Covered Product Category: Commercial Refrigerators and Freezers

Did you know?
Solid door refrigerators and freezers are substantially more efficient than glass door models. Federal agencies should use solid door models as much as possible.

ENERGY STAR Qualified Products

Updated March 2012

FEMP provides acquisition guidance and Federal efficiency requirements across a variety of product categories, including commercial refrigerators and freezers, which are an ENERGY STAR®-qualified product category. Federal laws and executive orders mandate that agencies meet these efficiency requirements in all procurement and acquisition actions that are not specifically exempted by law.

Most manufacturers display the ENERGY STAR label on complying models. For a model not displaying this label, check the manufacturer's literature to determine if it meets the efficiency requirements outlined by ENERGY STAR.

This product category overview covers the following:

Energy Efficiency Requirements for Federal Purchases

For the most up-to-date efficiency levels required by ENERGY STAR, look for the ENERGY STAR label or visit the ENERGY STAR Product Specifications website. For more information, contact the FEMP point of contact listed at the bottom of this page.

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Buying Energy Efficient Commercial Refrigerators and Freezers

This acquisition guidance applies to commercial food-grade refrigerators and freezers such as: reach-in, roll-in, or pass-through models; display refrigerators and merchandisers; under counter and worktop units; milk, bottle, and back bar coolers; beer-dispensing and direct draw units; glass frosters; and deep well and bunker freezers. In the Federal sector these products are typically used in commercial food service operations like cafeterias, dining halls, snack bars, and officer clubs. Open-air units, deli cases, prep tables, drawer cabinets, laboratory-grade products, residential refrigerators-freezers, and residential freezers are excluded.

The Federal supply sources for commercial refrigerators and freezers are the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). GSA sells products through its Multiple Awards Schedules and GSA Advantage! DLA offers products through the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia and Department of Defense (DoD) EMALL. Products sold through DLA are codified with a 13-digit National Stock Number (NSN) and, in some cases, a two-letter Environmental Attribute Code (ENAC). The ENAC is a means of identifying items that have positive environmental characteristics and meet standards set by an approved third party, such as FEMP and ENERGY STAR. When buying commercial refrigerators and freezers through DLA sources, look for models with the ENAC "FU" attached to the end of the NSN.

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Save More Than $400 In Energy Costs When You Buy ENERGY STAR-Qualified Products

An efficient product is cost effective when the energy cost savings over its functional lifetime exceed any initial incremental cost above a base model (i.e., energy cost savings are greater than additional costs at the time of purchase). Federal purchasers may assume that products meeting ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements are life-cycle cost effective. However, users wishing to determine cost effectiveness for their application may do so using the cost effectiveness example in table 1 below.

Products meeting FEMP-designated efficiency requirements or ENERGY STAR performance specifications may not be life-cycle cost effective when energy rates are below the Federal average or in certain low-use applications, such as when a device will remain in off mode for most of its useful life. For most applications, purchasers will find that energy-efficient products have the lowest life-cycle cost. In high-use applications or when energy rates are above the Federal average, purchasers may save more if they specify products that exceed the Federal efficiency requirements.

Table 1 provides energy and cost savings for a 24-cubic-foot-capacity vertical solid-door commercial refrigerator. The performance of the Standard model is the maximum allowed by U.S. Department of Energy Appliance Standards, while the performance of the Required model is for an ENERGY STAR-qualified product with the same volume and configuration.

Table 1. Cost Effectiveness Example
Performance Standard Required
Maximum Daily Energy Consumption (MDEC) 4.44 kWh/day 3.08 kWh/day
Annual Energy Use 1,620 kWh 1,124 kWh
Annual Energy Cost $145 $100
Lifetime Energy Cost $1,395 $970
Lifetime Energy Cost Savings ======== $425

In the example above, the required model is cost effective if priced no more than $425 above the standard model.

The Annual Energy Use is calculated by multiplying the MDEC by 365 days. The assumed rate for electricity is $0.09 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), the average at Federal facilities throughout the United States. Lifetime Energy Cost is the sum of the discounted values of Annual Energy Cost for an assumed commercial refrigerator life of 12 years. Future electricity price trends and a 3% discount rate are from the Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135 and NBS Special Publication 709, "Energy Price Indices and Discount Factors for Life-Cycle Cost Analysis - 2011".

What If My Energy Price Is Different?

ENERGY STAR has a savings calculator for commercial kitchen equipment on its website that allows users to input different locations or rates for electricity.

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Contracting Considerations

These requirements apply to all forms of procurement, including construction guide specifications and project specifications; renovation, repair, maintenance, and energy service contracts; lease agreements; acquisitions made using purchase cards; and solicitations for offers. Energy efficiency requirements should be included in both the evaluation criteria of solicitations and the evaluations of solicitation responses.

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 23.206 requires Federal agencies to insert the clause at FAR section 52.223-15 in solicitations and contracts that deliver, acquire, furnish, or specify energy-consuming products. FEMP recommends that agencies incorporate efficiency requirements into both the technical specification and evaluation sections of solicitations. Agencies may claim an exception to these requirements through a written finding that no FEMP-designated product is available to meet the functional requirements, or that no such product is life-cycle cost effective for the specific application. Additional information on Federal requirements is available.

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Buyer Tips

When buying commercial refrigerators and freezers, specify or select products that are ENERGY STAR qualified. A list of qualified products is available on the ENERGY STAR website. Select a model that is an appropriate size for its intended use. Oversized products will increase the initial cost and lead to excessive expenses due to energy losses. Since very few food products benefit from temperatures below -5° F, low temperature freezers should be kept small and used to store ice cream only. When buying new refrigerated merchandisers or when replacing existing open merchandisers, select closed products (those with swinging or sliding doors). Only closed merchandisers can qualify for the ENERGY STAR-qualified program. These will use substantially less energy than open merchandisers.

Top or Bottom-Mounted Compressors

When deciding on reach-in refrigerators and freezers, designers or purchasing agents can select from top or bottom-mounted compressors. Bottom mounted compressors tend to operate more efficiently because the air near the floor is cooler, especially in commercial kitchens. Ergonomics is another advantage to this configuration because food products are placed in the easier-to-reach storage spaces. This should help users find what they need faster and close doors sooner. Products with top-mounted compressors should be considered in commercial kitchens where a lot of flour is used, such as bakeries, because as flour dust settles near the floor it can be sucked into the refrigeration system and impact performance.

Door configuration

Doors can be solid or glass and come in either full or half heights. Solid doors are better insulated and easier to clean while glass allows kitchen staff to see the contents of the unit, which may eliminate unnecessary opening and closing. Units with half-height doors tend to be more energy efficient, although this can impact storage space.

Non-Energy Features

Many commercial refrigerators and freezers can be purchased with casters instead of legs. Casters allow the units to be easily moved for maintenance and cleaning. Consider purchasing products with this feature. Make sure the casters are equipped with locks so that once the unit is in the desired location, the wheels can be locked and the unit stays put.

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User Tips: How to Use Products More Efficiently

Most commercial refrigerators and freezers are equipped with an "anti-sweat" heater. This device warms the exterior of the unit so condensation does not form on the surface. Typically this device only needs to be used when ambient conditions are very humid, such as during the summer or in some coastal areas. A switch mounted on the exterior of the unit allows users to turn this device on or off as needed. Kitchen staff needs to be trained to check anti-sweat heaters regularly and turn them off.

Make sure door gaskets and auto closers are maintained and in good working condition. Worn gaskets and malfunctioning closers allow warm, moist air to enter the refrigerated compartment, increasing energy use and possibly leading to food spoilage. An indication that gaskets are worn or closers are not working properly is the presence of frost on shelves and stored products.

Clean the refrigeration system, especially the coils, of dust and any other airborne particulate. Clean coils are more effective at transferring heat. Also make sure the unit has adequate space around it to ensure good airflow over the heat exchange coils.

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For More Information

The following resources provide additional information surrounding the purchase of efficient products:

Amanda Sahl
Federal Energy Management Program
202-586-1662
amanda.sahl@ee.doe.gov

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