On March 27, the U.S. Department of Energy’s updated efficiency requirements for commercial refrigeration cabinets go into effect, but enforcement is uncertain.
True Manufacturing's warning banner at the NAFEM Show
March 27 – the date when the U.S. Department of Energy’s new energy efficiency standards for commercial refrigeration display cabinets take effect – is just two weeks away. But True Manufacturing has been prepared for this date for some time.
The O’Fallon, Mo.-based OEM has, over the past two years, converted about 80% of its foodservice and food retail coolers and freezers from HFCs to propane refrigerant – a key efficiency-enhancing factor, said Todd Washburn, director of sales & marketing, retail division for True. “The fact that we started with hydrocarbons much earlier than others puts us in a good position to meet the 2017 requirements.”
According to Charles Hon, True's engineering manager, the company offers 327 hydrocarbon base models that meet the DOE's 2017 standards.
By dint of the propane equipment alone, True’s units are on average 15% to 25% more efficient than their HFC predecessors, said Washburn. Other enhancements, like LED lighting and high-efficiency motors, boost the average efficiency advantage to between 25% and 30%.
For example, True model T-23-HC hydrocarbon single-door commercial refrigerator, which can use no more than 2.27 kWh of energy daily under the DOE’s new requirements, consumes just 1.27 kWh daily; by contrast, True’s R134a version uses 2.14 kWh daily. Over the course of a year, the propane unit would save an end user $31.76 in energy costs (at 10 cents/kWh).
At last month’s NAFEM Show in Orlando, Fla., True featured many of its hydrocarbon display cases, refrigerators and freezers, pointing out to foodservice customers that these products use propane and “will be on the DOE 2017 list” of commercial equipment that meets the new efficiency standard, said Washburn.
“The standards are only as good as their enforcement.”
– Todd Washburn, True Manufacturing
Customers need to be aware of the new energy standards – which imposes efficiency requirements that are as much as 57% greater than the previous level for specific equipment, according to a study by Carel – and ask their suppliers whether their equipment is compliant, advised Washburn. New equipment that does not meet the efficiency standards cannot be legally sold in the U.S. as of March 27. “If suppliers don’t meet the standard, and you need [new equipment], you could have a supply issue. Customers don’t want to be in that position.”
Washburn does not believe the Trump administration, which is taking an anti-regulation posture, will try to roll back the new standards. “The DOE regs are law. To rescind them would take two years.”
But how strictly the standards will be enforced is not as clear. “The big issue is: will there be any teeth to it?” said Washburn. “The standards are only as good as their enforcement. If there’s no policing of this, it’s really not fair to the people who are compliant and are doing the hard work.”
The DOE’s enforcement of its previous efficiency standards, set in 2010, was spotty. The agency only began auditing compliance in earnest over the past year, in an effort to take stock prior to the onset of the new requirements, explained Washburn, adding that a number of fines were issued.