MEPS to reduce energy consumption

The EU Ecodesign Directive and the complimentary Energy Labelling Directive are together making a huge impact on the energy efficiency of a whole range of equipment. The laws are intended to reduce energy consumption across various equipment sectors across Europe both by setting minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) and by allowing buyers to easily compare the energy output of different models.

The laws are progressively being applied to the commercial and professional refrigeration sector – naturally a key area for energy consumption.

Since 1 July 2016, it has been a legal requirement for all ‘professional refrigerated cabinets’ to comply with and to display printed labels showing the colour coded energy output. This category encompasses professional fridges and freezers you find in a restaurant kitchen: storage cabinets, solid door cabinets and solid counter-top refrigeration units, as well as blast cabinets – but not the sort of refrigerated display cabinets you would find in a supermarket

In common with the energy labels of other products, products are graded from A to G, or from A+++ to G, where A (or A+++) and all cabinets must have at least a G label to be sold within Europe. In addition to the printed label, an electronic label has to be made available to dealers for each model, together with a product information data sheet and technical documentation (in case it is requested by the authorities).

The new regulations also state that any advertisement for a professional refrigerated storage cabinet which contains energy-related or price information has to include a reference to the energy efficiency class of that model.

The Energy efficiency index (EEI)

To determine the energy rating, manufacturers have to calculate the energy efficiency index (EEI) of the cabinet, based on the energy used by the cabinet compared to a standard annual energy consumption.

Measurements and calculation of the energy consumption are made using the EN 16825 standard and the cabinets must comply with operational temperature requirements and be tested in defined climatic conditions.

One of the likely consequences of having minimum energy standards is that more models will be designed to work with hydrocarbon refrigerants, given their better efficiency than HFCs.

Given that the energy efficiency index indicates the kilowatts consumed compared to its net useable volume, it follows that increasing that volume will improve the EEI score. Therefore, experts believe that manufacturers will increase the cabinet size to improve their energy scores – a fact that could put more pressure on space-challenged professional kitchens.

Another key element of the Energy label is that it will also have three temperature classes for Light Duty (25 deg C/60%RH); Normal Duty (30 deg C/55%RH); and Heavy Duty (40 deg C/40%RH).

The directive will be overseen in the UK by the National Regulation and Measurement Office, which has the power to carry to spot checks on manufacturers’ labels.

The requirements of Ecodesign are acknowledged to have been extensive for manufacturers of cabinets. Each model type has to be independently tested or at least the inhouse tests independently witnessed – leading to manufacturers investing in sometimes hundreds of products tests, in order to produce the Energy labels.

While onerous for manufacturers, it is generally agreed that the Energy Labelling is a good thing for specifiers of cabinets, enabling them to compare energy efficiency across models. The consensus in the industry is that the rules have emphasised the total cost of ownership and to a lesser extent the carbon output, in a sector that has historically been more focused on design and temperature.

The Energy Efficiency Index is expected to be periodically reviewed as more energy-efficient equipment is introduced, and the A to G scale re-weighted accordingly. This process is also expected over time to see a lessening of imports of cheap but inefficient equipment, leading to an overall improvement in quality.