This article was originally published in the January/February 1995 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.



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Home Energy Magazine Online January/February 1995

in energy

If a Spare Fridge Is Running,
Edison Wants to Catch It

In what's believed to be the largest program of its kind, Southern California Edison has caught and stopped 47,000 running refrigerators as of October 1994. Edison's Spare Refrigerator Recycling Program, a three-year effort launched in November 1993, is projected to recover and recycle 177,000 spare operating refrigerators from the company's 3.7 million customers to realize more than 222 million kWh of energy savings and a demand reduction of 33.4 MW. Edison says the typical spare, or second, household refrigerator is 14 years old and uses twice as much energy as a 1994 model. As a customer incentive to unplug the guzzling spare and not replace it, Edison offers the option of one $50 U.S. Savings Bond per unit, or a $25 cash payment per unit. In addition, the utility promotes the fact that customers can save an average of $144 per year on their electric bill for each unit turned in. Edison also expects to remove a total of 44,000 freezers from service.

Edison is working with Appliance Recycling Centers of America, Inc. (ARCA) which opened a new Southern California recycling facility in Compton to service the program. ARCA has contracted with a number of utilities nationwide for similar recycling programs at its facilities throughout the country.

According to Edison's Mark Martinez, instead of randomly metering incoming refrigerators to project actual energy savings for the recycling program, the utility is using existing data to estimate savings. This includes test data from similar utility programs around the country, estimates based on metering studies done by ARCA, and book standards and values for different vintages available from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM). Citing the potential drawbacks of in-house metering, such as the cost of setting up a lab, possible damage from transport that could affect refrigerator energy usage, and the variables of random selection, Martinez said, We found it would not really be cost-effective to meter refrigerators coming in off the line. Based on Edison program statistics and estimates as of August 1, 1994, 24,000 refrigerators and freezers had been picked up, saving customers the cost of 30 million kWh of energy (an average of 1,250 kWh per unit), with a demand reduction on the Edison system of 4,500 kW.

Edison kicked-off the program's promotion in conjunction with a similar Los Angeles Department of Water and Power program that started simultaneously. Two smaller municipal utilities in the region, the City of Pasadena and the City of Colton, have since started recycling programs as well. All contract with ARCA, with the utilities paying ARCA a negotiated amount per appliance unit recycled.

Another impetus for the recycling programs is a regulation that makes it illegal to dump large appliances in California landfills without first removing and recovering refrigerants (specifically CFCs) and certain other components. Edison's program is expected to recycle 27 tons of ozone-depleting CFCs, including CFC-12 in the form of refrigerant and CFC-11 collected from refrigerator foam insulation. ARCA also recycles metal cabinet components, and safely disposes of harmful PCBs found in capacitors, with an overall effect of saving landfill space.

Edison conducts a separate refrigerator rebate program providing cash rebates to customers who purchase new high-efficiency or super-efficiency refrigerators. The scope and size of the rebate program varies from year to year. It relates to how much we feel we can save during the peak load summer months and, to some degree, to budgetary constraints, said Edison spokeswoman Mary Luthy. The 1994 program ran from July 1 to September 30, and Edison gave cash rebates of $30, $50, or $75 depending on the efficiency level of the unit purchased, with the $75 amount going towards super-efficient models to make them more available to the utility's customers. Luthy said these models don't use CFCs and are nearly 30% more efficient than standard efficiency models.

To calibrate energy savings estimates for its high-efficiency refrigerator rebate program, Edison conducted a field-metered study of 96 of these refrigerators in households in 1992 and 1993 to compare their actual energy usage with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) rated energy usage estimates. Refrigerators operating 16% to 20% more efficiently than the appliance efficiency standards were designated high-efficiency, and operating more than 20% more efficiently were designated super-efficiency. According to Martinez, Our conclusion was that on an average annual basis, the nameplate data is a good indication of actual energy usage for Southern California. On average, high-efficiency units used about 13% less energy than listed ratings, and super-efficiency units used about the listed amount of energy.

-- Ted Rieger

Ted Rieger is a freelance writer
who specializes in energy topics.
He lives in Sacramento, California.


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