Manufacturers of walk-in coolers and freezers are concerned that a new federal energy-efficiency law that regulates the design of their equipment is going to cause them to lose bids to noncompliant competitors.

“In California, which has had a similar law in place since the beginning of 2008, manufacturers are reporting they are being placed at a competitive disadvantage because of rampant noncompliance,” said Stephen Yurek, president of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute.

“Now that similar standards for walk-in coolers and freezers have become federal law, refrigeration manufacturers are concerned this is going to become a national problem.”

The federal regulations include a number of prescriptive measures to improve the efficiency of walk-in freezers and coolers manufactured after Jan. 1, 2009, and many manufacturers have designed their products to comply.

But, said Yurek, “Neither the California nor the federal law has an enforcement mechanism. So that drawback combined with a lack of awareness among equipment installers and owners that these laws exist, will result in noncompliance becoming a growing issue. This is not only bad for our members’ businesses, it also hurts our ability as a nation to save energy.”

To address the issue, AHRI is launching an initiative to educate distributors, installers, and equipment owners about the new standard and its requirements. The association has developed a checklist that installers and equipment owners can use to make sure the walk-in cooler or freezer being specified or installed complies with federal law. (See sidebar for that checklist.)

In addition to customer education, manufacturers said the solution is the development of a certification program for walk-in coolers and freezers that would identify those units that have been independently tested to verify they achieve a federally established minimum performance rating.

Yurek said the federal government is working with the refrigeration industry to develop a testing methodology for this equipment by 2010. In addition, a final rule is expected to be adopted in January 2012 that will establish a performance-based standard.

“We believe a performance standard for this equipment combined with a performance certification program is the most effective approach to improving the energy efficiency of walk-in freezers and coolers,” said Yurek. “Our members are committed to working with the federal government to develop a testing methodology as quickly as possible.”

Sidebar: Design Standard Checklist

To optimize the performance of walk-in coolers and freezers, a new federal law prescribes a series of measures to improve their efficiency. To be compliant with the law, the checklist that follows lists those measures that should be followed for equipment manufactured after Jan. 1, 2009.

The federal regulation applies to walk-in coolers and freezers that have a total chilled storage area of less than 3,000 square feet. Regulated coolers also must achieve temperatures above 32°F and regulated freezers must achieve temperatures at or below 32°.

The regulation does not apply to products that are designed and marketed exclusively for medical, scientific or research purposes. It also does not apply to units manufactured prior to Jan. 1, 2009, but equipment owners interested in boosting the efficiency of their existing walk-ins can use the checklist to identify opportunities to make energy-saving improvements.

• Automatic door closers that firmly close all walk-in doors if they are within 1 inch of the closed position. This requirement does not apply to doors wider than 3 feet 9 inches or taller than 7 feet.

• Strip doors, spring-hinged doors, or other measures to minimize air infiltration when doors are open.

• Lighting with an efficiency of 40 lumens per watt or more, including ballast losses or occupancy sensors that turn lights off within 15 minutes if the walk-in is unoccupied.

• Insulation of walls, ceiling and doors of at least R-25 for coolers and R-32 for freezers.

• Floor insulation of at least R-28 for freezers.

• For evaporator fan motors under 1 horsepower (hp) and less than 460 V, use either electronically commutated motors (brushless direct current motors) or three-phase motors.

• For condenser fan motors under 1 hp, use either electronically commutated motors, permanent split capacitor-type motors, or three-phase motors.

• For coolers, use double-pane with heat-reflective treated glass and gas fill or triple-pane with either heat-reflective treated glass or gas fill.

• For freezers, use triple-pane with either heat-reflective treated glass or gas fill.

• Walk-ins with antisweat heaters on transparent reach-in doors, but without antisweat heat controls, must have a total door rail, glass and frame heater power draw of no more than 7.1 watts per square foot of door opening for freezers and 3.0 watts per square foot of door opening for coolers.

• Antisweat heat controls on walk-ins with antisweat heaters on transparent reach-in doors and a total door rail, glass and frame heater power draw of more than 7.1 watts per square foot of door opening for freezers, and 3.0 watts per square foot of door opening for coolers must reduce the unit’s energy use in an amount corresponding to the rh in the air outside the door or to the condensation on the inner glass pane.

Publication date:05/11/2009