In a crushing feat, a California utility recently recycled its one millionth refrigerator. That's enough to fill a football stadium and Americans dispose of more than nine million fridges and freezers every year. Six years ago Southern California Edison was one of the founding partners of the Responsible Appliance Disposal program operated by the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to getting rid of appliances that emit ozone-depleting substances and greenhouse gases, RAD encourages consumers to get energy hogs off the grid and replace them with more efficient models, according to Consumer Reports.
The EPA estimates that 9.4 million refrigerators and freezers, 4.5 million window air-conditioners, and 950,000 dehumidifiers were disposed of in 2010. To make sure they don't end up in the landfill, more than 40 RAD partners ensure that harmful substances found in the refrigerant and insulating foam are properly disposed of and that the metal, plastic and glass parts are recycled.
But perhaps the biggest benefit to consumers is the savings you get when unplugging an old refrigerator, air conditioner or dehumidifier and replacing it with a newer, more energy-efficient model that meets Energy Star standards. In its tests, Consumer Reports measures the energy efficiency of refrigerators, dehumidifiers and window A/C units to help consumers compare operating costs. For example, a Haier PBFS21EDA[S] French-door refrigerator costs $154 to run each year while Kenmore 7160 costs only $52 to operate. In addition, the Kenmore sells for less and has more usable space.
But don't shop by Energy Star alone. Efficiency standards vary by refrigerator type so a non-Energy Star-qualified top-freezer might actually be more efficient than a side-by-side with the designation. For an apples-to-apples comparison, use the annual operating costs and the kilowatt-hours per year the refrigerator uses, which are listed on the yellow EnergyGuide label. Our Ratings are consistent between types, for efficiency and energy costs.