Energy Efficiency and Walk-in Coolers

Investing in energy efficient walk-in refrigeration is a great way to save money while helping protect the environment. Unfortunately, there are not yet any ENERGY STAR guidelines for walk-in refrigeration as there are for other types of refrigeration, but there are some federal guidelines introduced in 2007 to help regulate a number of factors that influence the energy efficiency of walk-in coolers and freezers.

Energy Independence and Security Act

In January of 2007, President George W. Bush signed an Executive Order1 that strengthened federal agencies in respect to environmental, energy, and transportation management. The order included new goals for federal agencies and clarified the roles of certain high-ranking officials in those agencies in regard to working toward energy efficiency and sustainability. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA)2, which was initially called the Clean Energy Act, was developed soon after to support and fulfill some of the directives in that order, and after spending about a year working through the House and Senate, was signed into law by President Bush on Dec. 19, 2007.

"An act to move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, to increase the production of clean renewable fuels, to protect consumers, to increase the efficiency of products, buildings, and vehicles, to promote research on and deploy greenhouse gas capture and storage options, and to improve the energy performance of the Federal Government, and for other purposes." – Energy Independence and Security Act

EISA covers everything from tires to light bulbs, focusing on a wide range of products that could affect energy efficiency and water conservation in residential, commercial, and industrial products, as well as the equipment and operations used in federally funded buildings. This act included new guidelines for walk-in coolers and freezers, presumably because up until this point there had been very few regulations on their power usage or even any voluntary third-party guidelines that manufacturers could follow to promote energy efficiency for those products.

EISA Walk-In Guidelines

Section 312 of EISA lists the requirements walk-in cooler and freezer manufacturers must follow. These guidelines apply to cooled storage areas that are less than 3,000 square feet in area.

  • If the door to the walk-in is less than 3 feet 9 inches wide and 7 feet tall, the door must be able to completely close automatically after it's been pushed to within 1 inch of being fully closed.
  • Strip doors or a spring-hinged door must be installed in each doorway to minimize how much cold air can escape when the door is opened.
  • Certain R-values must be reached to ensure the walk-in is properly insulated.
    • Coolers: Walls, ceiling, and door must each have an R-value of 25.
    • Freezers: Walls, ceiling, door, and floor must each have an R-value of 32.
  • All interior lights must have a rate of at least 40 lumens per watt unless they are attached to a timer. If a timer is used, it must cut off the lights no more than 15 minutes after the walk-in is vacated.
  • If glass doors are used, coolers must use double-paned glass and freezers must use triple-paned glass. In both cases, the space between the panes must be gas-filled or the glass must be treated with a heat-reflective substance.
  • If an antisweat heater is used:
    • Coolers: It may not draw more than 3.0 watts per square foot of door opening.
    • Freezers: It may not draw more than 7.1 watts per square foot of door opening.
  • If the evaporator fan is less than 1 horsepower and under 460 volts, it must use an electronically commutated motor (also called a brushless DC electric motor3) or a 3-phase motor.4
  • If a condenser fan motor is rated to less than 1 horsepower, it must use an electronically commutated motor, permanent split capacitor motor5, or 3-phase motor.
  1. Executive Order 13423. Government Publishing Office. Accessed July 2017.
  2. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Government Publishing Office. Accessed July 2017.
  3. Brushless DC Electric Motor. Wellington Drive Technologies Ltd. Accessed July 2017.
  4. Single-Phase vs. Three-Phase Power Explained. Tripp Lite. Accessed July 2017.
  5. General Purpose PSC. Bluffton Motor Works. Accessed July 2017.