Washington - Manufacturers will have to increase the energy efficiency of most new refrigerators by 25 percent beginning in 2014 under new standards set by The Department of Energy (DOE).
The new rules, which DOE is expected to finalize by year's end, will reduce the energy use of a typical 20-cubic-foot top-mount refrigerator to about 390 kilowatt hours (kwh) per year, down from about 900 kwh/year in 1990 and about 1,700 kwh/year in the early 1970s.
The mandated energy savings are 25 percent for top mounts and side-by-side models with through-the-door ice; 20 percent for bottom mount configurations; and 10 percent to 25 percent for compact refrigerators.
Standalone freezers would have to cut their energy consumption by 25 percent to 30 percent.
As part of the new refrigerator standards, ice maker energy consumption also will be reflected in product energy-use ratings, clarifying the ratings procedure and giving consumers a more realistic gauge of actual energy usage in home use.
The new standards, part of a sweeping proposal submitted by majap makers and advocacy groups in July, are expected to save enough energy over 30 years to meet the total power needs of one-fifth of all U.S. households for one year, saving consumers about $18.5 billion, DOE said.
The majap industry, conservation groups and other advocacy organizations lauded the move, which they described as the first step in implementing their proposed recommendations for new minimum efficiency standards, tax credits and Energy Star incentives for smart appliances affecting six major categories of home appliances.
"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), an industry trade group. "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."
"We appreciate that DOE has moved so quickly to adopt the agreed-upon standards," added Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP), comprised of representatives from energy efficiency organizations, the environmental community, consumer groups, utilities, and state government. "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."
David Goldstein, energy program director for the Natural Resource Defense Council and winner of a MacArthur Prize for his work on refrigerator efficiency, described the new standards as "a big step forward" that will help pave the way for manufacturer investments in the next generation of energy-efficient products.
Jeffrey Harris, VP of the Alliance to Save Energy, said refrigerators have become much more efficient in recent years, but still account for about 10 percent of household electricity use. "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," he noted.
Refrigerators are one of six categories including freezers, washers and dryers, dishwashers and room air conditioners that were targeted for higher efficiency standards by majap makers and efficiency, environmental and consumer advocates. The organizations have agreed to jointly pursue new standards for the remaining categories with Congress and the Obama Administration, and have recommended that Energy Star qualification criteria incorporate credit for Smart Grid capability and 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, AHAM said, although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and DOE said they would consider employing smart appliance incentives through the Energy Star program to jump-start the nation's "smart grid."