Fridges & Freezers

In this guide we investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 43 fridge, freezer and fridge-freezer brands.

We also look at energy saving, food waste, smart fridges, shine a spotlight on the ethics of Investor AB group (AEG, Electrolox and Zanussi brands) 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.

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What to buy

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

  • How much energy does it use? To save energy and bills, compare kWh figures on the energy labels – this is even more important than the A-G classification as it tells you the energy use per year. Smaller models will use less.

  • How does it rate on the new energy label system? Look for models newly rated as D or above for energy efficiency relative to size, which is roughly equivalent to what was A+++.

  • How old is your fridge? If your fridge is 10 years old or more, do consider buying an efficient new model as they have improved a lot. You could save a lot of energy and money with lower running costs.

Subscribe to see which companies we recommend as Best Buys and why 

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying a fridge or freezer:

  • Is the brand connected to a company group involved in weapons manufacture or supplying equipment to oppressive regimes? See our 'Companies to avoid' section, below.

  • Is it smart? Smart fridges have in-built technologies which are likely to become obsolete long before the fridge itself stops working.

  • Is it a side-by-side fridge-freezer? American-style side-by-side fridge-freezers use more energy than conventional above-below fridge-freezers.

Subscribe to see which companies to avoid and why

Score table

Updated live from our research database

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

Our Analysis

This guide is for anyone with a fridge, freezer or fridge-freezer, and why it might actually make sense to buy something new, even if yours still works (as long as you dispose of your old equipment properly).

We highlight ways to make existing appliances as energy efficient as possible, and how to make best use of them to cut down on food waste.

If you do decide to buy we highlight some of the problems with smart fridges, American-style fridges, and fridges or freezers that are just bigger than you need.

And ok, a green fridge might not be a realistic colour option, but there are some really sensible things to consider if you want to be as eco as possible. We explain the new energy labelling system, which companies are leading or lagging behind, but also why there’s more to making an energy efficient choice than its rating – ‘kWh’ are key.

As always, our scores uncover social concerns too. We explain why you might want to boycott some fridge brands for their ties to oppressive regimes, and which companies have been found to use tax havens.

 

New fridges are much more efficient

Because fridges and freezers are on all the time, the vast bulk of their lifecycle energy – in the region of 90% – is expended in use. And, compared to 10 years ago, they have been getting much more energy efficient. So, if your fridge is over 10 years old, or if you are running a separate fridge and freezer, you may actually make cost and carbon savings over time by buying new.

If you bought yours before July 2012 it could be rated anything between G and A and have much higher running costs.

You could find out how much your existing fridge or freezer is actually using with a plug-in energy-usage meter (which you may be able to borrow from a library), measuring it over a period of time. Then a calculation could be done to compare it to the annual kWh on the energy label of a new fridge.

 

Energy label fridge
An example of the new style energy label for a fridge

New energy labels for fridges

Since 2012, all fridges should have been at least A+, and 90% were. But many had gone beyond A+ and so A++ and +++ were added, and they’re still getting better.

To make the better models stand out more, the energy labels have just been revised.

As of March 2021, new labelling and Ecodesign requirements have been introduced to further push better choices and manufacturing improvements across Europe and the UK.

This means that almost all new models will score D or below. Read our brief article which explains the changes.

Annual energy consumption for fridges and freezers is predicted to be 64% less by 2030.

You can’t exactly compare the energy efficiency of appliances now to those from the pre-March 2021 period as the testing methods have changed.

Although in our research we found that in most cases you could work out the equivalent class as follows (old A = new G, old A+ = new F, old A++ = new E and old A+++ = new D), this wouldn’t always be the case.

Testing now applies ‘fairer rules’, by using more realistic calculations based on typical home use rather than in a lab.

 

Choosing an eco-friendly fridge freezer

The most energy efficient fridge-freezer brands

The table below shows the highest energy-rated free-standing fridge-freezer on each company’s website (there may be differences in their fridge-only or freezer-only models).

Only a few had models rated above D, which is roughly similar to the previous highest rating (A+++). Many companies didn’t have anything with a rating higher than F, similar to the previous A+ which was the minimum expectation since 2012. Two brands fell below with only G-rated models.

Those highlighted in bold were from companies which made it possible to search by energy rating, or made them easily visible on their websites.

The numbers refer to how many models were of that rating, out of all models shown. for example LG 1/34 means that of 34 LG fridge-freezers, 1 had an 'A' rating. (Some websites duplicated models if they were available in different colours).

  Energy efficiency of fridge-freezers by brand  
A LG 1/34
B  
C Liebherr 4/43, Bosch 3/25, Siemens 2/28
D Miele 6/12, Smeg 4/16, IKEA 2/4, Grundig 1/6, Whirlpool 1/20, Siemens 1/10
E Beko 20/20, AEG 9/10, Stoves 8/9, John Lewis 3/7, Neff 4/14, Hotpoint 3/51, KitchenAid 1/2, Electrolux 1/5, Haier 1/5, Hoover 2/24, Indesit 1/22
F Swan 1, Flavel, 2 Belling 2, CDA 4, Blomberg 4, Hisense 4, LEC 6, Essentials 7, Bush 8, Russell Hobbs 8, Zanussia 10, Montpelier 14, Amica 15, Kenwood 16*, Logik 17, Fridgemaster 18, Fisher Paykel 26, Candy 29
G Aga 2, Rangemaster 3

*on Currys website. Although the deadline for applying new energy labels to company websites was 19 March 2021, the following still referred only to old ratings: Gorenje A+++ 11/15; Sharp A++ ?/80; Baumatic A+ 3/3.

kWh is the key to energy consumption

As well as the energy efficiency class (A-G), the energy label lists how many kWh electricity an appliance uses per year, the volume of freezer space and of chilled space, and how noisy it is.

The energy efficiency class is calculated relative to the volume of the appliance. So, a 150 or 350 litre fridge could both carry the same energy rating, but the smaller one will use less energy.

To use the least energy, the kWh figure is the most important one to compare.

We looked on Curry’s website in March 2021, and found a small fridge from Liebherr, one of our recommended brands, that only used 113kWh/year. Compare that to the cheapest American style fridge they had which used 387kWh/year.

Small is beautiful

Minimising energy use will involve not buying a fridge bigger than you need. Although storing more food in the fridge might sound good at first from a food waste point of view, it really depends on your buying and cooking habits. If you over-buy and then can’t see what you’ve got, produce will probably get neglected and go off anyway.

smart fridge

American-style side-by-side fridges

Many manufacturers are now offering American-style models, with fridge and freezer compartments side-by-side rather than above and below.

Not only are these models often much larger than what was previously considered normal, just the fact that they are side-by-side is also said to use more energy.

Smart fridges

We are not alone in suggesting that a smart fridge is not so smart.

You may be tempted to see inside your fridge via a screen on its door, or even on your smartphone when you’re out and wondering what to buy, but for most of us, a shopping list can do the job.

One worry about smart appliances is that if they are ‘connected’, as the tech gets older, it becomes more vulnerable to hacking.

Also, if they rely on cloud-based services to offer users music or recipe suggestions, and these services are not maintained, people will be encouraged to replace their fridges more often than necessary.

And do we really need more screens and cameras in our lives?

Commercial fridges and freezers

As with domestic fridges and freezers, a new energy label system is being applied to commercial appliances. This will push efficiency improvements over time, but even now the carbon (and cost) savings between the most and least efficient models are huge.

See our feature on commercial fridges and how much energy could be saved if all supermarkets in the UK put doors on the fridges.

Lifetime costs of fridge-freezers 

A fridge-freezer could last much longer than 14 years, and electricity prices may go up too – meaning you’d save even more by buying a more efficient model. And if you are replacing older, much more inefficient fridges and freezers, it can easily save you hundreds of pounds.

It is hard to make price comparisons between fridge-freezers because there are so many different models with different capacities and features. You may only need a small fridge with (or even without) an icebox, in which case the energy used will be lower.

On the first table below, we looked at fridge-freezers of a medium or large size on the Currys website. We found a couple of the cheapest D (similar to previous A+++) rated models, and the cheapest F (similar to previous A+) rated ones of a roughly similar size.

In this tiny sample, whether they are more or less energy efficient they will cost about the same – give or take a bit – over a lifetime of 14 years, including the purchase price.

Note that cheaper fridge-freezers tend to need manually defrosting – if you are not good at keeping up with this, the built-up ice causes the appliance to use more energy, so it may be a false saving!

Table listing costs of high and low energy rated fridges

On the second table below we looked for models from our Best Buy and Recommended brands, with annual kWh figures under 250.

Although the Liebherr model had an energy rating of F, as it was smaller than other more efficient models, its annual energy consumption was still relatively low.

table listing lifetime costs of best buy and recommended fridges

Environmental concerns

HFC gases in fridges

Before he lost the presidency, Donald Trump signed a funding bill that included the phase out of 85% of HFC (freon or hydrofluorocarbon) gases over the next 15 years. As the planet warms, this legislation will be even more important - the same gases are used in air conditioning as well as refrigeration, and when cooling is used to prevent excess deaths during heatwaves it isn’t just a luxury.

Industry was surprisingly in favour of the new law, as they have been developing alternatives and see it as supportive of their ambitions to export fridges and air-con around the world.

The funding bill also included $6 billion for research into carbon capture and storage, and $6.6billion for developing nuclear power technology, compared to $4 billion for renewable energy research, but we are glad about the action on HFCs. It has been predicted to reduce annual emissions equal to those of Germany as a whole, or even avert a 0.5-degree Celsius global temperature rise by the end of the century.

Disposal of old fridges

Disposing of old appliances properly means that the gases can be recovered and the plastic and other materials recycled. Retailers usually take them in when you buy a new one, or your local authority may collect them for a fee if you can’t get to a recycling centre.

Fire risks

Following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, Which? campaigned for manufacturers to stop producing refrigeration appliances with flammable plastic backs. Although this backing doesn’t cause fires, it can allow an existing fire to spread. New safety standards were introduced in 2019, but retailers can still sell more risky models that have already been made.

Which? research does reveal that the likelihood of a fridge fire is very low, but, if you are buying a new appliance, check it is fireproof. You can also reduce the risk of a fire by plugging directly into the wall socket rather than an extension lead, ensuring there is at least 10 cm between your appliance and the wall, and airflow is not obstructed.

Carbon and steel manufacture

There are also environmental issues around the steel used for fridges and freezers and other home appliances. Steel has a high carbon footprint as well as relying on environmentally-damaging iron ore mining, as outlined in our new article.

Making your existing fridge energy efficient

There are some simple tips to keep an existing fridge as energy efficient as possible, which will save on your bills as well as cutting carbon emissions. Good maintenance should also increase the life of an appliance.

Temperatures around the fridge

A fridge or freezer needs to get rid of heat in order to keep cool. So, if the space it’s in is too warm, it will have to work harder. Aside from the age of a fridge, room temperature has been found to be the biggest factor affecting energy use. Ideally, the room should be under 19°C. You can also make it easier for your fridge to get rid of heat (and safer) by keeping the back 10 cm from the wall, and the air escape route above unobstructed by stored items or shelves.

Temperatures inside the fridge

It is always good to check the temperature inside the appliance too. A fridge thermometer will help you keep it at about 5°C (freezers should be at -18°C). Fridges should cycle on and off to maintain the correct temperature. If you can hear that yours is noisy all the time, it may need a repair that could save you having to buy new. The seals on the doors should also be maintained and can be replaced if they wear out and are no longer keeping your fridge properly closed.

Defrosting and draining

If you let ice build up it actually decreases the efficiency of a fridge or freezer. Self-defrosting appliances have progressed, and ‘passive’ defrost is more efficient than ‘electric’. Most new freezers are now self-defrosting, but if yours isn’t, it should be turned off to defrost every 6-12 months. This is quite fiddly, so prepare yourself, and be patient – don’t hack at the ice or you can damage your freezer and risk leaking refrigerant which is likely to be flammable.

The drainage hole inside the fridge at the back also needs to be kept clear – if it gets blocked this can lead the compressor to use more energy.

Daily use of the fridge

Ideally, you should let any hot or warm food cool down before putting it into the fridge. It may be hard to control how much the fridge is opened depending on the size of your household, but you can at least not leave the door open longer than needed.

Food waste and going fridge-free

Food production has huge impacts on land, pollution and animals. But, in the UK, 6.6 million tonnes of household food is wasted per year. Fridges can help to reduce this. Most vegetables, peppers and carrots for example, last about a week longer in the fridge, or two if they’re in a polyethylene bag. The bag stops them drying out and reduces condensation in the fridge which can lead to ice forming. Fruit can be refrigerated too – oranges and pears will last for up to two weeks longer.

Some things are damaged by the cold though, such as potatoes, onions, bananas or tomatoes, so are best not kept in the fridge. And bread will go stale quicker.

But as food accounts for 20% of an average Brit’s carbon footprint, and fridges and freezers account for only about 1%, if you’re thinking about not running one to make carbon savings, you need to make sure you’ve really got food waste under control. It is possible to keep food relatively cool in a traditional larder or cold cupboard, or even make your own evaporative cooler.

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.

Highlights of issues behind the brands

Tax havens

The only brands which did not lose any marks for likely tax avoidance strategies were seven at the top of the table – Miele, Montpellier, Amica, CDA, Smeg, Swan, and Liebherr – and John Lewis.

Miele is a Best Buy whilst Liebherr, John Lewis and Smeg are among our Recommended brands.

Military equipment

Several brands on our table are part of company groups which also make military equipment.

Beko, Grundig, Flavel, Leisure and Blomberg are all ultimately controlled by Koç Holding A.S. Another of Koç’s companies, Otokar, manufactures military vehicles used by the Turkish police and army to suppress protests, especially in Kurdish areas.

Sharp Home Appliances is a division of Vestel UK Limited, part of the Zorlu Holding which also includes Vestel Defence Industry, a supplier of drones, computer technology and fuel cells for armoured vehicles for the defence industry.

Robert Bosch GmbH: Bosch Rexroth was listed on USASpending.gov as having contracts with the US Department of Defense in 2020 worth $7.9 million including 'aircraft launching equipment' and other items. The Siemen’s brand of home appliances is also produced and marketed by Bosch.

Samsung was marked down for investments since 2015 in companies involved in the manufacture and sale of cluster munitions, as well as marketing virtual reality devices for military training and other communications equipment “tailored for deployment in tactical environments".

Liebherr makes “systems for combat aircraft, military transporters, military training aircraft ... and combat helicopters", as well as military cranes.

Company behind the brands

AEG, Electrolux and Zanussi are part of the Investor AB group, which has almost 40% of the voting share in Saab AB, a manufacturer of advanced weapons systems for air, land and sea combat. Press releases in the last six months on its website listed orders for weapons and ammunition to the Estonian Armed Forces, airborne surveillance systems for the United Arab Emirates, and the first flight of a Saab Gripen combat aircraft in Brazil, as part of a partnership to develop 36 aircraft for the Brazilian Air Force.

Want more information?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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