Chill out standards: one year on

Liebherr thinks the refrigeration regulation changes allow customers to spot products which may not be fit for purpose in
the market.Liebherr thinks the refrigeration regulation changes allow customers to spot products which may not be fit for purpose in the market.

In 2016 the catering industry was forced to adapt its refrigeration offerings due to new MEPS regulations. 12 months down the line it is now possible to see the effects that the EU enforcements have had on the sector. Catering Insight’s Emma Calder asks refrigeration manufacturers for an update.

One year on from the introduction of revamped minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for commercial refrigeration products, the industry is now questioning the impact they have had and what the future holds with the UK’s EU membership days numbered and the regulations potentially heading for the rubbish heap.

After 6 years of consulting over regulations the European Commission was able to introduce EU-wide rules for minimum energy efficiency and labelling requirements for refrigeration and cooling products. But with the UK looking at locking in Brexit negotiations in the coming months, one thing that remains uncertain is the future of these laws and whether there may be a reshuffle just months after it was rolled out.

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On the panel

•    Stephen Ongley, national sales manager, Liebherr
•    Richard Ebbs, head of brands, Uropa Distribution
•    Roy Marsden, product manager, Foster Refrigerator
•    Nick Williams, managing director, Precision Refrigeration
•    Simon Frost, director of sales and chain accounts, Hoshizaki UK
•    Nigel Bell, chairman, Adande and Dr Catarina Marques, engineering manager
•    Alex Reed, foodservice sales manager, Electrolux Professional UK

Do you think the new MEPS regulations are fair measurements?

Richard Ebbs: The EU MEPS regulations have helped to ensure that the end user can now make a more informed choice when purchasing refrigeration products, both in relation to brands and models. The regulations are fair in as much as they give an indicative comparison on energy consumption and operating costs, but as with any measurement, there are always ways in which it can be improved to be more comprehensive.

The danger, however, is that it becomes too complicated and leaves the end user more confused than when they had no data at all. Overall, the MEPS regulation has succeeded in being a comparative measurement that gives greater information to the end user.

Roy Marsden: We have found that the regulations have meant that more outlets now take energy efficiency into account as part of their ‘shopping list’ when purchasing, which shows that the regulations are having a positive effect on attitudes to sustainability across the industry and will likely create long-lasting positive results.

Nick Williams: The regulations aren’t perfect, especially with regards to uprights and freezers which are penalised by the EEI calculation method. The main thing is it provides a level playing field, which is a good thing.

Alex Reed: The new regulations provide realistic data indicating how a fridge or freezer will behave whilst in use. As the testing procedure accurately simulates the use of a cabinet or a counter in a kitchen, end users have access to useful, practical information that reflects how their equipment will perform in a real-life working environment.

What impact have the changes had over the last 12 months?

Simon Frost: We don’t believe that any manufacturer would now begin to design and build an appliance that would not sit towards the top of the new MEPS model and as such, the regulators are likely to have to follow the domestic market by introducing even higher ratings such as A+ and A++ in the near future to differentiate between the best commercial refrigeration available.

Nigel Bell: The impact of the changes goes from manufacturer to dealers to end users. For manufacturers there are additional steps to place a product on the market from testing to creating new product literature to meet the energy labelling requirements. Some products have been removed from the market and in a few cases replaced with more energy efficient versions.

Dealers also need to ensure they have the energy label and fiche for the products they sell to end users. End users benefit from having additional information for all the products on the market. In summary a lot more work for manufacturers but the result is more information for customers using a common language and almost certainly an improvement in average energy efficiency.

Stephen Ongley: The changes allow customers to spot products which may not be fit for purpose in the market and help them make the right choices for their operations and budgets. There are some higher upfront costs for the more energy efficient models, but over time, customers are making significant savings in the cost of energy consumption.

NW: There has been a financial impact to refrigeration manufacturers. To comply with the regulations, we’ve invested in new test chambers, product research/development and external testing. This costs an average £2,000 per product and we have hundreds of products in our range. The regulations mean manufacturers will continually be tweaking and re-testing products to achieve more energy efficiencies in the future and conform to new regulations.

RE: From a Polar brand perspective, we have actually seen a sharp increase in sales over the past 12 months, which we believe is partly due to the MEPS regulations clearly highlighting to customers that affordable refrigeration, can go hand in hand, with energy efficient operation.

What impact do you expect Brexit to have on refrigeration regulation?

SF: We expect Brexit to have very little impact on the current regulation around commercial refrigeration. Many manufacturers are still going to want to trade with countries inside the EU and overseas refrigeration brands will still look to do business in the UK once Brexit has taken place, therefore the MEPS regulation is still going to be an important requirement. We also feel it would be extremely unlikely that the government will scrap a scheme designed to make refrigeration more efficient once we have left the EU.

NB: It is not clear what impact Brexit will have on refrigeration regulation. EU regulations are voted by the 28 EU member states’ MEPs. The Eco-Design and energy labelling regulations for professional storage cabinets will be reviewed by no later than 5 years from date of entry into force, which bring us to 2021. By then the UK would have left the EU and will likely no longer be able to influence EU regulations. However, the UK will still be able to participate in the drafting of European standards since it is a member of the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN). In summary very limited impact. We expect UK manufacturers will comply with EU regulations to keep access to the wider market.

RE: There is little to suggest that Brexit will have any great change on regulations, as most manufacturers will still be supplying their products into the EU, meaning that they will still have to abide by the exactly the same rules. If the testing is therefore still carried out, why would you not share that with the UK market?

Why is regulation important and why should dealers and end users care about it?

RM: Regulation is absolutely key to the industry’s smooth running and should be treated as such. Proper regulation of products and outlets allows for a benchmark of quality to be created and allows the industry to grow as a reliable and responsible body. Regulations allow manufacturers, outlets and customers alike to be able to feel confident that the product or service they are receiving is of a trustworthy, accurate and reliable standard.

SF: Dealers and end users should take an interest in the MEPS regulations as they have been designed not only to make the industry more efficient in general, but also demonstrate that a particular appliance or business is operating in a safe manner, conforming to strict environmental standards and has due regard for the ethics and welfare of staff, suppliers and wider stakeholders of the business.

NB: We can look at the impact of the energy labelling on domestic refrigerators, which has dramatically shifted the market toward more efficient appliances, within the first decade the majority of refrigerators moved from a ‘D’ rating to an ‘A’ rating. This is a major benefit for end users that will see their energy bills go down and worst performing cabinets being removed from the market.

AR: End users are able to see clearly whether a piece of equipment will suit the working environment and the impact it could have on business results. By the same token, dealers are better equipped to address a customer’s concerns and offer the right product for the right application.

Regulations overview

•    The test standards are borne out of the Eco-Design Directive (2009/125/EC) and the efficiency of refrigeration products will be ranked on a proposed A-G scale.
•    Products which do not meet the MEP standards will be precluded from sale in the EU.
•    The new legislation was introduced on 1 July 2016. That is when it will became mandatory for refrigeration manufacturers to display energy labels on their products.
•    Initial products covered by the legislation include professional refrigerated storage cabinets, such as upright cabinets and open-fronted merchandisers.
•    Products not covered by the regulation at this stage include condensing units, saladettes, blast chillers and walk-in coldrooms.
•    Product testing will be the responsibility of the manufacturer, but in the UK the National Measurements Office (NMO) will carry out spot checks to ensure ratings are accurate.

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