New ENERGY STAR Specs for Residential Refrigerators and Freezers

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July 2, 2013 - Kirsten Wallerstedt

The ENERGY STAR product labeling program, which began in 1992, helps U.S. consumers, businesses, utilities, and government agencies to identify more efficient products that lower their energy costs. It is jointly administered by EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE), with EPA as the lead agency.

Over 10,000 products have been submitted to the EPA, which started the ENERGY STAR program in response to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and the Energy Policy Act of 1992. Bases for the program include: Section 103(g) of the Clean Air Act directs the EPA Administrator to “conduct a basic engineering research and technology program to develop, evaluate, and demonstrate non-regulatory strategies and technologies for reducing air pollution”; Section 131 of the Energy Policy Act of 1995 amends Section 324 (42 USC 6294) of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to establish at the DOE and the EPA “a voluntary program to identify and promote energy-efficient products and buildings in order to reduce energy consumption, improve energy security, and reduce pollution through voluntary labeling of or other forms of communication about products and buildings that meet the highest energy efficiency standards.”

At the end of May, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the provisions for ENERGY STAR Version 5.0, which are set to go into effect on 15 September 2014. To meet the new ENERGY STAR requirement, the annual energy consumption of residential refrigerators and freezers will be required to be less than or equal to the Maximum Annual Energy Consumption (MAEC) level for that product class as established in Table 1 of the ENERGY STAR Version 5.0 Program Requirements. The new standard will result in 10% less energy used than under the current requirement.

The Version 5.0 specifications also establish an optional functionality criteria that allows participants to be eligible for a “connected” allowance. The criteria for “connected” consumer refrigerators and freezers includes: an alert if the door has been left open, real-time reports on the product’s energy consumption, and the ability for customers to use computers or smart phones to remotely put the refrigerator into energy-saving vacation mode. To meet the new “connected” standards these appliances would also give consumers the option to connect their appliances with the “smart grid” and thus to adjust automatically to environmental conditions and overall demand on the grid. These automatic adjustments can be overridden by the consumer at any time.

Now that the EPA has issued the new requirements, manufacturers may immediately elect to have their Certification Body (CB) certify their eligible products to the Version 5.0 specifications. After 15 September 2014, all refrigerators or freezers must meet the Version 5.0 requirements in order to bear the ENERGY STAR mark.  Version 4.1 product certifications will remain valid until that date, and CBs will stop certifying new product submissions to Version 4.1 as of 1 January 2014. Under the ENERGY STAR program, all new products must be certified by an EPA-recognized CB before they may be labeled and marketed as an ENERGY STAR product.

Kirsten Wallerstedt is a Senior Regulatory Analyst with the new Supply Chain Product Compliance Solution at 3E Company. In addition to engaging suppliers to obtain and manage compliance data, the service links your products directly to news alerts that affect your products.

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