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Purchasing Energy-Efficient Commercial Refrigerators and Freezers

The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides acquisition guidance for commercial refrigerators and freezers, a product category covered by ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements. Federal laws and requirements mandate that agencies purchase ENERGY STAR-qualified products or FEMP-designated products in all product categories covered by these programs and in any acquisition actions that are not specifically exempted by law.

FEMP's acquisition guidance and associated ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements apply 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
  • Deep-well and bunker freezers
  • Hybrid units.

Horizontal, vertical, and semi-vertical open equipment; deli cases, service over-counter equipment, ice cream freezers, and prep tables; convertible temperature equipment, and laboratory-grade products are excluded. Residential freezers, and residential refrigerators and refrigerator-freezers are covered by separate ENERGY STAR requirements. In the federal sector, commercial refrigerators and freezers are typically used in commercial food service operations like cafeterias, dining halls, snack bars, and officer clubs.

This acquisition guidance was updated in December 2015.

Find Product Efficiency Requirements

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides commercial refrigerator and freezer efficiency levels and product specification information on its ENERGY STAR website. Manufacturers meeting these requirements are allowed to display the ENERGY STAR label on complying models. Get a list of ENERGY STAR-qualified refrigerators and freezers.

Make a Cost-Effective Purchase: Save More than $500 by Buying ENERGY STAR

FEMP has calculated that a required ENERGY STAR-qualified commercial refrigerator saves money if priced no more than $596 above the less efficient model. The best available model saves up to $995. Table 1 compares three types of product purchases and calculates the lifetime cost savings of purchasing efficient models. Federal purchasers can assume products that meet ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective.

Table 1. Lifetime Savings for Efficient Commercial Refrigerator Models
Performance Best Available ENERGY STAR Less Efficient
Maximum Daily Energy Consumption 1.82 kWh/day 2.71 kWh/day 4.44 kWh/day
Annual Energy Use 664 kWh 989 kWh 1,621 kWh
Annual Energy Cost $60 $89 $146
Lifetime Energy Cost $533 $933 $1,529
Lifetime Energy Cost Savings $995 $596 ======
View the Performance and Model Assumptions for Table 1
Performance Column

Maximum Daily Energy Consumption (MDEC): Determined in accordance with 10 CFR Part 431 Subpart Q.

Annual Energy Use: Calculated by multiplying the MDEC for each model by 365 days. Assumes a 24-ft3-capacity, vertical solid-door refrigerator operating year round.

Annual Energy Cost: Calculated based on an assumed electricity price of $0.09/kWh, which is the average electricity price at federal facilities throughout the United States.

Lifetime Energy Cost: The sum of the discounted value of annual energy cost and an assumed product life of 12 years. Future electricity price trends and a 3% discount rate are from Energy Price Indices and Discount Factors for Life-Cycle Cost Analysis - 2015: Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135 and NBS Special Publication 709 (NISTIR 85-3273-30).

Lifetime Energy Cost Savings: The difference between the lifetime energy cost of the less efficient model and the lifetime energy cost of the ENERGY STAR model or best available model.

Best Available Model Column

Calculated based on the ENERGY STAR List of Qualified Products. More efficient models may be introduced to the market after FEMP's acquisition guidance is posted.

ENERGY STAR Model Column

Calculated based on current ENERGY STAR efficiency levels. Federal agencies must purchase products that meet or exceed ENERGY STAR efficiency levels.

Less Efficient Model Column

Calculated based on minimum federal appliance standards for this product category.

 

Determine When ENERGY STAR Products Are Cost-Effective

An efficient product is cost-effective when the lifetime energy savings (from avoided energy costs over the life of the product, discounted to present value) exceed the additional up-front cost (if any) compared to a less efficient option. ENERGY STAR considers up-front costs and lifetime energy savings when setting required efficiency levels. Federal purchasers can assume ENERGY STAR-qualified products and products that meet FEMP-designated efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective. In high-use applications or when energy rates are above the federal average, purchasers may save more if they specify products that exceed federal efficiency requirements, as shown in the Best Available column above.

Commercial Kitchen Equipment Cost Calculator

Users who wish to determine a product’s cost-effectiveness for their application may do so using the Savings Calculator for ENERGY STAR Certified Commercial Kitchen Equipment.

Claim an Exception to Federal Purchasing Requirements

Products meeting ENERGY STAR or FEMP-designated efficiency requirements may not be life cycle cost-effective in certain low-use applications or in locations with very low rates for electricity or natural gas. However, for most applications, purchasers will find that energy-efficient products have the lowest life cycle cost.

Agencies may claim an exception to federal purchasing requirements through a written finding that no FEMP-designated or ENERGY STAR-qualified product is available to meet functional requirements, or that no such product is life cycle cost-effective for the specific application. Learn more about federal product purchasing requirements.

Incorporate Federal Acquisition Regulation Language in Contracts

These mandatory requirements apply to all forms of procurement, including construction guide and project specifications; renovation, repair, energy service, and operation and maintenance (O&M) contracts; lease agreements; acquisitions made using purchase cards; and solicitations for offers. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 23.206 requires agencies to insert the clause at FAR section 52.223-15 into contracts and solicitations that deliver, acquire, furnish, or specify energy-consuming products for use in federal government facilities. To comply with FAR requirements, FEMP recommends that agencies incorporate efficiency requirements into technical specifications, the evaluation criteria of solicitations, and the evaluations of solicitation responses.

Find Federal Supply Sources

The federal supply sources for energy-efficient products are the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). GSA sells products through its Multiple Awards Schedules program and online shopping network, GSA Advantage!. DLA offers products through the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia and online through 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 identifies items that have positive environmental characteristics and meet standards set by an approved third party, such as FEMP and ENERGY STAR.

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a worldwide classification system for e-commerce. It contains more than 50,000 commodities, including many used in the federal sector, each with a unique eight-digit, four-level identification code. Manufacturers and vendors are beginning to adopt the UNSPSC classification convention and electronic procurement systems are beginning to include UNSPSC tracking in their software packages. UNSPSCs can help the federal acquisition community identify product categories covered by sustainable acquisition requirements, track purchases of products within those categories, and report on progress toward meeting sustainable acquisition goals. FEMP has developed a table of ENERGY STAR and FEMP-designated covered product categories and related UNSPSC numbers.

Commercial Refrigerator and Freezer Schedules and Product Codes

GSA offers commercial refrigerators and freezers through Schedule 51 V (Hardware Superstore) and Schedule 73 (Food Service).

DLA's ENAC for commercial refrigerators and freezers is "FU."

Listed below are the UNSPSCs for some types of commercial refrigerators and freezers:

  • Cabinet refrigerators: 24131508
  • Under-counter refrigerators: 24131509
  • Worktop (preparation station) refrigerators: 24131512
  • Chest freezers: 24131601
  • Upright cabinet freezers: 24131602
  • Under-counter freezers: 24131609

Buyer Tips: Make Informed Product Purchases

When buying commercial refrigerators and freezers, specify or select a model that is an appropriate size for its intended use. Oversized products increase the initial cost and lead to excessive expenses due to additional energy losses. 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 label—these products use substantially less energy than open merchandisers.

Compressor Location

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 affect 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 doors allow 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 in place.

Rebates and Incentives

Many states and electric utilities offer rebates or other incentives for the purchase of ENERGY STAR-qualified products. Use the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder to see if your local utility offers these incentives. FEMP’s Energy Incentive Program helps federal agencies take advantage of these incentives by providing information about the funding-program opportunities available in each state.

User Tips: 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. Train kitchen staff to check anti-sweat heaters regularly and turn them off when not needed.

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. The presence of frost on shelves and stored products indicates that gaskets are worn or closers are not working properly.

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.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provided supporting analysis for this acquisition guidance.