A performance analysis and optimization based on a new thermo-ecological optimization criterion has been carried out for refrigerators. The ecological objective function is defined as the ratio of the cooling load to the loss rate of availability (or entropy generation rate). The maximum of the ecological performance criterion and the corresponding optimal conditions have been derived analytically. The optimum performance parameters which maximize the objective function have been investigated and the effects of irreversibility parameters on the general and optimal performances are discussed detailed. The obtained results may provide a general theoretical tool for the ecological design of refrigerators. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd and IIR. All rights reserved.