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Transforming the Market for Energy Efficiency in Commercial Refrigeration

How many times have you sat down in your favorite restaurant and thought about the refrigerator in the back of the house before digging into your food? If the answer is never, that is not surprising. Commercial refrigeration may not be top of mind for many Americans, but if it earns the ENERGY STAR label it is one of the best ways that businesses large and small can save energy, money and help protect the environment.   

Most of us probably reach into a commercial refrigerator at a gas station or grocery store for cold drinks or snacks, several times a week. However, as customers, we may not think much about refrigeration. Commercial refrigerators and freezers are a staple in hotel kitchens, university cafeterias, convenience stores, and restaurants. In the US, refrigeration counts for nearly 25% of the energy consumption in food service facilities. 

This month the latest version of the ENERGY STAR commercial refrigerator and freezer specification takes effect. Commercial refrigerators that earn the ENERGY STAR today are, on average, 20 percent more energy efficient than other products on the market...but that’s only part of the story.

 In 2001, EPA introduced commercial refrigerators and freezers to the ENERGY STAR program – providing an energy efficiency platform for those products. Prior to that, most equipment decisions were based mainly on considerations of safety, serviceability and cost. Once ENERGY STAR started labeling products, energy consumption became an important aspect of the purchasing decision. Today energy efficiency is usually listed as one of the top 5 criteria in equipment selection.  

Customers in this market have grown to expect and place value on energy efficiency. Before 2001, the average reach-in, commercial refrigerator used about 3,400 kWh/year or more – today, an ENERGY STAR certified model uses less than 600 kWh/year[1]. That’s about an 85% reduction, in just over 15 years!

ENERGY STAR has facilitated the adoption of more efficient design features and technologies. It started with improved temperature performance and lower noise levels, progressed to the phase out of incandescent lighting, and most recently has seen the adoption of climate-friendly refrigerants. Together with our partners, ENERGY STAR continues to transform this market, helping businesses save energy and money as they reduce their carbon footprint. So the next time you grab a soda from the fridge at your favorite shop, look for the ENERGY STAR and if you see it, you’ll now know that refrigerator is playing a pretty awesome role in protecting the environment.    


[1] Based on an analysis of one subcategory, namely vertical solid door refrigerators with a volume of 20 cu ft.