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Meg Waltner’s Blog

New Ice Maker Standards Would Improve Efficiency, but Even Stronger Standards Warranted

Meg Waltner

Posted March 17, 2014

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In the midst of yet another DC snowstorm, having large quantities of fresh ice to keep you cool is probably the last thing on your mind. Yet, thanks to proposed energy efficiency standards published in today’s Federal Register from the Department of Energy (DOE) the commercial ice makers found in hotels, hospitals, bars, restaurants, and other commercial venues would use 15 to 30 percent less energy once standards are finalized.

DOE estimates that these proposed standards would save 0.3 quadrillion BTU over the 30-year life of the rule, equivalent to about 30 billion kilowatt-hours which is the amount of electricity used by 3 million U.S. homes in one year. These energy bill savings will add up across the economy and result in $1.8 billion in net utility Commercial ice maker, Licensed under Creative Commons by Matylda Sękbill savings for businesses across the country. The reduced energy use will also result in less pollution that harms human health and the environment: thanks to these proposed standards, cumulative carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by 14.6 million metric tons.

Commercial ice makers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The ice makers covered by this rulemaking range in size from those that produce 50 pounds of ice per day to those that produce 4,000 pounds per day. Previous standards only covered ice makers up to 2,500 pounds per day, so this expansion of scope will result in additional energy savings. There are “batch” ice makers that alternate between producing and harvesting ice and generally produce cube or tube type ice and “continuous” icemakers that produce and harvest ice at the same time and generally produce flake or nugget ice. Additionally, ice makers can contain an integrated storage bin or can be an “ice-making head”  which produce ice and either do not have a storage bin or have a separate storage bin. Some units are self-contained in a single piece of equipment, while others can have remote compressors and/or condensers, which in turn can be air- or water-cooled.

To meet the standards proposed by DOE, manufacturers will likely rely on more efficient motors and compressors and increased heat exchanger surface area. However, even greater energy savings could be gained than those proposed in today’s rule by using more efficient electronically commutated (ECM) motors and drain water heat recovery.

In addition to consuming energy, ice makers also consume a significant amount of water beyond the water that is physically turned into ice. Some ice makers use water to cool their condensers. DOE currently has standards for how much condenser water these types of ice makers can use, but unfortunately  did not update these standards in the proposed rule. Additionally, cube-type ice makers can use a significant amount of water in the ice-making process: while it take12 gallons of water to make 100 pounds of ice, some of these machines can use 30 to 40 gallons of water per 100 pounds of ice. DOE chose not to propose a water efficiency standard for cube type ice machines, which is another missed opportunity.

Why this standard is important                                                                          

Improving the performance of ice makers and other appliances and equipment is an important part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan goal to capitalize on the potential of energy efficiency standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3 billion metric tons by 2030. The proposed rule for ice makers adds to the list of proposed and final rules issued already this year (see here, here, and here), which demonstrate DOE and the administration’s commitment to meeting this goal.

DOE will need to set strong standards at the maximum level technologically feasible and cost-justified to meet this goal (and as required by law). We commend DOE for moving forward on the proposed rule for ice makers and look forward to reviewing DOE’s analysis in detail as stronger standards for both energy and water use are likely feasible and cost-effective and should be considered for the final rule.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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