New rules will cut power consumption by 11%

By Alan Wolf, YSN

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released finalized efficiency standards for household refrigerators and freezers that will significantly reduce energy usage without impacting the products’ size or features.

The new rules, which go into effect in February 2029 for most of the affected appliances, will cut power consumption by 11% and save consumers an estimated $36.4 billion in electric bills and reduce CO2emissions by 101 million metric tons over 30 years, the DOE said.

The stricter standards represent the first change since 2011, and were recommended by a broad coalition of manufacturers, consumer groups and energy efficiency advocates. The DOE was required by law to finalize new standards by 2019 unless it determined that no update was necessary. 

The standards strengthen the efficiency requirements for various refrigeration products by type, including top- and bottom-mount refrigerator-freezers, upright- and chest-style freezers and compact models. According to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP), an advocacy group representing consumers, utilities, state governments and environmental non-profits, most new models will use 10-15% less energy than their lowest-performing counterparts sold in stores today.

The five-year implementation period was recommended by all stakeholders to allow manufacturers additional time to upgrade their products. Models meeting the new standards will likely use a combination of better insulation and more efficient fan motors and variable-speed compressors, ASAP said.

“Refrigerator technology keeps improving, and today the standards are catching up to ensure every new model uses key energy-saving features,” said ASAP’s Executive Director Andrew deLaski. “It’s going to mean a more cost-effective product for consumers and one that’s easier on the climate. It has been particularly encouraging to see the manufacturers embrace this continued significant progress.”

Indeed, the new standards were lauded by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), the industry trade group representing white-goods vendors. In a statement, AHAM said it “applauds the U.S. Department of Energy for its publication of energy conservation standards for refrigerators, refrigerator-freezers, and freezers,” and “appreciates the consideration DOE gave to the stakeholders’ recommendations in developing an achievable standard that allows sufficient time for manufacturers to develop the innovations necessary to meet the new requirements.”

According to a report by Bloomberg Law, the DOE finalized the standards in time to meet a Dec. 30 deadline set by a legal settlement with environmental groups, which had challenged Trump administration-era delays in issuing new efficiency rules. In the settlement, the DOE agreed to review energy efficiency standards for additional appliance categories including washers, dryers and microwave ovens.

In announcing the new refrigeration mandates, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm pledged to continue updating home appliance energy standards. “DOE will continue to move quickly in 2024 — together with our industry partners and stakeholders — to update and strengthen outdated energy efficiency standards, which is critical to innovation, more consumer options, and healthier communities,” she said.

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