According to the Energy Information Administration, a federal organization that keeps track of appliance ownership, about 35 million households in the United States have two refrigerators. The Vincents are one of the six million households that report owning more than two refrigerators, whether full- or dorm-size units. The percentage increased from 14% of all houses in 1978, when the organization first began interviewing Americans, to 30% in 2015. At least two refrigerators are present in over 40% of rural and around 27% of urban houses nowadays.
With the epidemic still going strong and the typical 10-year lifespan of more recent refrigerators, those figures will probably shift once more. Months of backorders caused a purchasing frenzy for refrigerators when stand-alone freezers were out of stock in retailers all throughout the country in the spring of 2020. Consumer Reports recommended a second refrigerator in April for anyone who couldn’t find a freezer.
The second refrigerator might be a quaint vintage or the most recent design. It may also be aspirational for many. It could satisfy a desire for storage. Others could use its ingredients as food insurance during hard times. And there are a plethora of additional justifications for having a second fridge, including regular entertaining, preserving kimchi or other delicacies that require time to mature, a propensity for hoarding, or even the expense of replacing a refrigerator.
But in the world of numerous refrigerators—or freezers, for that matter—class and context matter. (EIA statisticians refer to those chest-style or standalone units as “deer freezers” since Midwesterners who hunt often use them.)
The cost of buying a second refrigerator has decreased thanks to newer technology. According to William McNary, a research statistician for the agency, refrigerators formerly commonly used more than 10% of a household’s total electricity, which drove old-fridge disposal or buybacks throughout the nation during prior blackouts and energy crises. “Right now, it’s far from that,” he remarked. Modern versions with EnergyStar ratings may run for as cheap as 10 cents per day.
We are aware that the nation’s power-guzzling surplus refrigerators won’t go away, despite once-legitimate worries to the contrary. Even yet, ownership of many refrigerators transcends differences in household size and wealth. The likelihood of having more than two refrigerators increases with income, with those earning less than $20,000 and those earning more than $140,000 having the highest likelihood.
The data contradict common thinking, which holds that there should be more freezers the more mouths there are to feed. The majority of American families with only two people have two refrigerators.
Additionally, second refrigerators are owned by people of color at disproportionately high rates. They are present in about 20% of Black Americans, 22% of Latinos, and 23% of Asian Americans. In the most recent comprehensive study of household energy consumption conducted five years ago by the Energy Information Administration, one-third of Native American respondents said that they had several refrigerators.