Service technicians who work on commercial refrigeration equipment should be aware that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued what it calls the final rule on the “Energy Conservation Program: Energy Conservation Standards for Commercial Refrigeration Equipment.”

It is an extensive document in which the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy within the DOE details how it thinks a wide range of refrigeration equipment should be operating. It updates the DOE’s 2009 standards and, according to the DOE, “will make the average commercial refrigeration unit about 30 percent more efficient compared with the current standards.”

Among products covered are remote commercial ice-cream freezers; self-contained commercial refrigerators; commercial freezers and commercial refrigerator-freezers without doors; and remote condensing commercial refrigerators, commercial freezers, and commercial refrigerator-freezers.

The rule gives manufacturers three years to comply with the amended standards.

For service technicians and contractors, the key is to be aware of the next generation of equipment coming down the road, any differing servicing techniques that might be required, and the fact that like-for-like equipment may not be easily changed out even if a customer requests it. The best match replacement may be a higher-efficiency model, which more than likely will show cost savings in the long run, but at a higher upfront cost.


In issuing the ruling, the DOE said it considered improvements that are both “technologically feasible and economically justified.” Results are measured in what was called “maximum daily energy consumption (MDEC) values as a function of either refrigerated volume or total display area.” The idea here is to show that the upfront cost will be more than recouped through the normal lifespan of the equipment.

As part of its evaluation, the DOE said it “incorporated by referencing ANSI/AHRI Standard 1200-2010 ‘Performance Rating of Commercial Refrigerated Display Merchandisers and Storage Cabinets’ as well as ANSI/AHAM [American National Standards Institute/Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers] Standard HRF-1-2008, ‘Energy, Performance, and Capacity of Household Refrigerators, Refrigerator-Freezers, and Freezers.’”


There was also a public meeting in Washington in early December in which oral comments were invited. Comments from the industry raised questions about the economic feasibility and technological possibility of bringing to the market equipment to meet the new standards, as well as questions about new standards that exceed Energy Star requirements.

In the end, DOE did revise some aspects of the standards while agreeing to disagree with industry manufacturers on the ability to develop the products. “DOE believes that the technologies and designs included in the analysis accurately reflect what is available to industry for improving equipment efficiency,” it said.

Regarding Energy Star, DOE said it “cautions against direct comparisons between its standards and those set forth by Energy Star due to the different natures of the programs and how the two different sets of standard levels are set. Energy Star is a voluntary program which derives its standard levels from market data based on the performance of certain models of equipment currently available for purchase.”


Aspects of the rule did draw praise from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy with regard to the standards for commercial icemakers. In citing Energy Conservation Standards for Automatic Commercial Ice Makers, the organization said, “The proposed standards, which can be met by employing higher-efficiency compressors and motors and increasing heat exchanger surface area, would reduce icemaker energy consumption by 15-30 percent for the most common types of machines. Higher cost-effective efficiency levels, which could be achieved using technologies including permanent magnet motors and drain water heat exchangers, would reduce energy consumption for the most common types of icemakers by another 5-10 percent.”