By W. Kent Kise
Home office delivery (HOD) businesses provide their customers with equipment to dispense their bottled and filtered water products. Through the years, these companies have migrated to primarily hot and cold dispensing equipment as it provides the convenience that most customers desire. With new Energy Star Version 2 Standard compliance effective February 1, many of these bottled and filtration water companies are facing challenging and costly decisions on how to manage an aging float of coolers and the net impact of performance trade-offs these new standards may have on cooling and heating performance. Industry concerns cite that low-capacity retail equipment selected by US EPA in its benchmarking research and testing (which resulted in a massive 28-percent energy consumption reduction) will not meet commercial customer heating and cooling capacity requirements for high-volume commercial accounts typical of the HOD industry. US EPA’s new policy is that any equipment that met prior Energy Star (ES) standards, based on manufacturers’ production date currently in a HOD company’s equipment inventory, will no longer meet the ES standard, may not be marketed or advertised as meeting the ES standard and must have the ES logo removed prior to use with new customers. The capital investment to replace current equipment inventory required to comply with the new ES standard, coupled with the undesirable impact on equipment heating/cooling performance, has led many HOD bottled water companies to abandon the ES program.
Energy Star history
The origins of Energy Star began in 1992 when US EPA introduced a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Computers and monitors were the first labeled products. In 1996, the agency partnered with the US Department of Energy for particular commercial and residential product categories, including heating and cooling appliances such as bottled water dispensing equipment. While Energy Star administrators’ stated position is that this voluntary program does not expect manufacturers to change intended-use equipment performance or critical operating specifications, the qualification test methods as designed by ES essentially guide the outcome through a design of experiment (DOE), forcing choices that in many cases impact intended-use performance specifications. US EPA claims this means-to-an-end approach has yielded $24 billion (USD) in energy and cost savings in 2012 alone, supporting the premise that this governmental program serves the greater good of the public.(1)
The program goals were initially intended to drive savings and energy consumption reduction through technological advances. ES points to innovations in efficient fluorescent lighting and low, standby energy use as evidence of this principle. While the ES program is voluntary, seven states and the District of Columbia have adopted performance standards for hot and cold dispensers, including California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington. The standards match US EPA Energy Star Version 1.3 Standard criteria, which specify maximum standby energy of 1.2 kWh per day. If federal standards were adopted at this level, savings per unit would amount to 266 kWh per year.(2)
Water coolers have had an interesting and important history. While initially designed to only cool water using ice as the refrigerant, they have evolved into sophisticated appliances that can produce cold, hot and carbonated water used to provide an array of beverages above and beyond hot and cold water, including coffee, tea, soup, soda, juice and hot chocolate. Historically, coolers were basic gravity-fed devices but have now evolved, adding complexity that includes electrical pumps, solenoids, flowmeters/sensors, high/low limit/level switches, thermocouples, printed circuit boards (PCBs) and programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Cooling components in these devices consume a significantly lower portion of overall energy consumption in hot and cold dispensers. The new Energy Star standard focuses primarily on the consumption of energy from heating systems in hot and cold coolers. Table 1 reflects the change in performance requiring 28-percent reduction in energy consumption.
This change has equipment manufacturers and HOD bottled water companies scrambling to understand if and how they will comply or if they will need to withdraw from the Energy Star program. Equipment inventory is purchased as required to meet new customer demand and to replace older equipment that is retired. This capital investment represents a significant portion of most companies’ overall annual capital investment within the industry. Replacement purchase rates range from five to 20 percent, so there is always a mix of age in the inventory. Given this situation, HOD businesses have had to determine:
- Can the manufacturers modify current models of equipment to meet new ES standards without impacting heating and cooling requirements that customers expect?
- Can any models currently in inventory be re-fitted or retrofitted to enable compliance with the new 28-percent reduction in energy consumption and if so, what is the cost in parts and labor?
- Given the inventory of equipment with different ages, how will new ES-complaint equipment be segregated from ES-non-compliant equipment?
- Given one website for all customers and the mixed inventory, what is the ability to ensure ES equipment offered to customers is always delivered?
While HOD companies and manufacturers are still seeking to answer many of these questions, US EPA has finalized and enacted the new < 0.87 kWh/day standard for hot and cold equipment and has provided some guidance on compliance to the industry on the following question: What can water cooler distributors do with their inventory of Energy Star water coolers after the version 2.0 specification goes into effect?
- Products that meet version 1.3 may continue to market products as Energy Star under existing contracts/lease agreements.
- On February 1, only water coolers certified to version 2.0 may be marketed/represented as Energy Star.
- If a product is certified to version 1.3 on or after February 1, then the Energy Star certification mark must be covered or removed from the product and all marketing materials.(3)
In January 2011, US EPA moved away from self-certification and required third-party certification of new equipment models seeking Energy Star approval.4 Accordingly, certifying bodies have a role or stake in discussions about the potential of field-retrofitting used equipment models with upgrades to meet new ES standards and is seeking guidance from US EPA on the following question: How can certifying bodies ensure that the quality-controlled processes and environment employed by manufacturers are guaranteed during HOD-managed bottler retrofit operations and how can they certify the electrical components used in retrofitted equipment?
The agency has not issued a final position on the matter of retrofitting cooler dispenser equipment but agreed to review and consider this important issue. Certifying bodies have raised questions about if and how older equipment could be retrofitted in an effort to comply with new ES standards, specifically, concerns related to electrical component age and the potential for calcium accumulation on hot tanks from hard water significantly reducing transfer of heat from heating elements to the water, thereby impacting energy efficiency.
Equipment manufacturer design options
Manufacturers have focused on how to ensure that new products will meet the new 28-percent energy consumption reduction requirement. Basic tactics employed to achieve the prior version 1.3 standard of < 1.20 kWh/day (such as adding flameproof insulation wraps to the hot tank) are not yielding much success in meeting the new standard. While some manufacturers have looked at reducing temperature range, compressing temperature range and reducing hot tank size, these tactics can impact performance by limiting the quantity and temperature of what is available to the customer. This is not as important to low-demand residential units sold through retail outlets; however, in the HOD business where units are used in high-volume office and commercial accounts, these modifications will greatly impact recovery time required for water to reach hot temperature. Customers will risk receiving warm not hot water that is normally required for coffee, tea and soup preparation.
Other tactics to improve efficiency through use of heating elements placed internally within the actual hot tank versus the typical external heat band have been employed. These have reduced initial energy consumption demands but have a much higher propensity to scale with calcium from hard water, thereby quickly increasing energy demand once placed into service. Once scaled with calcium, internal heaters are more difficult to clean than external heaters, due to the curves and coils of heating elements.
HOD bottlers have evaluated the capital investment to replace current equipment inventory required to comply with new ES standard. That, coupled with the undesirable impact on equipment heating/cooling performance, has led many to abandon the ES program. It remains to be seen if this will be a permanent decision or, once HOD businesses are able to convert a large enough percent of inventory in future years, if the ES program will be reintroduced.
About the author
W. Kent Kise has over 20 years of experience in manufacturing operations, food safety/quality management systems and beverage dispensing equipment technology within the food and water industry, most recently as Vice President Production, Quality & Technical Services at DS Waters of America, Inc. Graduating from Delaware College of Science and Agriculture with a degree in biology, Kise is knowledgeable in both the technical and analytical testing side of food regulations and food safety. He has supervised development of numerous cooler and brewer equipment dispensing systems in China/SEA factories from concept to commercialization within both the OCS and HOD water markets and has served as Chair of IBWA’s Educational and Audit Committees, President of Pennsylvania Bottled Water Association and the NSF Standard 53 Cryptosporidium Task Force. In addition, he was instrumental in rewriting bottled water statutes for the states of Florida, Pennsylvania and New York, and serves as a Governor appointee to Maryland Bottled Water Advisory Committee. Kise regularly speaks at business seminars and industry association meetings on a wide variety of topics. He can be reached via at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.linkedin.com/pub/kent-kise/93/391/946.