US EPA revises 2014 Energy Star requirements for residential refrigeration

By Alexandra Maratou, Jun 28, 2013, 13:16 4 minute reading

Two days after President Obama identified energy efficiency standards as well as HFC emissions reduction among the top priorities of his plan to tackle climate change, the US EPA has announced a revision of its Energy Star requirements for residential refrigerators and freezers: as of 15 September 2014 certified refrigerators and freezers must use at least 10% less energy than that required by DOE’s 2014 federal minimum efficiency standards.

“If all refrigerators and freezers sold in the United States were to meet the updated requirements, energy cost savings would grow to more than $890 million each year and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of those from more than one million vehicles”, reads the news release by the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).

As of 15 September to be awarded the Energy Star label refrigerator and freezer models need to use 10% less energy that the federal minimum efficiency standards, expressed as the maximum annual energy consumption for a product as a function of the product's adjusted volume.

Apart from raising the energy efficiency bar, the updated requirements for the first time encourage manufacturers of Energy Star appliances to include optional “connected” features: refrigerators and freezers with connected functionality will also be “smart grid”-ready, meaning that with consumer permission, they will be able to respond to utility signals, including expensive peak demand times. 

US climate plan: domestic action on HFCs through SNAP and public procurement

President Obama's speech launching his climate action plan on 25 June 2013 identified not only energy efficiency standards but also HFC emissions reduction as key priorities. The US aspire to take the lead in curbing emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) both through international diplomacy as well as domestic actions.

At home, “the Environmental Protection Agency will use its authority through the Significant New Alternatives Policy Program to encourage private sector investment in low-emissions technology by identifying and approving climate-friendly chemicals while prohibiting certain uses of the most harmful chemical alternatives”, reads the action plan. “In addition, the President has directed his Administration to purchase cleaner alternatives to HFCs whenever feasible and transition over time to equipment that uses safer and more sustainable alternatives”.

New report: “upgrading to the most efficient products on the US market could save as much energy as Argentina uses in an entire year”

At the same time, new analysis by The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) concludes that devices and equipment commonly found in US homes and businesses consume more energy each year than many large countries use to power their entire economies. It also concludes that these devices could be made to use 40-50% less energy with existing technology. "If consumers upgraded to the most efficient products on the market today, we could save as much energy as Argentina uses in an entire year," said Sameer Kwatra lead author of the new report titled ‘Miscellaneous Energy Loads in Buildings’ that was released on 26 June 2013.

The report does not discuss in detail major end-uses such as commercial refrigeration and residential refrigerators, since these are relatively well studied, and focuses on product groups that would typically fall into the 'others' category.

It acknowledges voluntary programmes such as Energy Star as instrumental in driving efficiency for many products, and recommends specifications become available for additional high energy-consuming products. Even for those products that are covered by the Energy Star program, the report assesses that the movement toward a more efficient installed base can be accelerated by utility programmes that incentivise the sale of efficient miscellaneous end-use products.

In the commercial building sector, the report discusses the following refrigeration related applications:
  • Walk-in refrigeration: The federal standard includes prescriptive requirements for enclosure insulation levels, automatic door closure, and motor and light efficiency. An update to the standard is currently under review with the US Department of Energy (DOE) and is scheduled for completion later this year, however the Energy Star programme does not cover the product group. The report highlights energy saving measures such as the use of ECM motor control, economiser cooling by utilising cold outdoor air in northern climates to reduce cooling load, floating head pressure and using high efficiency lighting and fans, as well as advanced defrost and anti-sweat systems.
  • Ice machines: There are about 2.6 million ice machines installed in the United States, with more than 80% of machines sold in the US making cube ice. Federal standards for ice makers that became effective in 2010 do not cover flake or nugget ice machines. Energy Star ice makers are on average 10%-15% more energy efficient and 23% more water-efficient than standard models.
  • Vending machines: There are approximately 6.7 million vending machines in the US, of which 35% are refrigerated. These 2 million refrigerated units however, account for 74% of the annual energy consumption of vending machines in the US. The DOE standard sets a limit on the maximum daily energy consumption, while a new Energy Star specification requires all qualifying models to come equipped with hard-wired controls and/or software capable of placing the machine into a low power mode during periods of extended inactivity. According to the report, Energy Star rated vending machines are significantly more efficient than most of the older models and further adoption of the best available technology can lead to savings of up to 40% of annual energy use. 


By Alexandra Maratou

Jun 28, 2013, 13:16

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