How to Measure a Refrigerator's Power Consumption

Written by david robinson
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How to Measure a Refrigerator's Power Consumption
Your old refrigerator may be using too much power. (BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Power consumption is linked to voltage and current through Ohms Law, named for German physicist Georg Simon Ohm, which states that electrical power is the product of the voltage multiplied by the current. Power is measured in watts, named for another physicist, James Watt, the British engineer credited with triggering the Industrial revolution. Measuring a refrigerator's power consumption requires measuring the current it draws. Once this and the voltage supplied to the appliance are known, calculating the power consumption is simple.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Clamp meter
  • Breakout cord

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Switch off the power to the refrigerator and access the power cord between the refrigerator and the receptacle. Examine the cord insulation, looking for damage, exposed wires and burnt areas. Satisfy yourself that the cord is safe to handle before continuing.

  2. 2

    Disconnect the refrigerator cord from the receptacle. Plug the breakout cord into the receptacle, and then plug the refrigerator cord into the other end of the breakout cord. Check that the connections are complete and tight, and then switch on the power.

  3. 3

    Select the "AC Current" function and then select an appropriate measurement range, such as "40 Amp," by turning the rotary selector switch.

    Open the clamp jaw by squeezing the trigger, position the black breakout wire in the centre of the jaws and then close them. Read the value shown on the meter display. This is the current flowing through the wire.

  4. 4

    Multiply the voltage by the current. The result is the power consumption in watts. For example, if the voltage is 120 and the current is 8 amps, the refrigerator power consumption is 960 watts, or 120 x 8 = 960.

Tips and warnings

  • A breakout cord is a length of electrical cord from which the outer insulation has been removed, leaving the individually insulated wires exposed and accessible.
  • A typical 16 cubic feet refrigerator uses about 725 watts.
  • Refrigerators include an electric motor to drive the compressor. The motor draws significantly more power when starting up than it does when it is already running.

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