A long process to establish the first efficiency performance standards for walk-in coolers and freezers is now just one step away from a successful conclusion. Today the US Department of Energy (DOE) issued proposed standards for certain types of walk-in cooler equipment based on a negotiated agreement between manufacturers and efficiency advocates.
DOE issued a final rule for new standards for walk-in coolers and freezers back in 2014. However, the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and others filed a lawsuit which resulted in a settlement agreement. Among other things, the settlement agreement remanded the standards for certain types of walk-in refrigeration systems to DOE for rulemaking using a negotiated rulemaking process. Of the 19 classes of walk-in cooler equipment covered by the 2014 final rule, the standards for 6 were remanded.
Last fall, a working group comprised of manufacturers, efficiency advocates, contractors, and DOE successfully negotiated new standards for the remanded equipment types. DOE estimates that today’s proposed rule, which reflects the standards negotiated by the working group, would save about 90 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) over 30 years of sales, which is equivalent to the annual electricity use of about 8 million US homes, and save businesses up to $4 billion. Combined with the standards for the other equipment types established in the 2014 final rule, total savings for walk-ins would be about 290 billion kWh, or enough to power 26 million US homes for a year, and save businesses up to $10 billion.
Walk-in coolers and freezers are typically found at supermarkets, restaurants, and convenience stores. Walk-ins consist of an envelope (the “box”), which includes panels and doors, and a refrigeration system. Walk-ins are often constructed on site, and they are used to temporarily store refrigerated or frozen food or other perishable items. For example, supermarkets store food in walk-ins before transferring it to refrigerated display cases on the store floor.
Walk-in refrigeration systems are generally comprised of a unit cooler located inside the walk-in that absorbs heat from the refrigerated space, and a condensing unit located outside the walk-in that rejects the heat. Today’s proposed rule includes standards for unit coolers used in both coolers and freezers, and for condensing units used with walk-in freezers.
The current standards for walk-ins are prescriptive requirements that specify, for example, minimum insulation levels and fan motor requirements. The new proposed standards, as well as the standards for the other walk-in equipment types established in the 2014 final rule, will be the first efficiency performance standards for the major components of walk-ins.
DOE is scheduled to complete a final rule later this year, and the new standards would take effect three years later. The completion of this process will be good news for purchasers of walk-in coolers and freezers who are set to see big savings.