Energy labelling: Easy as ABC

The development of standards regulating the sale of energy efficient refrigeration equipment in the EU continues to take shape and will eventually lead to manufacturers carrying energy labels on their products. While energy labelling already has its place in the domestic appliance arena, Judith Evans of Refrigeration Developments and Testing Limited (RD&T) explores what the concept will mean for commercial refrigeration suppliers.

More and more products are being energy labelled. These labels are the result of European Directive 2009/125/EC on Ecodesign requirements, which provides minimum energy performance standards and labels for energy-using products that have significant volumes of sales, significant environmental impact and significant potential for improvement through design.

Once part of the Ecodesign requirements, products cannot be sold in Europe unless they reach certain minimum performance standards.

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This directive has now reached a number of refrigeration products. In particular, professional (catering) cabinets have been deemed to account for a significant share of the total electricity demand in the Union, and quoting from Commission documents ‘exhibit a wide disparity in terms of energy efficiency’.

Therefore, the potential to save energy by identifying the most efficient appliances is considered high and labelling beneficial.

An initial preparatory study which included professional cabinets was carried out in 2011. This was termed ‘Lot 1’ and included other refrigerated equipment (blast cabinets, walk-in cold rooms, industrial process chillers, water dispensers, ice-makers, dessert and beverage machines, minibars, wine storage appliances and packaged condensing units), some of which will also be labelled.

Some of the products in Lot 1 could not easily be labelled and these products were deferred for further investigation. Information on labelling of four out of the five products that will eventually be labelled was released by the Commission in June 2013.

This covered the Ecodesign requirements for professional storage cabinets, blast cabinets, condensing units and process chillers.

The document states that labelling for professional cabinets is planned to be applied from 1 July 2015. A schedule of improved performance, taking the most efficient appliances (based on energy use under standard test conditions divided by net usable volume of the cabinet) from A to A+++ is planned until 2019 (when the labelling will be reviewed and updated if necessary).

The legislation will apply to all electric mains-operated cabinets and will apply to professional cabinets sold for storage of all items, not just food. However, the labelling will not be applied to all professional cabinets, as exemptions apply for:

– Cabinets operating with a remote condensing unit.

– Cabinets that do not use a vapour compression refrigeration cycle.

– Open cabinets where the openness is fundamental to their operation (e.g. preparation tables and saladettes).

– Cabinets designed for food processing or thawing (the Commission document makes it clear that adding a small processing section onto a cabinet will not make the cabinet exempt).

– Cabinets that in addition to storage of foodstuffs have an additional function to display food.

– Cabinets for storage of medicines and scientific samples.

– Custom-made cabinets that are produced on a one-off basis and not equivalent functionally or materially to other professional storage cabinets.

– Refrigerator-freezers.

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Once labelling is applied, manufacturers and dealers must ensure that when putting a cabinet onto the market, the cabinet is supplied with an energy label and a product fiche, which details items such as the energy use, climate class it was tested under and volume of the cabinet. All advertising and technical documentation must contain information about the energy class of the cabinet.

Probably the most important part of the energy labelling process is the method used to assess performance. The Commission document states that such information ‘shall be obtained by reliable, accurate and reproducible measurement and calculation methods which take into account the recognised state-of-the-art measurement and calculation methods’.

Market surveillance will ensure that this process is maintained. The actual methodology to be used for assessment is still rather vague. This is most likely because a new test standard to be used for assessing temperature and energy performance of professional cabinets is still under development.

The new test standard is being developed by a group that includes representatives from the UK, including RD&T, Foster, Williams, Precision, Adande and CESA. The new standard is broadly based on the commercial test standard, EN23953, but with adaptations to make it better suited to professional cabinets. These adaptations include changes to the door opening regimes, the test room, methods of loading the cabinet and methods to define net volume.

In certain areas, the Commission’s document already aligns with the new test standard stating that chilled cabinets should maintain food at between -1 and 5°C (M1 classification) and below -15°C for frozen food (similar to an L1 classification) at test room climate class 4 (30°C and 55% RH). An adaptation for light duty cabinets would allow them to undergo the same testing regime as standard cabinets but at climate class 3 (25°C and 60% RH).

Currently we have two years before labelling is applied. This may sound like a long time but if manufacturers have to test and label almost all their cabinets by this time this will pass extremely fast.

The conundrum is whether to test to the regime detailed in the Commission’s document (that is likely to be superseded by the new test standard), to test to the outline requirements in the new test standard or to wait until the test regime is clearer.

If you already test your cabinets (for example for ECA accreditation) then you probably have some confidence that your cabinets reach certain energy standards.

However, if you do not know whether your cabinets are likely to be labelled an ‘A’ or a ‘G’ (remember if you do not achieve better than a G label you will not be allowed to sell your product) then possibly it is time to at least to do some preliminary testing to ascertain whether your cabinets are likely to comply with the new regulations.

Judith Evans is a Director of Refrigeration Developments and Testing. RD&T is an independent company which develops, optimises and tests all types of refrigerated cabinets. www.rdandt.co.uk

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