Vintage refrigerators are not necessarily less energy-efficient than today’s models. Refrigerators from earlier than 1960 actually perform well in regards to energy use. The popularity of the frost-free fridge in the '60s is generally regarded as the turning point towards the production of more energy-consuming appliances. Retrofitting these energy guzzlers with energy-efficient parts is time-consuming and expensive, and parts are difficult to find for vintage appliances.
The best resources for locating parts for vintage refrigerators are online. For instance, the PartSelect website allows customers to cross-reference replacement parts for vintage refrigerators with parts built for modern refrigerators.
Another common problem with vintage style refrigerators is simple disrepair, but restoration can be a demanding process. Sandblasting is often required to get the collected dirt out of the gears and multiple coats of enamel needed to cover decades of surface damage. An alternative to tackling these problems is to buy a new retro-styled refrigerator from manufacturers like Big Chill and Northstar.