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A conventional ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer uses approximately 20 kWh of energy per day, as much as an average U.S. household.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides acquisition guidance for laboratory-grade refrigerators and freezers, a product category covered by ENERGY STAR® efficiency requirements. Federal laws and requirements mandate that agencies purchase ENERGY STAR-qualified products or FEMP-designated products in all product categories covered by these programs and in any acquisition actions that are not specifically exempted by law.

FEMP's acquisition guidance and associated ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements for laboratory-grade refrigerators and freezers are technology neutral, meaning that one technology is not favored over another. However, ENERGY STAR's product specification requirements are limited to general purpose laboratory-grade refrigerators, high performance laboratory-grade refrigerators, general purpose laboratory-grade freezers, high performance laboratory-grade freezers, and ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers. All other refrigerator and freezer products are excluded, including but not limited to walk-in refrigerators, commercial refrigerators and freezers, and products covered by other ENERGY STAR program requirements.

This acquisition guidance was updated in June 2019.

Find Product Efficiency Requirements

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides laboratory-grade refrigerator and freezer efficiency levels and product specification information on its ENERGY STAR website. Manufacturers meeting these requirements are allowed to display the ENERGY STAR label on complying models. Get a list of ENERGY STAR-certified laboratory-grade refrigerators and freezers.

Make a Cost-Effective Purchase: Save $1,936 or More by Buying ENERGY STAR

FEMP has calculated that the required ENERGY STAR-certified laboratory-grade ULT freezer saves money if priced no more than $1,936 above the less efficient model. Table 1 compares two types of product purchases and calculates the lifetime cost savings of purchasing efficient models. Federal purchasers can assume products that meet ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective.

PerformanceBest AvailableENERGY STARLess Efficient
Annual Energy Use (kWh)2,6464,7457,300
Annual Energy Cost$227$408$627
Lifetime Energy Cost$2,005$3,596$5,532
Lifetime Energy Cost Savings$3,527$1,936---


View the Performance and Model Assumptions for Table 1

Performance Column

Annual Energy Use: Based on ENERGY STAR values

Annual Energy Cost: Calculated based on an assumed electricity price of $0.086/kWh, which is the average electricity price at federal facilities throughout the United States. Learn more about Federal Government Energy/Water Use and Emissions.

Lifetime Energy Cost: Calculated as the sum of the discounted value of the annual energy cost over the assumed product life of 10 years, from DOE's Field Demonstration of High-Efficiency Ultra-Low-Temperature Laboratory Freezers. Future electricity price trends and a 3% discount rate are from Energy Price Indices and Discount Factors for Life-Cycle Cost Analysis - 2018: Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135 (NISTIR 85-3273-33).

Lifetime Cost Savings: The difference between the lifetime energy cost of the less efficient model and the lifetime energy cost of the ENERGY STAR model or best available model.

Best Available Model Column

Calculated based on the June 2019 ENERGY STAR-Qualified Products List; values shown are rounded to the nearest dollar. More efficient models may be introduced to the market after FEMP’s acquisition guidance is posted.

ENERGY STAR Model Column

Calculated based on June 2019 ENERGY STAR efficiency levels; values shown are rounded to the nearest dollar. Federal agencies must purchase products that meet or exceed ENERGY STAR efficiency levels.

Less Efficient Model Column

Calculated based on typical products used in non-federal applications.

Determine When ENERGY STAR Products Are Cost-Effective

An efficient product is cost-effective when the lifetime energy savings (from avoided energy costs over the life of the product, discounted to present value) exceed the additional up-front cost (if any) compared to a less efficient option. ENERGY STAR considers up-front costs and lifetime energy savings when setting required efficiency levels. Federal purchasers can assume ENERGY STAR-qualified products and products that meet FEMP-designated efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective. In high-use applications or when energy rates are above the federal average, purchasers may save more if they specify products that exceed federal efficiency requirements (e.g., the best available model).

Claim an Exception to Federal Purchasing Requirements

Products meeting ENERGY STAR or FEMP-designated efficiency requirements may not be life cycle cost-effective in certain low-use applications or in locations with very low rates for electricity or natural gas. However, for most applications, purchasers will find that energy-efficient products have the lowest life cycle cost.

Agencies may claim an exception to federal purchasing requirements through a written finding that no FEMP-designated or ENERGY STAR-qualified product is available to meet functional requirements, or that no such product is life cycle cost-effective for the specific application. Learn more about federal product purchasing requirements.

Incorporate Federal Acquisition Regulation Language in Contracts

These mandatory requirements apply to all forms of procurement, including construction guide and project specifications; renovation, repair, energy service, and operation and maintenance (O&M) contracts; lease agreements; acquisitions made using purchase cards; and solicitations for offers. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 23.206 requires agencies to insert the clause at FAR section 52.223-15 into contracts and solicitations that deliver, acquire, furnish, or specify energy-consuming products for use in federal government facilities. To comply with FAR requirements, FEMP recommends that agencies incorporate efficiency requirements into technical specifications, the evaluation criteria of solicitations, and the evaluations of solicitation responses.

Find Federal Supply Sources

The federal supply sources for energy-efficient products are the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). GSA sells products through its Multiple Awards Schedules program and online shopping network, GSA Advantage!. DLA offers products through the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia and online through FedMall (formerly DOD EMALL). Products sold through DLA are codified with a 13-digit National Stock Number (NSN) and, in some cases, a two-letter Environmental Attribute Code (ENAC). The ENAC identifies items that have positive environmental characteristics and meet standards set by an approved third party, such as FEMP and ENERGY STAR.

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a worldwide classification system for e-commerce. It contains more than 50,000 commodities, including many used in the federal sector, each with a unique eight-digit, four-level identification code. Manufacturers and vendors are beginning to adopt the UNSPSC classification convention and electronic procurement systems are beginning to include UNSPSC tracking in their software packages. UNSPSCs can help the federal acquisition community identify product categories covered by sustainable acquisition requirements, track purchases of products within those categories, and report on progress toward meeting sustainable acquisition goals. FEMP has developed a table of ENERGY STAR and FEMP-designated covered product categories and related UNSPSC numbers.

Laboratory-Grade Refrigerator and Freezer Schedules and Product Codes

GSA offers laboratory-grade refrigerators and freezers through Schedule 66 137 (Scientific Equipment and Services – Laboratory Refrigerators and Freezers).

The DLA NSN for laboratory-grade freezers is 4110-01-504-6888 and for laboratory-grade refrigerators is 4110-01-514-8808.

The UNSPSC for pharmaceutical refrigerators and freezers is 24131515 and for laboratory cooling equipment is 41103000.

Buyer Tips: Make Informed Product Purchases

Ensuring reliable performance for laboratory refrigerators and freezers directly supports the integrity of assets and research. ENERGY STAR-qualified models use less energy and have better insulation performance compared to conventional models. These features prolong cooling capability and reduce temperature fluctuation during power outages, thus increasing facility and science resilience. Additionally, ENERGY STAR-qualified models often have reduced noise and footprint, which provides a better working environment and increases laboratory space. Select laboratory refrigerators and freezers that are appropriate for the level of use and type of sample. For example, an upright ULT freezer is suitable for frequent access, while a chest ULT freezer provides safe long-term storage for infrequently accessed samples. Some utilities offer rebates or other incentives for the purchase of ENERGY STAR-qualified products. Use the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder to see if your local utility offers these incentives.

User Tips: Use Products More Efficiently

Set the temperature in a ULT freezer from -80°C to -70°C. This simple and safe adjustment can reduce energy consumption by 30% and prolong equipment lifetime. Many academic institutions, hospitals, and industry organizations have already adopted this strategy and saved a significant amount of energy without compromising operations.

Implementing other best management practices such as defrosting cooling equipment, removing dust from the intake and coil, and regularly cleaning out refrigerators and freezers of unnecessary and unviable items can also reduce energy usage by up to 30%. Six laboratories at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have saved over 350,000 kWh/year by implementing some of those management practices. The National Institutes of Health saved on average 25,000 kWh/year for each freezer by implementing best management practices.

Additional energy saving practices can be found on the International Freezer Challenge website.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provided supporting analysis for this acquisition guidance.