Development of vacuum-insulated panels and insulating materials for refrigeration.

Why is this gap important?

In 2018, global electricity use by residential refrigerators and freezers was around 500 TWh and is expected to rise a further 35% by 2050. The efficiency of residential refrigerators can be doubled through known technology, such as using more insulation (though noticeably reducing useful internal space) and better compressors. The use of effective vacuum-insulated panels (VIPs), however, would raise energy efficiency while also increasing internal refrigerator volume (for the same external area), providing better service for consumers.

Technology solutions

Current status: TRL-9

VIPs are already commercially available in some commercial and residential refrigeration appliances.

Key challenges: 

  • Ensuring robust longevity of the panels, which will need to last for up to 20 years.
  • Reducing the high initial cost, which is a significant barrier to market uptake.
  • Ramping up production capacity to meet demand and help reduce costs through learning.

Vacuum-insulated panels for refrigeration Readiness level:

Colored bars represent the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of each technology. Learn more about TRLs

What are the leading initiatives?

The technology is well developed, with many major manufacturers able to use it already. It is likely that this technology will reach high-value sectors first, such as healthcare and commercial refrigeration, where space savings and low thermal losses are important.

The Technology Collaboration Programme on Energy Efficient End-use Equipment (4E TCP) will also be tracking refrigerator technology as part of its new PEET (Policy Energy Efficiency Trends) Annex.

Recommended actions

Manufacturers

Next 5 years:

  • Improve VIP robustness
  • Reduce VIP costs

Governments

Next 5 years:

  • Provide incentives or development prizes (though ideally technology neutral specification)