Experts answer on How Much Electricity Does a Commercial Refrigerator Use

How Much Electricity Does a Commercial Refrigerator Use?

Posted by | 02-10-2023

Commercial refrigerators are indispensable in various industries, particularly hospitality, food and beverage, and healthcare. They play a critical role in preserving perishable goods and maintaining the safety and quality of products. However, they are also one of the highest energy-consuming appliances in commercial settings. Understanding the electricity consumption of these units is crucial to managing operational costs effectively and making environmentally conscious choices.

What is a Commercial Refrigerator? How Does a Commercial Refrigerator Work?

A commercial refrigerator is a crucial appliance used in various business settings, especially in the food service, retail, and healthcare industries, designed to store perishable goods at safe temperatures. Unlike residential refrigerators, commercial refrigerators are built to meet the demands of commercial use, having a higher cooling power, larger storage capacity, and often featuring more robust and durable construction to withstand frequent use. These refrigerators come in several types and sizes, from large walk-in units to smaller under-counter models, depending on the needs of the business.

The working principle of a commercial refrigerator is fundamentally similar to that of its residential counterpart. Still, it usually has more advanced features and components to handle larger volumes of food and operate more efficiently in high-demand environments. A commercial refrigerator uses a refrigeration cycle, where a refrigerant—a substance with a low boiling point—is circulated through the system. The refrigerant absorbs heat from the refrigerator's interior and releases it outside, keeping the inside cool.

In the refrigeration cycle, the refrigerant travels through a series of coils and undergoes phase transitions between liquid and gas states. It evaporates by absorbing heat from the refrigerator's interior and then is compressed into a high-pressure, high-temperature gas. This gas then travels through the coils on the back or underneath the refrigerator, releasing heat to the surrounding air and condensing it back into a liquid. The liquid refrigerant then passes through an expansion valve, where it experiences a drop in pressure and temperature before re-entering the evaporator coils inside the refrigerator, and the cycle repeats.

A woman getting a drink out of a commercial refrigerator

Factors That Affect Power Usage in a Commercial Fridge

Several factors can impact the power usage of a commercial refrigerator, including its size, type, ambient temperature, temperature settings, frequency of door openings, condition of components like door seals and gaskets, and maintenance frequency.

1. Type and Size of the Refrigerator

Different refrigerators have varying energy needs depending on their design, capacity, and functionality. Larger units typically consume more energy, while smaller units may be more energy-efficient, depending on their use and location. Due to their size and constant opening and closing of doors, walk-in coolers and display refrigerators usually have higher energy needs.

2. Door Usage

When the refrigerator door is opened, warm air enters the unit, making the compressor work harder to maintain the desired internal temperature. This increases power consumption. Commercial refrigerators in busy settings where doors are frequently opened tend to use more energy.

3. Ambient Temperature

The surrounding temperature plays a vital role in determining energy consumption. Refrigerators located in hot or humid environments require more energy to cool the interiors. Maintaining an optimal external environment can aid in reducing power usage.

4. Temperature Settings

Lower temperature settings mean that the refrigeration unit needs to work harder to maintain the desired coolness level, which leads to higher energy consumption. Setting the temperature to the highest acceptable level can help conserve energy without compromising the safety and quality of stored products.

5. Condenser and Evaporator Coils

The efficiency of condenser and evaporator coils directly influences energy consumption. Dirty or malfunctioning coils can reduce the refrigerator's efficiency, increasing energy usage. Regular maintenance and cleaning are crucial to ensure optimal functioning.

6. Refrigerator Location

Placing refrigerators near heat-producing equipment or in direct sunlight can cause them to work harder to maintain internal temperatures. Proper placement in a cool, shaded area can significantly reduce energy consumption.

7. Energy-Efficiency Ratings

Commercial refrigerators with higher energy-efficiency ratings typically consume less power. While these units might be more expensive initially, they can substantially save energy costs over time.

8. Gasket Condition

The gaskets are designed to seal the doors of the refrigerator securely. If they are damaged or not sealed properly, cold air can escape, and the unit will have to work harder to maintain the temperature, consuming more power in the process.

9. Frequency of Maintenance

Regular maintenance checks and servicing ensure that the refrigeration unit is working at its optimal efficiency. Any small issues like refrigerant leaks or blockages can be identified and resolved early, preventing increased power consumption.

10. Load on the Refrigerator

Overloading the refrigerator can obstruct air circulation, forcing the unit to work harder to cool the products. Maintaining an optimal load is essential to ensure efficient operation and minimize energy consumption.

A woman checking on a product from a commercial fridge

Electricity Usage – Different Terms and Definitions

To comprehend the power consumption of commercial refrigerators, it's imperative to understand some basic terms and definitions associated with electricity usage:

  • Wattage: Wattage represents the rate at which electricity is used and is measured in watts (W). It’s crucial to know the wattage of a commercial refrigerator to calculate its power consumption.
  • Cost per unit: The cost per unit (kWh) is the amount the electricity provider charges for one kilowatt-hour of energy consumption. It is a crucial factor in determining the operational cost of a commercial refrigerator.
  • Hours of usage: This refers to the number of hours the refrigerator operates per day. Commercial refrigerators usually run continuously, resulting in substantial energy consumption.
  • Units per day: This represents the energy consumed by the refrigerator in a day, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). It is derived from the wattage and the hours of usage.

Energy Utilization of Commercial Refrigerators

Due to their incessant operation, commercial refrigerators are notorious for their high energy utilization. This is particularly vital for food merchandising refrigerators and commercial freezers to maintain the appropriate temperature range to preserve the freshness of consumable goods.

A conventional refrigerator utilizes approximately 0.18 kWh of energy per hour of operation, translating to an operational cost of around 0.02 cents per hour. To determine the energy consumption of a refrigerator, one needs to refer to the specified details and perform some swift computations.

The energy consumption of a refrigerator can be calculated by multiplying its wattage by the hours of operation per day and dividing by 1,000 to obtain the daily consumption in kWh.

However, these calculations lack precision as the energy consumption can vary from the rated wattage. Additionally, the provided specifications may not consider external variables impacting energy utilization.

A plug-in energy meter is a reliable tool for measuring refrigerator energy consumption. Connecting the refrigerator for an entire day allows one to observe the energy consumed and implement modifications to optimize energy utilization.

Various elements can elevate energy consumption in commercial refrigerators and freezers, such as:

  • Location-Related Challenges: The external conditions can compel refrigeration systems to exert more effort to maintain functionality depending on the business's location.
  • Age and Condition of the Appliance: Older models tend to have degraded components, leading to elevated energy consumption.
  • Frequent Access: Employees' regular access to commercial walk-in freezers allows cold air to escape and warm air to infiltrate, raising energy utilization. Minimizing access can mitigate energy loss.
  • Component Degradation and Leaks: Over time, components can degrade, leading to potential refrigerant leaks. A lack of refrigerant can elevate internal temperatures, necessitating additional energy to cool the products.
  • Suboptimal or Malfunctioning Equipment: Faulty equipment can significantly escalate commercial refrigeration's operational costs. As stated by, commercial refrigerators can consume up to 17,000 kWh, and large commercial freezers can utilize up to 38,000 kWh, resulting in substantial energy expenses.

Experts answer on How Much Electricity Does a Commercial Refrigerator Use

Energy Saving Tips for Commercial Refrigerators

Commercial refrigerators, while essential, are among the highest energy consumers in a business setting, particularly in industries like food service, retail, and healthcare. Implementing energy-saving measures can substantially reduce energy costs and decrease the environmental impact. Below are several energy-saving tips specifically aimed at commercial refrigerators.

1. Choose Energy-Efficient Model

Selecting commercial refrigerators that have received ENERGY STAR ratings or equivalent certifications is crucial for energy conservation. These models meet stringent energy efficiency criteria, ensuring lower energy consumption. Additionally, considering the total cost of ownership, including prospective energy expenses, is crucial when investing in new refrigeration units, as it can influence long-term savings.

2. Regular Maintenance

Frequent cleaning of the condenser and evaporator coils is essential for maintaining the optimal efficiency of commercial refrigerators. Any refrigerant leaks should be identified and repaired promptly to prevent loss of cooling capability. Regular servicing by qualified professionals ensures that the refrigeration system operates effectively and any potential issues are addressed before they escalate.

3. Optimize Temperature Settings

Managing temperature settings effectively is also crucial. Setting the thermostat to the highest permissible level can curtail energy usage significantly, as each degree lower necessitates substantial energy. Employing precise thermometers helps monitor internal temperatures and facilitate necessary adjustments, thus avoiding excessive cooling and energy wastage.

4. Maintain Door Seals

Proper maintenance of door gaskets is essential to prevent air leakage. Damaged or malfunctioning seals should be replaced immediately, and installing auto closers and door alarms can prevent doors from being inadvertently left open, preserving the internal temperature and reducing energy consumption.

5. Optimize Loading

Overloading the refrigerator hinders air circulation, forcing the unit to work harder and consume more energy. Items should be arranged to permit optimal airflow and hot food should be allowed to reach room temperature before being placed in the refrigerator to avoid overworking the cooling system.

6. Efficient Placement

Strategic placement of refrigerators away from heat-producing equipment and direct sunlight can also contribute to energy savings. Adequate spacing around the refrigerator is vital for effective heat dispersion and efficiency.

7. Use Night Covers

Installing night covers on open refrigerated display cases helps reduce energy consumption during non-business hours. Additionally, employing energy-efficient lighting within the refrigerator contributes to overall energy savings.

8. Defrost Regularly

Ensuring that the auto-defrost feature is functioning correctly is essential for maintaining efficiency. Models without this feature should be defrosted manually on a regular basis to avoid frost buildup, which can impede efficient operation.

9. Install Energy Management Systems

Implementing advanced control and monitoring systems can optimize energy consumption by adjusting to load, usage patterns, and environmental conditions. Such systems can provide insights and alerts on energy usage, enabling more informed energy management decisions.

10. Educate Staff

Training staff on best practices for operating refrigeration equipment can significantly impact energy consumption. Educating them on the importance of minimizing door open times, securely closing doors, and reporting any issues promptly can foster an energy-conscious work environment.

11. Use Strip Curtains or Plastic Swinging Doors

Installing strip curtains or plastic swinging doors on walk-in refrigerators can minimize the loss of cold air when the door is opened, maintaining the internal temperature and reducing the load on the cooling system.

12. Retrofit Older Equipment

Retrofitting older refrigeration units with modern, high-efficiency components and controls can substantially improve their energy efficiency, contributing to long-term energy and cost savings.

A young person deciding on the right drink in front of a commercial refrigerator

How Can Ancaster Food Equipment Help?

Ancaster Food Equipment stands as a beacon in commercial refrigeration solutions, offering myriad options to cater to various business needs. Whether you are in the food service, retail, or healthcare sector, finding the right refrigeration equipment that aligns with your requirements is crucial, and this is where Ancaster Food Equipment excels.

We offer an extensive collection of refurbished and brand-new refrigerators, ensuring businesses can find products that fit their budget and functional needs. Our refurbished models are meticulously restored to their former glory, guaranteeing reliability and efficiency, comparable to new units, but at a fraction of the cost. This allows businesses, especially startups and small enterprises, to access high-quality equipment without straining their finances.

On the other hand, our brand-new refrigerators come with the latest technologies and features, ensuring optimal performance, energy efficiency, and longevity. They are designed to meet the rigorous demands of commercial use, providing precise temperature controls, advanced cooling systems, and robust constructions.

At Ancaster Food Equipment, our commitment goes beyond providing quality products. We strive to offer comprehensive solutions, supporting our clients in selecting the right equipment, understanding their features and maintenance needs, and ensuring smooth installation and after-sales service. Our expert team is always ready to assist you in navigating through our vast collection and making informed decisions that can elevate your business operations and contribute to sustainability through energy-efficient solutions.

Final Words: How Much Electricity Does a Commercial Refrigerator Use?

Commercial refrigerators are essential but can be energy-intensive. A comprehensive understanding of their energy consumption patterns and the factors affecting them can facilitate informed decision-making regarding their operation and maintenance. By implementing energy-saving measures, businesses can significantly reduce operational costs and contribute to environmental conservation. Whether it is a restaurant, a supermarket, or a hospital, practicing energy efficiency with commercial refrigerators is a step towards sustainable and responsible business operations.

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