DOE Proposes Higher Efficiency Standards for Refrigerators

September 28, 2010

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced the release of a new proposed energy efficiency standard for residential refrigerators, refrigerator-freezers, and freezers. The standard, as proposed, could save consumers as much as $18.6 billion over thirty years. The Obama Administration has made efficiency standards a major priority as a way to save energy and money for American families and businesses. Since January 2009, the Department of Energy (DOE) has finalized new efficiency standards for more than twenty household and commercial products, which will cumulatively save consumers between $250 billion and $300 billion through 2030. DOE has also dramatically ramped up enforcement of appliance standards with nearly 70 different non-compliant products already removed from the market.

"These standards will help us once again dramatically reduce the energy used by refrigerators in American homes," said Secretary Chu. "As technologies continue to improve to meet these latest standards, we'll help to address climate change while saving families across the country billions of dollars."

Over the last 40 years, refrigerators have seen significant reductions in the amount of energy they use, even while they have grown larger with more features. As a result of previous appliance efficiency standards, today's refrigerators use less than one-third of the electricity than they did in the mid-1970s. With the proposed standard, the energy use of most refrigerator-freezers will decrease by another 20 % -25 % by 2014.

According to the Department's analysis, the proposed standards could save nearly 4.5 quads (quadrillion BTUs) over 30 years, equivalent to three times the amount of energy used in refrigerators and freezers in American homes in one year. The standard, as proposed, would also eliminate the need for up to 4.2 gigawatts of generating capacity by 2043, equivalent to 8-9 coal-fired power plants nationwide. The savings would reduce cumulative carbon dioxide emissions by 305 million metric tons between 2014 and 2043.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) has now been submitted for public comment. DOE will be accepting public comments, data and information on the proposed standards until Friday, November 26, 2010, including hosting a public meeting on Thursday, October 14, 2010 from 9 AM to 4 PM in Washington, DC. The Department plans to issue the final standard in December 2010, taking into consideration comments received from the public. The new standard is expected to go in to effect in January 2014.

The proposed rulemaking announced today includes economic, environmental, energy use, and social analyses as required by law. The standards reflected in the NOPR also mirror the "consensus" efficiency level as proposed earlier this year by a group of industry and environmental stakeholders.

DOE encourages stakeholders to negotiate and submit consensus proposals during its standard-setting process. Based on its analysis of the consensus standards proposed for refrigerators, refrigerator-freezers, and freezers, DOE has concluded that these standards appear to achieve the statutory goals of the energy conservation standards program to maximize energy savings and consumer benefits while minimizing the negative impacts on manufacturers and others. DOE has also received consensus standards proposals for residential central air conditioners, room air conditioners, furnaces, clothes washers, clothes dryers, and dishwashers. In future rulemaking publications over the next year, DOE will be evaluating these other consensus standards proposals using the same statutory criteria that it used in evaluating the proposed refrigerator consensus levels.

View the full Notice of Proposed RulemakingPDF document.