Dept. Of Energy Raises Energy Standards For Refrigerators

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— 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.

Specifically, the energy consumption of top mounts and side-by-side models with through-the-door ice would have to be cut by 25 percent; bottom-mount configurations by 20 percent; and compact refrigerators 10 percent to 25 percent under the new mandate.

Stand-alone freezers would similarly be required to use 25 percent to 30 percent less electricity.

The new DOE rules will also require manufacturers to incorporate ice-maker energy consumption into product energy-use ratings, which will standardize the ratings procedure and give consumers a more accurate gauge of actual energy consumption 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 superefficient manufacturers’ tax credits, which we are urging Congress to act on, and a soon-to-be-submitted petition to Energy Star on smart appliances.”

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.

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.


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