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2020 DOE Standards for Walk-in Coolers and Freezers 

article Published on 2019-07-05

As January 2020 looms nearer and the date for compliance with Department of Energy (DOE) regulatory standards regarding walk-in coolers and freezers closes in, manufacturers, OEMs, wholesalers and contractors in the commercial refrigeration industry may still have questions or remain unclear on certain points.

What is a "walk-in cooler" or "walk-in freezer" as defined by the DOE? The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) defines WICFs as a unit that comprises a total chilled storage area of less than 3,000 square feet, that can be walked into, and with temperatures above 32 degrees Fahrenheit (walk-in coolers) and at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (walk-in freezers). Refrigeration products designed and marketed specifically for scientific, medical, or research purposes are not included in this definition.

The updated standards shown in the table below impact medium- and low-temperature condensing units and unit coolers. The figures in the table reflect WICF energy efficiency metrics in terms of annual walk-in energy factor (AWEF) for the respective unit’s refrigeration capacity.


*Where qnet is net capacity as determined in accordance with 10 CFR 431.304 and certified in accordance with 10 CFR part 429.

AWEF, or annual walk-in energy factor, is an annualized refrigeration efficiency metric that demonstrates the proportion of the heat load a system can discard (in Btu) to the energy necessary to reject the heat load (in watt-hours).

Walk-in cooler and freezer products included within the scope of the new DOE regulatory standards:
  • Walk-in coolers and freezers with 3,000 or less square feet
  • Condensing units & unit coolers used in walk-in coolers/freezers up to 3000 ft²
  • Unit coolers used in supermarket refrigeration systems in dedicated walk-in coolers and freezers under 3000 ft²
  • Doors and panels used to construct walk-in coolers & freezers

Applications excluded from DOE 2020 WICF regulations include:
  • Coolers and freezers greater than 3,000 square feet
  • Water cooled condensing units, air-cooled condensers, or remote condensers
  • Coolers/freezers used in medical, scientific, and research installations
  • Multi-compressor condensing units or supermarket racks

The Department of Energy projects that WICFs will see on average about 24% in energy savings over the 30-year period from 2020-2049 relative to the energy that would be used by walk-in coolers and refrigerators without the new regulatory standards. The DOE estimates the new regulations will result in a reduction of CO2 equal to the amount of electricity 780,000 homes would consume annually.