ENERG-ICE - New PU Foaming Technology for the Cold Appliance Industry Assuring a Cost-Efficient Ecodesign with Augmented Energy Saving

LIFE08 ENV/IT/000411

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Vanni PARENTI
Tel: +39-0522-645829
Fax: +39 0586 414 328
Email: vparenti@dow.com

Project description:


The household sector is one of the largest users of electrical energy in the European Economic Area, responsible for 29% of its total electrical energy consumption. Cold appliances (refrigerators and freezers) account for 9-25% of household energy consumption. The Directive 2006/32/EC on energy end-use efficiency and energy services establishes a common framework of measures for the promotion of energy efficiency within the EU in order to ensure the achievement of the EU’s 2020 20% headline target on energy efficiency and to pave the way for further energy efficiency improvements beyond this date. It also acknowledges the vast potential for energy reduction and requires Member States to draw up National Action Plans (NAPs) to achieve a minimum of 9% final (end-use) energy savings from 2008-2016 on almost all energy use, including home use. The cold appliance sector could further reduce its carbon footprint. Many blowing agents commonly used in the manufacturing of polyurethane (PU) foams used for the insulating structure of cold appliances still have the potential to deplete the ozone layer and contribute towards global warming. (PU foam is the most commonly used material to insulate household appliances due to its excellent thermal insulation behaviour and process-ability that allows for an easy filling of a refrigerator’s insulating cavity regardless of its size.)


The ENERG-ICE project focused on reducing the environmental impact of energy-using products, such as cold appliances, by taking action at the design stage, where the pollution caused during the product's life cycle can be best prevented. The project planned to showcase an innovative PU foaming technology for manufacturing the insulation filling of cold appliances (refrigerators and freezers) using cyclopentane as a blowing agent.

The overall objectives of the project were to demonstrate:

  • A new technology employing a hydrocarbons blowing agent that can be used in Europe to improve the insulation properties of PU foams for cold appliances in a more cost-efficient way;
  • The manufacture of cold appliances, including the impact of end-use disposal on the environment, in a more environmentally friendly and sustainable way than current standard practices;
  • A new technology that gives scope for defining new standards for hydrocarbon blown foams with improved insulation properties superior to those employed today and giving current A/A+/A++ labelling; and
  • The reduction of energy consumption of cold appliances in Europe by 10% compared to the best-available appliances produced today with a positive impact on the European and worldwide market.


The ENERG-ICE project objective was to demonstrate an innovative polyurethane technology for manufacturing cold appliances. This technology offers up to 10% in energy savings compared to the best-in-class appliances available today (A/A+/A++ labelling). The project constructed a pilot plant to focus on the different types of refrigerators and freezers that were provided by the 14 cold appliance global producers involved in the industrial validation phase. The ENERG-ICE technology uses the vacuum assisted injection technology (VAI, vacuum assisted injection and expansion, and VOI, variable output injection), developed during the project to fill in the refrigerators cavities with seven new defined PU formulations.

Compared to current foaming technologies, the project achieved an 8% increase in energy efficiency with cyclopentane as foam blowing agent and an 11% increase with a blowing agent of new generation that was developed during the project, having low GWP comparable to that of cyclopentane.

A Life Cycle Analysis was carried out to demonstrate the quantitative achievement of the project objectives: the Energ-Ice technology uses 10% less electricity (all other factors remaining the same) that translates to a 10% reduction in all potential cradle-to-grave impact assessments. Seven polyurethane formulations to foam refrigerators cabinets have been identified.

The publicising and sharing of the project results were greatly helped by the involvement of a wide range of cold appliance producers worldwide in the project. Other manufacturers have also begun developing alternative ways to obtain similar results. The beneficiary argues that the ENERG-ICE technology will reduce carbon footprints due to CO2 emission savings that result from lower energy use. The project offered the potential to reduce the energy consumption of cold appliances by up to 10% (i.e. 30 - 35 kWh/yr for classes A/A+/A++ refrigerators is equivalent to 0.018-0.021 BOE/year (per sold working unit) reducing the carbon footprint by 0.008-0.009 tonnes of CO2 equivalent/year). Given that ENERG-ICE can save 8 kg of CO2 emissions per year per appliance, and that refrigerators and freezers production worldwide is about 175 millions units, there is a potential to save 1.4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, equivalent to taking 213 000 cars off the road.

Focusing on Europe, a 10% energy saving, assuming a 20% market share on the basis of 22.5 million units (refrigerators and freezers) sold in Europe in 2013, is estimated to result in a CO2 saving of 36 000 tonnes. Additional savings are foreseen if HCFCs and HFCs blown foam are replaced by those produced with the ENERG-ICE technology, using either cyclopentane or the new blowing agent with low GWP. The potential reduction of CO2 by replacing HCFCs and HCF blown foams worldwide with cyclopentane, can be estimated to be around 5.5 million tonnes a year.

In the future, the ENERG-ICE technology could help improve the classification of the insulation material used by cold appliances. The classes differ by 15% in terms of energy saving, so employing a polyurethane technology that offers a 10% saving is big step towards achieving a superior class. The extra savings can then come from other areas, such as a more efficient compressor, better refrigerant or the improved thermodynamics of the evaporator/condenser circuit.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Energy - Savings
Environmental management - Eco-products design
Climate change Mitigation - Energy efficiency


greenhouse gas‚  life-cycle management‚  consumer goods

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator DOW Italia S.r.l.
Type of organisation Large enterprise
Description DOW Italia, is a subsidiary of the DOW Chemical Company. It operates in Italy through five production facilities offering a broad range of chemical products and services to the Italian and European Market. These include polyurethanes systems, polyester polyols, ion exchange resins for water treatment, styrene butadiene latex for the paper industry. DOW Italia produces specific polyurethane (PU) systems tailored for the refrigeration industry and used by refrigerator producers to manufacture PU foams for appliance insulation. After the banning of CFC-11, DOW carried out research on blowing agent solutions resulting in the development of several patents and technologies.
Partners Federchimica, Italy AFROS SpA (Cannon Group), Italy Dow Italia Divisione Commerciale srl, Italy CRIOS SpA (Cannon Group), Italy


Project reference LIFE08 ENV/IT/000411
Duration 01-JAN-2010 to 31-MAR -2013
Total budget 2,870,107.00 €
EU contribution 1,372,554.00 €
Project location Emilia-Romagna(Italia)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Research findings "Ecodesign approaches and Energy Efficiency soluti ...
Publication: Technical report "Road Map Document for a Sustainable Chemical Indu ...
Publication: Technical report Project's Final technical report
Publication: Technical report "Life Cycle Assessment : ENERG-ICE, a new polyuret ...
Slides Presentation "8a Conferenza di Responsible Care La sostenibilit ...


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version