What is the energy efficiency of mini fridges/drinks coolers like?
August 11, 2010 12:43 PM   Subscribe

What is the energy efficiency of mini fridges/drinks coolers like? I have one but it runs a fan all the time, so I think it's gonna eat a lot of power.

I need something to keep some smelly food seperate from milk butter etc.

Argos in the UK sell 'mini fridges' for £15.99, but I don't know how much electricity they'll use.

Looking for a cheap to run idea.
posted by Not Supplied to Technology (14 answers total)
Can you post a link to the product?

This bar fridge is said to use 308kWh/year, which means a little less than £35/year if this is to be believed.
posted by Chuckles at 1:12 PM on August 11, 2010

A small fan doesn't necessarily use that much power. Most case fans in computers are rated at about 5-7W or so. The compressor in a fridge uses much more power than any fan. It's really hard to say how much electricity something is going to use with specifics: what temperature does it try to maintain, how well is it insulated, what size compressor does it have, etc. The best way is to just measure it.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:14 PM on August 11, 2010

My understanding -- and this is taken just from looking at the EnergyStar labels on various models while walking around white-goods stores -- is that those small fridges are pretty bad. In absolute terms they require less electricity than a big fridge, but for the cubic footage of cold storage they're pretty heinous.

This makes sense intuitively if you think about the surface area to volume ratio; refrigerators lose heat through their walls, so the optimal refrigerator would be a single big one, not several small ones. (It would also be round, but I think there are other considerations that weigh in against giant spherical refrigerators, awesome though they would be. Ikea should make one.)

There apparently is some benefit to spending some more money for a good mini-fridge, in the form of an EnergyStar-qualified (that's a US thing but I suspect the UK has a similar standard); the very cheap ones are unsurprisingly very inefficient. But even a good one is going to be worse than space in a full-utilized regular-size fridge of reasonable vintage.

So I'd think really hard about whether you really need that extra mini-fridge, or if you can make room in an existing big fridge nearby and segregate the food some other way. Some sort of airtight container placed inside your main fridge would be far preferable.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:17 PM on August 11, 2010

A fairly standard GE mini fridge uses an estimated 360 kWh annually. From that sheet, you can probably find some in the 250 kWh range, but I wouldn't think you could go much lower than that.

The main draw here isn't the fan--those use so little power that they don't even make EnergyGuide sheets for them as far as I can tell. Most of the power usage in refrigeration comes from the actual compressor, which has to compress and circulate the refrigerant. That may actually be what you're hearing. But even if it isn't, the presence of a fan means that your unit is less efficient than it might be, not because the fan is such a huge draw, but because the compressor is inefficient enough to need extra cooling power, i.e. you're turning more electricity into heat than you strictly need to.

Either way, we're talking about a pretty low amount of power here. I used a little over 700 kWh last month, and I'm a single guy with my own fairly well-insulated apartment.
posted by valkyryn at 1:17 PM on August 11, 2010

You have smelly food? You could buy a cheese "cave" with an activated charcoal filter to eliminate the smell instead of buying a whole new fridge. In the UK, Lakeland do one for £4.
posted by pharm at 1:25 PM on August 11, 2010

(Sorry, it's £14, not £4)
posted by pharm at 1:26 PM on August 11, 2010

Thanks for the answers. When I say mini fridge I mean a really small thing like this.

I've tried the airtight container, but it just doesn't seem to stop butter and milk and my house smelling...
posted by Not Supplied at 1:29 PM on August 11, 2010

Cheese preserver is an interesting idea. Do you know if they work with really smelly old cheeses? Or other smelly foods.
posted by Not Supplied at 1:52 PM on August 11, 2010

Something that small is going to be even less efficient in terms of kWh per volume of cool storage than a standard mini fridge, which is itself a huge step down from a full-sized one.
posted by valkyryn at 3:57 PM on August 11, 2010

Keeping the fridge full will help it be more efficient. If you don't have other stuff you can stick in there, a bunch of bottles full of tap water will do the trick.
posted by ErikaB at 4:35 PM on August 11, 2010

The fridge you linked to is most likely powered by a peltier which would explain the fan. They're not very efficient.
posted by onya at 6:52 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Try a FoodSaver.

Looks like those mini coolers take 68W from DC (so 75W+ when powered from AC). The cooling capacity is quoted as 15-25 C when running full bore. That means the price to operate is at least as high as an efficient bar fridge, and possibly twice as high.
posted by Chuckles at 7:49 PM on August 11, 2010

Thanks for the replies. Seems like the mini cooler is out.

Foodsaver...nah dude....the cheese needs to breathe! ;)
posted by Not Supplied at 2:00 AM on August 12, 2010

Not Supplied: "Cheese preserver is an interesting idea. Do you know if they work with really smelly old cheeses? Or other smelly foods."

They seem to work fairly well for us, but I can't say that smelly cheese was ever that much of a problem in the first place: I think we just ate the stuff before it could do any harm.

Worth a try, compared to annual cost of buying a mini fridge?
posted by pharm at 11:19 AM on August 13, 2010

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