Desire a greener refrigerator, but lack the cash for an energy efficient upgrade? If your current appliance features an automatic ice maker, you may be able to cut electricity costs simply by switching it off and reverting to the old-fashioned ice-cube tray.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reports that it recently tested four different types of refrigerators and found that ice makers increased the rated energy consumption of the appliance overall by 12 to 20 percent. (About three-fourths of that energy was sucked up by the electric heaters used to release ice-cubes from their molds.)

Ice Maker
image via National Institute of Standards and Technology

Since–according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)–refrigerators consume about 8 percent of the total energy of the typical American household, higher standards for ice makers holds the potential for big savings in the country at large. NIST calls for improved, standardized testing for ice makers, which are currently not taken into account when calculating the energy efficiency ratings of refrigerators (a fact which leads Green UPGRADER to count the refrigerator ice maker as a “major home energy vampire”).

Until NIST develops standardized testing methods for refrigerator ice makers, the DOE plans to add 84 kilowatt hours to the energy efficiency rating of every refrigerator equipped with one. Once a reliable, straightforward test is available, DOE will eliminate this “placeholder” energy consumption number and use actual ice maker test results for each refrigerator model in its efficiency ratings.

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