It wasn't that many years ago when a trip to a supermarket, no matter the outside temperature, may have required the toting along of a coat and gloves. That's because many markets had open refrigerated and frozen food cases to make it easier to lure shoppers to enticing products. In some instances, the cold traveled well beyond the cases, making for some mighty chilly ambient as I used to be able to attest to when going to a nearby mega-supermarket (now defunct).

In recent years, closed-door cases have become more common, and shoppers are getting used to opening and closing doors. Sometimes they have to hold the doors open for quite a while in order to better view products, especially in the orange juice section, which features several varieties of juice - pulp free, low pulp, calcium added, reduced sugar, good for your heart (as if there is O.J. that is bad for your heart?).

While customer comfort was one motive for going to more cases with doors, there was a more important reason - and that was to cut down on the monthly electric bill. Now an even more significant development is under way in this goal of greater energy savings.

Industry trade associations and manufacturers have reached a consensus agreement on commercial refrigeration efficiency standards. This development was reported in detail in the April 11 online edition of The News ( and in the April 18 print edition ("Refrigeration Energy Plan Heads for Congress").

Proposed Changes

The standards are not as basic as the 13 SEER standard on the air conditioning side. There are a range of standards based on size, volume, and the nature of the refrigerated equipment.

But according to Stephen Yurek of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), one of the associations involved in the project, the net result is that the envelope is being pushed and later generations of such equipment will be more energy efficient across the full range.

At this point, these standards are actually proposals that the advocates are in the process of submitting to the U.S. Department of Energy and members of Congress with the hopes that they will be included in new energy efficiency standards. Such action would get everybody involved in the manufacturing of such equipment on the same page.

The consensus agreement came from a number of trade associations and many of the major manufacturers in the refrigeration sector. That means a lot of strong industry support for the ideal of more energy efficiency and lower electric bills, while still providing equipment that keeps refrigerated and frozen products at the proper temperatures.

Now, let's see how the proposals work their way through the bureaucracy of the federal government. And let us hope that because our industry came to the feds on the same page with an agreement that will save energy, that accord will move forward swiftly.

Peter Powell is refrigeration editor. He can be reached at 847-622-7260, 847-622-7266 (fax), or

Publication date: 05/02/2005