Understanding the DOE Mandate on Walk-In Coolers and Freezers

Aug 27, 19 | Efficiency & Refrigerant Regulations, Food Safety, Refrigerants

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Enforcement of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) energy efficiency standards on walk-in cooler and freezer refrigeration equipment will take place in 2020. While the rulemaking directly impacts original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), it will also affect stakeholders throughout the commercial refrigeration supply chain. This blog summarizes the contents of a new E360 article focused on the DOE’s WICF mandate. You can read the full article here.


Understanding the DOE Mandate on Walk-In Coolers and Freezers


The commercial refrigeration industry is no stranger to energy efficiency mandates. Since 2017, OEMs of new stand-alone, reach-in equipment have been required to comply with the DOE’s standards in this specific equipment class. As 2020 quickly approaches, the DOE’s mandate will take aim at walk-in coolers and freezers (WICFs) — requiring 20–40 percent energy reductions in WICFs smaller than 3,000 square feet that are manufactured after the following enforcement dates:

    • 1, 2020, for WICFs with medium-temperature dedicated condensing systems
    • July 10, 2020, for WICFs with low-temperature dedicated condensing systems

For those keeping tabs on this dynamic regulatory climate, these deadlines have been in effect since June 5, 2017. But with final enforcement dates quickly approaching, many OEMs are now eying these deadlines with new urgency and making the necessary design changes needed to comply.

Impacts to WICF condensing units and components
The DOE’s WICF ruling directly applies to anyone manufacturing, producing, assembling or importing to certify WICF components. From a refrigeration system standpoint, compliant components refer to dedicated and packaged condensing units (indoor and outdoor) used in both new and retrofit applications, including:

    • Condensing units that are assembled to construct a new WICF
    • Condensing units used to replace an existing, previously installed WICF component (retrofit)
    • Condensing units used within packaged systems.

Other than the condensing units, unit coolers (evaporators), doors, panels and lighting are also within the jurisdiction of the DOE’s WICF ruling.

While impacted parties must meet the applicable standards based on the date of manufacture, contractors and wholesalers can still use and stock condensing units that were manufactured before the DOE enforcement dates. However, condensing units manufactured after the enforcement dates must meet the DOE compliance standards.

Meeting the AWEF standard
The DOE uses a metric established by the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) to evaluate the energy efficiency of a complete WICF system. As defined by AHRI, the Annual Walk-In Energy Factor (AWEF) calculation is based on “a ratio of the total heat, not including the heat generated by the operation of refrigeration systems, removed, in Btu, from a walk-in box during a one-year period of usage for refrigeration to the total energy input of refrigeration systems, in watt-hours, during the same period”.


The DOE has defined several WICF equipment classes below the 3,000 square foot limit that must meet or exceed the minimum AWEF ratings based on capacity and application (e.g., medium- or low-temperature, indoor or outdoor). Condensing unit manufacturers and WICF OEMs must follow approved AWEF testing and certification procedures to comply.

How Emerson is helping OEMs
As a manufacturer of condensing units for a wide range of commercial refrigeration applications, we are working to certify our WICF condensing according to the DOE’s minimum AWEF requirements. For WICF OEMs, these certified condensing units will help you achieve compliance in one of your primary refrigeration system components. Simply combine an Emerson AWEF-rated condensing unit with an AWEF-rated unit cooler in order to achieve compliance in a dedicated system.


Emerson also offers AWEF testing and certification services to OEMs. Not only are we helping OEMs to verify AWEF compliance, we’re also helping them to address refrigerant regulations — combining product development efforts into a single design cycle.

If you’re a WICF OEM that’s not sure how to comply with the DOE mandate, Emerson can help guide you through this transition in multiple ways. We will publish our condensing unit compliance data as the enforcement deadlines approach.