Refrigeration contractors and technicians who work in the domestic refrigeration sector should be aware of increased efficiency standards that are also affecting ice making equipment and room air conditioners. And all those in refrigeration should look at such efficiency upgrades as a growing trend across the board.

According to a release from the Alliance to Save Energy, “Advocacy groups and appliance manufacturers hailed a 25 percent increase in energy efficiency for most new refrigerators, starting in 2014, thanks to new efficiency standards that the U.S. Department of Energy announced [in September], continuing a 40-year trend of improving energy efficiency for this essential home appliance.”

The groups said the new standards are the first step in the department’s implementation of the recommendations they proposed to DOE in July for new minimum efficiency standards, tax credits, and Energy Star incentives for appliances affecting six major categories of home appliances.

According to the proposed rule, a typical new 20-cubic-foot refrigerator with the freezer on top would use about 390 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year, down from about 900 kWh/year in 1990, and about 1,700 kWh/year in the early 1970s. According to statistics from the Alliance, on a national basis, the new standards would, over 30 years, save 4.5 quads of energy, or roughly enough to meet the total energy needs of one-fifth of all U.S. households for a year. Over the same period, the standards will save consumers about $18.5 billion, the Alliance said.

According to the Alliance, DOE was to have finalized the standards by the end of 2010 to take effect in 2014.

Based on the July agreement, home appliance manufacturers and efficiency, environmental, and consumer advocates have agreed to jointly pursue with Congress and the administration new standards for six categories of home appliances (refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, dishwashers, and room air conditioners), as well as a recommendation that Energy Star qualification criteria incorporate credit for smart grid capability and a package of targeted tax credits aimed at fostering the market for super-efficient appliances.

While DOE or Congress can act on the standards, the extension of the manufacturers’ tax credit for super-efficient appliances requires new legislation. EPA and DOE will consider the recommendation to jump-start the smart grid through incentives for the deployment of smart appliances through the Energy Star program.

As part of the new refrigerator standards, ice maker energy consumption also will be reflected in product energy-use ratings.

“We appreciate that DOE has moved so quickly to adopt the agreed-upon standards,” said An- drew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. “The consensus standards not only save consumers a huge amount of energy and money, they also save DOE the energy, time, and money that a contentious rulemaking process can require.”

“The appliance industry has a strong history in reaching agreement with a broad base of energy and water efficiency advocates, as well as consumer groups, to develop energy conservation standards for home appliances,” said Joseph McGuire, president of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. “The new minimum energy standards are a significant part of the agreement, as is the extension of the current super-efficient manufacturers’ tax credits, which we are urging Congress to act on, and a soon-to-be-submitted petition to Energy Star on smart appliances.”

“This big step forward for refrigerator efficiency proves that the well of innovation leading to energy savings is very, very deep,” said David B. Goldstein, energy program director for the Natural Resource Defense Council. “These standards pave the way for manufacturer investments in a next generation of products that demonstrate ever-increasing energy and cost savings.”

“Even though refrigerators have become much more energy efficient, they still account for about 10 percent of household electricity use,” observed Alliance Vice President for Programs Jeffrey Harris. “With the new standards, consumers will not only save energy, they’ll also have a better picture of total energy use, because the ratings will include automatic ice makers.”

“This kind of joint recommendation can expedite new standards,” said Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “By moving quickly to adopt the agreement, DOE encourages all parties who are willing to work in a collaborative way to agree on new standards.”

Publication date:01/17/2011