DOE rolls out new standards for commercial refrigerators

The Energy Department announced new energy efficiency standards Friday for commercial refrigerators, saying the move would conserve enough power to light millions of homes and save American businesses billions of dollars.

The regulations for large refrigerators used in supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants reflect the latest in a series of efficiency standards issued by the agency in recent months as part of President Obama’s climate change initiative.

In a statement accompanying the new standards, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said refrigeration accounts for close to 40 percent of the total energy use at many businesses.

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“By improving the energy efficiency of commercial refrigeration equipment – like restaurant-size fridges or the deli case at your local grocery store – we can make our businesses more competitive, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money,” Moniz said.

Commercial refrigerators generally must be kept cold constantly, consuming huge amounts of power. A single commercial refrigerator can use up to 17,000 kilowatt-hours of power per year, while a large freezer can consume more than twice that total, according to the Energy Department.

The standards set out in a final agency rule, are set to take effect in three years. Once in place, they will make the average commercial refrigeration unit about 30 percent more efficient, compared to the current standards.

Over the next three decades, the standards are expected to slash carbon pollution by about 142 million metric tons – equivalent to the annual electricity use of 14.3 million U.S. homes – and save businesses up to $11.7 billion on their energy bills.

The regulations “will take a big bite” out of the energy used food markets and eateries, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

“The significant reductions in energy use that we'll see with the new standards are made possible by the availability of technologies including LED lighting and occupancy sensors, high-performance glass doors, and high-efficiency motors, which all provide big efficiency gains,” the group said in a statement lauding the action.

Moniz and the Energy Department have proclaimed appliance efficiency a top priority. The agency, under the current administration, has finalized new efficiency standards for more than 30 household and commercial items, including dishwashers, walk-in coolers, and water heaters.

Taken together, the actions are expected to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 1.9 billion metric tons through 2030.