Have you ever found yourself reaching into the fridge for a snack and wondering how much power it takes to keep that massive box cold 24/7? Refrigerators are large, necessary appliances that can’t just be switched off when not in use. Let’s explore refrigerator wattage and dive into just how much of a household’s average electricity usage comes from keeping one cold at all hours of the day and night.


How Much Electricity Does a Refrigerator Use?

The answer to the question “How many watts does a refrigerator use” or “How much electricity does a refrigerator use” is complicated because there are two measures of wattage—the stated wattage on the fridge label, also known as the appliance’s electrical rating, and the running wattage. The average refrigerator has an electrical rating of between 300 and 800 watts. This is the equivalent of 3-6 amps and approximately 120 volts. All these figures are typically shown on the manufacturer’s label.


However, it is important to know that the wattage stated on the label is not equivalent to how much wattage the refrigerator uses to run throughout the day. Instead, it is a measure of the appliance’s wattage when operating at capacity. Throughout the day and night, there are long periods of time when the refrigerator is on, but the door isn’t being opened, meaning the compressor doesn’t have to work as hard to keep the interior cold. During these periods, the refrigerator is not operating at its full wattage, and its power consumption is significantly reduced.

A refrigerator’s running wattage can be approximated by dividing the stated wattage on the label by 3. Typically, a refrigerator’s running wattage is only one-third of the stated wattage. So, for example, a fridge with a stated wattage of 420 watts, will have a running wattage of approximately 140 watts.


These are broad estimations. The actual figures will be impacted by the size, model, and age of your refrigerator, in addition to things like the ambient kitchen temperature and usage habits. 


How to Calculate Refrigerator Wattage (and other measures of energy use) 

Different manufacturers provide different measures of energy use on their labels. Some use kWh (kilowatt-hours), while others use amps and volts and sometimes watts. Luckily, there are simple formulas that can help you switch between these to get to the measure you are looking for.

How to calculate refrigerator running wattage if provided with volts and amps:

Let’s say the label states a rating of 120 volts (V) and 3.5 amps (A):

  1. First, multiply 3.5 (A) * 120 (V)= 420. This gets you to the refrigerator’s electrical rating in watts—420 watts.
  2. To calculate running wattage from here, divide the figure by three. 420/3=140
  3. That’s it! Running Wattage = (Amps x Volts)/3 or, in this example, (3.5*120)/3=420 Watts!

How to calculate running wattage if provided only with annual kilowatt-hours:

  1. Multiply the annual kilowatt-hours * 1000 to get annual watt-hours.
  2. Divide annual watt-hours by 365, the number of days in a year.
  3. Stop here if you’re interested in daily refrigerator wattage; otherwise, divide by 24 to get the hourly wattage!
  4. You can then divide the number by 3 to get the running wattage!

How to calculate volts and amps if provided only with annual kilowatt-hours.

  1. Follow steps 1-3 above.
  2. Consider the average outlet voltage of 120. Simply divide the hourly wattage by 120 to get the refrigerator amps. After all, we know that amps * volts = wattage!

How Much Does It Cost to Run a Refrigerator?

A monthly electricity bill provides an overview of your energy use over the course of the month, but it does not identify how much each appliance contributed to your overall consumption. Luckily, if you know how to calculate an appliance’s running wattage and you know your electricity rate, you can calculate how much your fridge costs you each month! The table below breaks down the approximate cost of running a refrigerator per month and per year based on the national average electricity rate as well as averages for several key states where Nexamp has community solar farms that could help you offset some of your electricity costs. This table considers a refrigerator with an electricity rating of 420 watts and a running wattage of 140 watts.

State Electricity Rate (Average per kWh) Refrigerator Wattage Running Wattage Hourly Refrigerator  Cost  Monthly Refrigerator Cost 

420 W

140 W
420 W 140 W


420 W 140 W
420 W 140 W
420 W 140 W
420 W 140 W
New Jersey
420 W 140 W
New York
420 W 140 W


FAQs About Refrigerator Wattage

Do Refrigerators Use a Lot of Electricity?

Refrigerators use a substantial amount of electricity, falling third in overall household energy use after laundry machines and air conditioners.

What Impacts Refrigerator Wattage?

There are several factors that influence how energy-efficient your refrigerator will be: size and capacity, age and efficiency, integrated features, temperature settings, and usage all play a role. Understanding these factors can help you make the smartest decision for your energy needs. Let’s explore these factors in greater depth. 

Size and capacity: 

Large refrigerators, which require energy to cool more space, typically use more power than smaller units.

Age and Efficiency: 

Technology is constantly advancing, making newer refrigerator models generally more energy-efficient than their predecessors.

Integrated Features: 

Some refrigerators come equipped with features like water dispensers and ice makers. Although these additions are convenient, they also increase the amount of energy the fridge needs to operate.

Usage Habits: 

The more frequently you open the fridge and the longer you leave the door open, the more energy it will take to keep it cold. Be sure not to leave the door of the fridge open, even if you know you’ll be putting things back in there soon. 

What is an ENERGY STAR Refrigerator?

ENERGY STAR certified refrigerators are the most energy-efficient options on the market. As such, they can help reduce your energy usage and enable you to save on electricity as a result.


If you’re interested in offsetting some of your electricity costs even further, consider signing up for Nexamp Community Solar and save between 10% and 15% on your annual electricity costs. Learn more here.