EPA Encourages Utility Controlled Refrigerators

By Eric Scheiner | July 3, 2013 | 10:00am EDT

Logo of the Environmental Protection Agency

(CNSNews.com) - At times of peak demand for electricity, do you want your refrigerator to run at the discretion of the power company?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has revised its Energy Star energy-efficiency requirements for residential refrigerators, and it is encouraging the inclusion of “connected” features that respond to utility signals to curb their energy consumption.

The EPA announced the new requirements on June 27. Included is the optional “smart-grid” connection for customers to electronically connect their refrigerator or freezer with a utility provider.

"The updated requirements raise the bar for energy efficiency in these products and, for the first time, encourage manufacturers of Energy Star appliances to include optional 'connected' features," according to the EPA release.

The connection feature allows the utility provider to regulate the appliances' power consumption, “including curtailing operations during more expensive peak demand times.”

Currently, consumers must give permission for their appliances to respond to utility signals.

In an e-mail to CNSNews.com, the EPA said, “Today, utility initiatives with connected home appliances are mainly in the pilot stage. Product manufacturers and retailers may offer incentives for refrigerators or freezers with ‘connected’ features.”

“In the future, utilities may choose to offer incentives for customers to purchase products with ‘connected features’ and/or enroll such products in a demand response program,” the EPA says. “For example, one appliance manufacturer offered a limited time rebate for customers when they launched their line of smart appliances this spring.”

Manufacturers are encouraged to produce Energy Star appliances by earning tax credits up to $25 million.

“Manufacturers that build-in and certify optional ‘connected features’ will earn a credit towards meeting the Energy Star efficiency requirements,” according to an EPA e-mail to CNSNews.com.

The revised Energy Star refrigerator and freezer specifications will go into effect on September 15, 2014.

“We can all do our part in meeting the challenge of climate change,” says Janet McCabe, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “By choosing Energy Star appliances, families can save energy, save money, and reduce carbon pollution.”

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