A Dim Move By ENERGY STAR®
The Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® program has been a positive influence on the foodservice equipment industry in a variety of ways. First, it has provided objective, third-party standards against which operators can evaluate different manufacturers’ products in terms of energy- and water-use efficiency. ENERGY STAR’s credibility and Partner of the Year awards have focused equipment end-users’ attention on winning manufacturers' accomplishments and provided incentives for factories to improve the green performance of their products. The gradual expansion of ENERGY STAR-rated equipment categories has allowed more types of manufacturers to participate in the program, giving operators a growing number certified choices. Though some industry members have grumbled about the slow pace of ENERGY STAR’s category expansion – it is a federal government program after all – most would agree that it has been a force for positive change. At least up to now.
During the next 12 months ENERGY STAR standards for commercial dish machines are set to change. This will require dish washer manufacturers to submit their equipment for more complete testing, which is in itself no bad thing. Currently, ENERGY STAR only evaluates dish machines according to energy consumed at idle and water use per rack, and excludes flight-type ware washers entirely from testing. The new tests are expected to include flight types, which is illogical since these machines vary so widely in size and features as to be nearly custom products. Energy star’s upcoming tests will endeavor to measure some 17 flight type performance characteristics, reportedly including nozzle sizes, belt widths and cabinet interior dimensions. According to one dish washer manufacturer executive, these tests are expected to cost up to $20,000 per machine, a disproportionate sum since, on average, dish machine makers sell barely a dozen flight types per year. The only way to recover test expenses will be to pass costs on to customers, a step most factories are loath to take given the deteriorating state of the current economy.
According to sources, NAFEM leaders have already approached the EPA to protest the inclusion of flight type ware washers in the upcoming test standards, but the agency has refused to change its position. In our view, this is a case of good intentions producing a bad outcome and we encourage ENERGY STAR officials to rethink and exempt flight types from the next round of certification tests. We look forward to hearing more from TSR readers on this issue.