freezers have seen dramatic progress over the past 20 years. An average 2013 fridge has half the lifecycle energy footprint of a comparative one bought in 2000. Some of the effect has been cancelled out by the fact that our fridges are getting bigger and more people have started to buy two. However, even taking that into account, the total amount of energy they are using has been falling.

image:freezer

There has also been major progress on HFCs – the fearfully powerful greenhouse gases sometimes used as refrigerants.

This guide will look at how to choose the most environmentally friendly fridge and freezer, whether it is a good idea environmentally to replace old ones, and how best to use your fridge to avoid food waste.

Score Table highlights

Conflict minerals

Most of the companies did not have any kind of publicly available conflict mineral policy, and were thus given a worst rating for conflict minerals. The only exceptions were LG and Russell Hobbs, which got a best, and Panasonic, Samsung and Siemens, which got a middle.

Toxic chemicals

Similarly, most companies lacked any real discussion of toxics like PVC and BFRs. They all got a worst rating apart from Samsung which got a best rating.

Tax avoidance

There was a much wider spread on ratings for likely use of tax avoidance strategies. The companies that didn’t get a worst were rated as follows:

Best: Ebac, Liebherr, Belling, Britannia, LEC, New World, Servis, Swan, Crosslee, Gorenje, Daewoo, Smeg
Middle: Miele, Candy, Hoover, Baumatic, AEG, Electrolux, Frigidaire, Zanussi, Sears, Haier, LG

The HFC saga

HFCs initially took over as the refrigerant of choice when CFCs were banned under the Montreal Protocol in 1987, having been discovered to be the culprit behind the ozone hole. The problem with HFCs is that they are greenhouse gases hundreds or thousands of times more powerful than CO2.

HFCs have basically been banned in new domestic fridges and freezers in the EU since 2015, so you no longer have to worry about buying a fridge that contains them.

They are not, however, gone from the EU altogether. They are still allowed for commercial refrigeration, as well as for some other applications like air conditioners and insulating foam. They are being phased out, but in many cases desperately slowly. The original text of the EU’s legislation included a straight ban on HFCs in commercial and industrial refrigeration, as in the domestic sector, but it was watered down following a mammoth industry lobbying effort.

HFCs outside the EU

Outside the EU, things are also moving, albeit more slowly still. In October 2016, over 170 countries signed an amendment to the Montreal Protocol promising to cut the production and trade of HFCs by 85% between 2019 and 2036. It was signed in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

Even the US is party to it. In the US, almost all new fridges contain HFCs as, not only are they still allowed there, but spurious fire safety regulations have made it almost impossible to use alternatives (climate-friendly refrigerants are made of substances such as propane or isobutane, which could theoretically be a fire risk but, as long as the fridge is decently made, it is a non-issue). In the wake of Kigali, these fire rules are now finally being scrapped, opening the door to climate-friendly fridges in the US too.

There have been fears that Trump would pull the US out of the Kigali agreement. But so far it seems to be the one climate regulation that he supports, probably because it has the strong backing of the industry.

That may seem strange given how much effort companies put into weakening regulations in the EU, but the industry’s position is complex. Companies have now spent millions developing alternatives to HFCs. However they feel about stricter regulation, Kigali gave them regulation on their own terms – indeed, it was a very industry-controlled affair. With this one, they are on board.

Energy efficiency

All fridges must have European energy efficiency labels that give a rating from D to A+++ and a figure for total energy use. Any fridge put on the market after 2012 must legally have a rating of at least A+, and that is now by far the most common rating. But retailers are still allowed to sell off old stock with ratings below that.

The meaning of the categories, and a typical amount of electricity that a medium-sized fridge-freezer is likely to use is shown below.[1]

Energy used by typical medium-sized fridge-freezers with different energy labels

Energy Label Rating A+++ A++ A+ A B C
Percentage of energy used* <22% 22-32% 33-41% 42-54% 55-74% 75-95%

kWh/year used by typical medium-sized fridge-freezer

175 250 339 408 612 816

*Based on the average amount of energy used in 1994, when systems were designed.

The median total yearly household electricity use in the UK is 3100 kWh,9 so the difference between the A+ rated fridge-freezer and the A+++ one is about 5% of an average household’s total electricity use. The difference between the C rated one and the A+++ rated one is a full 20%.

This labelling system is due to change over the next few years. Many people have complained that the multiple pluses are confusing, and the EU commission has agreed to revert back to an A to G system, with new categories.

How to get a fridge that won’t suck too much

The efficiency rating will not tell you how much energy your appliance will actually use. ‘Efficiency’ just refers to the energy used per litre capacity and per feature (it is affected by whether the fridge has a freezer compartment, for example). It is thus vitally important to look at the total energy use figure as well.

image:fridge magnet

All but eight of the companies now do at least one A+++ rated fridge and freezer model, but there are two in particular who do a lot of super-efficient ones: Liebherr and Gorenje. We gave these two companies an extra mark in acknowledgement of them being leaders in the field.

The brands for which we couldn’t find any A+++ rated ones at all in January 2018 were Swan, Smeg, White Knight, Norfrost, Russell Hobbs, Servis, John Lewis, Logik and Essentials, Kenmore, and Aga. These should be considered brands to avoid. We also recommend avoiding Whirlpool, as it has refused to recall tumble dryers that are a fire risk.

Price comparison

Fridges and freezers vary hugely in price. The average price paid for a fridge-freezer is £341, but you can easily pay well over £1,000.[2]

It is hard to make price comparisons between fridge or freezers because there are so many different models with different capacities and features. However, to get some very loose guidance on what kind of money you can expect to pay for extra energy efficiency, we looked for a couple of the cheapest A+++ rated fridges on the Currys website, and the cheapest A+ rated ones of a roughly similar size.

Energy Rating Model Size (litres) Price kWh per year Cost to run per year* Total lifetime cost**
A+++

LG gbb60pzgfb

Fridge:250 Freezer:93 £599.99 178 £24.92 £923.95
  Hotpoint nffud Fridge:302 Freezer:148 £599 175 £24.50 £917.50
A+ Beko cxfg1685tw Fridge:266 Freezer:90 £269.99 345 £48.30 £897.89
 

Kenwood ksbsx17

Fridge:335 Freezer:167 £399 401 £56.14 £1,128.82

*Assuming UK average electricity cost of 14p/kWh [18]

**Including purchase price, assuming 13-year lifespan

In this tiny sample the super energy efficient ones and the less energy efficient ones will cost about the same – give or take a bit – over their full lifetime, including the purchase price.

The story is very different if you are replacing older, much more inefficient fridges and freezers. In that case, replacing can easily save you hundreds of pounds.

Energy efficient fridges and freezers do not always cost more. The reason that A+++ ones currently tend to be more expensive is largely that they aren’t yet being produced in sufficient quantities. So buying them is also helping to make them cheaper for other people.

Using your fridge and freezer to avoid food waste

Food waste is a big deal. About a quarter of all food sold in the UK is thrown away, with households being responsible for 70% of that.

And this really matters, since food has such massive impacts on land, pollution and animals. In total, food accounts for about 20% of an average Brit’s carbon footprint.

Using your freezer better

A lot of supermarkets say on their packaging “freeze on day of purchase and use within one month”, and many people now believe that it is dangerous to do otherwise.

This is nonsense – it is safe to freeze food right up to the use-by date, and to keep it there indefinitely. The guidance was aimed at ensuring quality, not safety but, in most cases, you won’t even get a loss of quality for significantly more than a month.

In general vegetables can be kept frozen without any loss of quality for 8-12 months.

Cooked meat is likely to start to lose its flavour and texture after 3-6 months.

Bread will lose its mojo after about 3 months

Which foods to keep in the fridge

The anti-waste organisation Wrap, wants to encourage people to keep more foods in the fridge. Most people don’t keep fruit in the fridge, for example, but in a fruit bowl where they can get a prime view of the rotting process. Yet the vast majority of foods, including fruits, do last substantially longer in the fridge. Oranges and pears will last for up to two weeks longer.

In the case of most fruit and vegetables, they last even longer if they are also kept in a polyethylene bag to prevent the fridge air drying them out: peppers and carrots, for example, last about a week more in the fridge, but two if they’re in a polyethylene bag.

Food to not keep in the fridge (although you are sometimes advised to on the packaging):

Potatoes and onions – it will wreck them.

Bread – it goes stale up to six times more quickly in the fridge. Although, to be fair, it does go mouldy more slowly.

Honey – it will crystallise in the fridge. Also, there is no need as it doesn't go off.

Pickled veg – pickling is a preservative. You don't need to put pickled veg in the fridge as long as you are careful not to contaminate it.

Unripe bananas – cooling them disrupts the ripening process, and even if you remove them later, it may not resume.

Tomatoes – this one is a trade-off. It does make them last longer, but it also seriously damages the taste and texture.

Fridge temperature

There is also potentially a case for keeping fridges at a colder temperature. A survey showed that the average temperature of UK fridges was about 7°C. Wrap argues that reducing them to 4°C could add an average of about 3 additional days of storage life to perishable foods like vegetables and meat, potentially reducing the amount thrown away.

However, as keeping fridges colder uses more energy, there is a complex trade-off involved. Wrap crunched the numbers on an A+ rated fridge and estimated that if lowering the temperature was combined with putting more food in the fridge it may be worth it in climate terms, but otherwise it probably wasn’t.

The trade-off between fridge and food waste

Fridges and freezers are responsible for about 1% of an average Brit’s carbon footprint (they are responsible for about 13% of our electricity use, but most of our carbon footprint is not from electricity, but from transport, heating, food and products).

Meanwhile, as described above, food is responsible for about 20% of that footprint. You can easily see how increased food waste could start to swamp any carbon savings you’d make from not running a fridge.

Greenhouse gases are clearly not all we need to worry about, but there are a lot of other fronts on which food has impacts too.

Whether it is overall a good idea environmentally to run a fridge and freezer, or how big they should be, are thus not simple questions. It depends, fundamentally, on how much food you are likely to waste in each scenario. However, if you think that you can pull it off, you can use homemade evaporative coolers and/or larders to reduce your need for an electric fridge, or at least to allow you to run a smaller one.

When to replace your fridge or freezer

The average freezer has a life of about 17 years and a fridge about 13 years, although some last much longer. They tend to be replaced when they die – few people are interested in getting a new fridge for the sheer toe-tingling excitement of it.

However, in this instance, there is actually an environmental, and financial, case for replacing early.
Because fridges and freezers are on all the time, the vast bulk of their life-cycle energy – in the region of 90% – is expended in use. And, as described above, they have been getting hugely more energy efficient. Obviously, energy is not all that matters – there are materials too. However, most materials in fridges are recycled.

It is also worth being aware that many old fridges and freezers can develop faults and start consuming substantially more energy than they should. You can find out how much your old fridge or freezer is actually using with a plug-in energy-usage meter.

But get one that will last

The fact that there is a case for replacement now doesn’t mean that you should buy a trashy fridge that will conk out in a few years because you’ll want to replace it quickly anyway. Energy efficiency is not expected to keep improving at the same rate. As one review said: “Today’s cold appliances are technologically mature and further dramatic improvements are not expected in the short to medium term.”

Basically, it seems that flighty fridge relationships were great in the past, but now is looking like a good time to choose your long-term fridge partner.

Fire safety

The London Fire Brigade has suggested that fridges with non-flame-retardant plastic backs may be a fire risk. As a result, Which? is no longer recommending any fridge that has one. They examined a sample of those that are currently on sale in the UK, and found that 46% of them did not have a fully flame-proof back.

It is worth bearing in mind that the likelihood of a fridge fire is very low, and nobody has called for any fridges to be recalled. Which? suggests not being alarmed if you have one of these fridges already, but if you are buying a new one, make it a fireproof one.

Doing without a fridge

How to make your own evaporative cooler

Take one large, unglazed terracotta pot and a smaller unglazed terracotta pot. Put the smaller pot, which holds the food, inside the larger one and fill the space between them with coarse sand, then saturate the coarse sand with water. Put a couple of layers of wet hessian over the top to keep the heat out. The water moves by capillary action into both unglazed pots and evaporates from the inside and outside of the clay surface.

Larders and cold cupboards

Traditionally, larders were purpose-built on outside walls and with slate shelves for the cold storage of food. Many have now been ripped out, and central heating systems installed, though it is possible to restore them to their original purpose.

Cold cupboards are another option. Basically, they involve piping cold air from outside into an insulated cupboard. It is better if there is no outside wall.

Company Profile

Ebac (Norfrost) is a British company that started in 1979 making dehumidifiers. It is based in County Durham and now also makes water coolers, heat pumps, fridges, freezers and washing machines. It bought Norfrost in 2013. It does not make any A+++ fridges or freezers.

The company is owned by multi-millionaire John Elliott MBE, who has promoted himself as a champion of British industry, and has been featured on various TV programmes like Secret Millionaire. He has arranged that when he dies, the ownership of the company will be passed to a trust, which will be directed to ensure that the firm remains in Durham.

Elliott has also been involved in politics more widely. In 2005, he (personally) donated £15,000 to the Conservative party. In 2012, he launched the ‘Stop Gap’ initiative to campaign for British manufacturing and for the elimination of the UK’s trade deficit. He also led the successful 2004 campaign against Labour’s plan to set up a regional assembly in the North East.

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References

  1. Calculated from Energy Local, 2015, Energy Savings from Efficient White Good

  2. Mintel, Fridges and Freezers, 2016