Alongside the F gas regulations, which came into effect on 1 January 2015 and are designed to control the use of fluorinated greenhouse gases, manufacturers will be doing their best to convert to alternative refrigerants, such as hydrocarbon, which are more efficient and better for the environment.
Manufacturers who find themselves with refrigeration in the G and F categories may decide to simply switch to new refrigerants to improve their products. “But there is no silver bullet to saving energy,” says Roberts.
“It’s like cycling hero Dave Brailsford said,” adds Roberts, “if it was possible to make a 1% improvement in a whole host of areas, the cumulative gains would end up being hugely significant.”
The new test is weighted, and the final energy index (label) you get is a representation of the kilowatts consumed during that test process compared to its net useable volume.
Net useable volume is a sticking point too – the more useable space inside the refrigeration, the easier it is to improve your score. So businesses will see a footprint change when buying cabinets in the future, as they may get bigger. This will impact commercial kitchens with already limited space.
The MEPS tests have to be performed in a controlled environment – at 32°C and 55% relative humidity. It takes half a day to prepare the room to a settled temperature and a couple of cycles for optimisation. The tests have to be witnessed if performed on a manufacturer’s own premises and carried out in an approved test chamber. It costs £3,500 per cabinet and if a manufacturer does not have their own test chamber, outsourced facilities are required at an extra cost.
Hoshizaki Gram UK tested 121 products as of 1 July – which equates to £423,500 – and the company hasn’t finished yet.
Jon Usher, head of UK sales and marketing at Lec Commercial, says: “Refrigeration provides an essential role in every kitchen, whether front or back of house. When purchasing a new refrigeration appliance, thought should be given not just to the size and features, but also to the energy efficiency. The simple, easy-to-read, colour-coded guide takes elements of the consumer energy labelling that has been in place for many years and applies it to commercial equipment.”
Nick Williams, managing director of Precision Refrigeration, says: “The new labelling gives buyers the opportunity to compare different models of refrigeration for energy usage. This is important as refrigeration operates 24/7 and has to be factored in any commercial catering operation looking to cut costs.
“Manufacturers have had their work cut out improving and testing their models in a limited timeframe, so little has been done to educate operators, dealers or distributors.
“However, these changes can only benefit them as energy cost and total cost of ownership become more important. After all, energy costs are only going to increase, so energy efficient equipment will become more and more important over time,” adds Williams.