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New Refrigerator Standards Are First from Industry/Environmental Consensus Agreement
Sep 28, 2010
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Advocacy groups and appliance manufacturers hailed a 25% increase in the U.S. minimum energy efficiency standard for most new refrigerators, effective in 2014, which are part of a set of new efficiency standards the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced on Sept. 27, 2010.

In July the Energy Efficient and Smart Appliance Agreement of 2010 was forged by the appliance industry and by environmental groups, working together. These recommendations included new minimum efficiency standards, tax credits, and Energy Star incentives for smart appliances affecting six major categories of home appliances. Members of the coalition intended to pursue turning their agreement into standard and law. The adoption of the new standards is the first step in DOE's implementation of the recommendations.

For more on the agreement, including details of its key features and a list of the appliance OEMs and environmental associations involved, see:
Shaping the Future of U.S. Appliance Efficiency.

“We appreciate that DOE has moved so quickly to adopt the agreed-upon standards,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP). “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 (AHAM). “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.”

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 1700 kwh/year in the early 1970s. 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.

DOE is scheduled to finalize the standards by the end of 2010 and they will take effect in 2014.

“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 and winner of a MacArthur Prize for his work on refrigerator efficiency. “These standards pave the way for manufacturer investments in a next generation of products that demonstrate ever-increasing energy and cost savings.”

Based on the July agreement, home appliance manufacturers and efficiency, environmental, and consumer advocates 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)
  • a recommendation that Energy Star qualification criteria incorporate credit for Smart Grid capability
  • 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, icemaker energy consumption also will be reflected in product energy-use ratings, giving consumers a better way to gauge actual energy use when making a choice among refrigerators.

"Even though refrigerators have become much more energy efficient, they still account for about 10% of household electricity use," observed Alliance to Save Energy 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.”

Several prior refrigerator standards, including those put in place in 1993 and 2001, are also the result of joint industry/advocate agreements.

“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.”

The following table shows the percent energy savings achieved by the proposed standards relative to current standards for select categories:

Refrigerator-Freezer:

  • Top mount freezer: 25% energy savings
  • Bottom mount freezer: 20%
  • Side-mount freezer with through the door ice: 25%
  • Compact units: 10-25%
Freezers:
  • Upright: 25-30%
  • Chest: 25-30%

The text of the original agreement is on the AHAM web site at: www.aham.org/agreement.

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