Knowledge Base

How Many Watts Does a Refrigerator Use? (Refrigerator Wattage Tested)

By:Michael Johns

refrigerator in kitchen

On this page, you will find out how many watts a refrigerator draws.

When you think about the greatest inventions of all time you probably jump to electricity, the internet, or sliced bread… But what about the refrigerator? It quietly does its job in the kitchen keeping your food and drink fresh. Most don’t even have switches or a power button. Just a door to open when you’re hungry. So it’s easy to forget that a fridge uses a lot of electricity and power draw peaks when internal temperatures rise too high.

Below we will discuss and test refrigerator wattage, explain how to work it out for yourself, and calculate the total electricity required.

How Many Watts is a Refrigerator?

The average refrigerator uses between 60 – 250 watts.

The exact number depends on the size and model of your refrigerator. For example, a small fridge of under 5 cubic feet uses around 100 watts. While a large one of over 10 cubic feet can use 300 watt or more.

Plus you should understand how a fridge works. It will not always be drawing this running wattage. It will only draw this high wattage when cycled on and cooling. The majority of the time the internal temperature is maintained by the in-built insulation and the appliance remains idle. It’s only when the internal temperature becomes too warm that a fridge increases its power to start cooling.

How to Find Out Your Fridge Wattage

There’s 3 ways you can work out the wattage of a refrigerator.

  1. Check Product Specification

The quickest way is to look at the refrigerator’s specification. The watts (W) is usually written on a sticker on the base of the appliance. If not, you can check the user manual or the manufacturer’s website for technical details.

  1. Use a Wattmeter

A wattmeter is brilliant for getting a live wattage reading and tracking total energy usage of any appliance. You can simply plug it into your refrigerator to get instant information. 

I used one to test my refrigerator which gave a live reading of 63W when cooling. This is for a very efficient and small modern fridge!

fridge wattage test
Testing my fridge with a wattmeter
  1. Wattage Formula or Calculator

If you know the amperage and voltage of your refrigerator you can use this to find the running watts. Simply use the formula Amps x Volts = Watts. Or you can head over to the ‘Watt Calculator’ to work this out.

Refrigerator Wattage Example Test

A yellow Smeg fridge
A retro Smeg fridge has a 90W power rating

Let’s take a look at a specific example of how many watts a refrigerator draws. Below is a video showing the variation in the running watts and energy usage of a residential fridge.

The power ratings vary between different refrigerators. On this large unit above we saw power consumption spike at over 200W. While a test on my compact home appliance was a spike of 63W. And a Smeg retro fridge is rated at 90W.

You can see the variation is wild so should take the time to check your own appliance.

How Much Electricity Does a Refrigerator Use?

It can be tricky to work out the total electricity use of a fridge. This is because you can’t just use a simple wattage reading as the power levels can vary from minute to minute.

To find out your personal electricity usage from a refrigerator you should attach a wattmeter over a long period of time, such as a week or month. The meter will then record the total energy used in kWh. You can then use this number to calculate daily, weekly, monthly, and annual usage. Plus you can calculate the cost from your utility bill which shows how much you pay per kWh. The average in the USA is about $0.15 per kWh.

Additionally, all manufacturers now list the average annual energy consumption of a fridge and how much that will cost you. 

You will find that a compact refrigerator uses about 180kWh a year. ($30 cost to run annually).

A large combined fridge freeze uses 400Wh+ a year ($60+ to run annually.)

As you can see, refrigerators are one of the largest energy consumers in your household. Although, modern fridges are increasingly more efficient and reduce the cost to store your food. 

Using a Refrigerator Off-Grid

If you’re planning to use your refrigerator in an off-grid situation like a power outage, RV, boat, truck, or similar, the information above is important. It enables you to pick the correct power product and know how long it can run.

You can either use a power inverter, portable power station, or generator to generate electricity. 

To make sure everything runs smoothly you should check two things on this equipment – wattage capacity and total energy capacity. 

Your power source, like an inverter, should have a wattage capacity of at least 20% more than your refrigerator. This ensures it will be able to deliver enough power as they are never 100% efficient. To keep your food cool in a compact fridge, you will need at least 500W of power capacity. This will give you plenty of power to cope with surges and cycles.

A fridge also draws a surge in power when it first starts up. This can be 2 or 3 times the running watts. You need to ensure your inverter has a peak power function.

Secondly, you need to ensure your energy source, like a battery, has enough energy to run the refrigerator for the required amount of time. As we already know, it will can about 500Wh of electricity every day. This is the equivalent to 41Ah on a 12V battery.

If you have a campervan or similar, you should look to use a smaller and low powered camping fridge. These can cut wattage to under 50W when cycled on and even run from a 12V source. It will save you a lot of energy. But these appliances can struggle to stay cold or cool food if heat escapes regularly!

How Many Watts Does a Refrigerator Use Summary

I hope you now have a clear understanding of how many watts a refrigerator uses.

As you now know, it is helpful to know the peak wattage of a fridge in order to choose off-grid power products like and inverter or generator. But it is not accurate for analyzing the total electricity usage of the appliance. You need to understand the total power draw of a unit during its cycle including during cooling and when it is idle. Only then, will you get a full picture of a refrigerator’s wattage.