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Grow Your Bottom Line With Sustainable Refrigeration Retrofits

Katrina Krites | Marketing and Business Development

Manager, Food Retail

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Across the food retail market, supermarket operators are re-evaluating their legacy refrigeration architectures. A dynamic mix of regulatory mandates, sustainability goals and the emergence of e-commerce fulfillment models are dictating changes in the status quo of refrigeration. We recently published an article in the RSES Journal that discussed refrigeration retrofit strategies that allow retailers to meet their sustainability objectives while improving their bottom lines.

When considering refrigeration retrofits, food retailers must remember that sustainability is a two-sided coin. While reducing leaks of global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants is important for lowering direct emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), many supermarket operators often overlook the potential for indirect GHG emissions caused by poor system energy efficiencies.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that supermarkets are the most electricity-intensive of all commercial buildings. Commercial refrigeration systems account for 40–60% of supermarket energy consumption and are by far the greatest contributor to indirect GHG emissions. Combined, direct and indirect emissions make up the true measure of sustainability, or a system’s total equivalent warming impact (TEWI).

Reduce direct emissions with lower-GWP refrigerants

The transition from high-GWP refrigerants and those with ozone depletion potential (ODP) is inevitable. Common legacy refrigerant options such as the HFC R-404A will be phased down while hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) such as R-22 are being phased out. But this does not necessarily mean operators should immediately transition to an alternative refrigerant or embark on a complete refrigeration rebuild.

Lower-GWP A1 refrigerants, such as the hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) blend R-448A/R-449A, are available that allow end-users to retrofit their existing system, reduce GWP from direct emissions by up to 60%, and still maintain a familiar operational footprint similar to the one they have today.

For those operators currently using R-22, the transition to R-448A/R-449A is relatively straightforward and requires very few substantive architecture changes. The transition from R-404A to R-448A/R-449A is slightly more involved but can still be accomplished without significant architectural changes. R-448A/R-449A produces compressor discharge temperatures that run approximately 10–12% higher than R-404A. This may require additional compressor cooling mitigation such as head cooling fans, demand cooling modules, or a liquid or vapor injected scroll compressor. Consult your compressor OEM’s guidelines for specific retrofit procedures.

Improve system energy efficiencies

Any system retrofit or upgrade comes at a cost, so food retailers must ensure their investment delivers long-term viability and returns to their bottom line. This is where reducing indirect emissions by improving energy efficiencies plays such an important role. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that every dollar saved in electricity is equivalent to increasing sales by $59.

While it makes sense to undertake energy-efficiency measures in conjunction with a refrigerant transition, energy optimization best practices can — and should — be performed periodically on all systems. Before considering any retrofit options, start by performing a system assessment to determine your current performance metrics — which in many cases will deviate significantly from the system’s original commissioned baseline.

The next logical step in the energy optimization process is to enable a variable-capacity modulation strategy by either upgrading to a digitally modulated compressor or adding a variable-frequency drive (VFD) to a fixed-capacity compressor. Variable-capacity modulation provides significant system improvements, not just to energy efficiency but also to overall refrigeration system performance, reliability and lifespan. Benefits include:

  • Precise matching of capacity to changing refrigeration loads
  • Tight control over suction manifold pressures, allowing increased setpoint and energy savings
  • Improved case temperature precision
  • Reduced compressor cycling (on/off)

In digital compressor retrofit scenarios, we’ve demonstrated that replacing an underperforming, fixed-capacity compressor with a variable-capacity compressor can result in an additional 4% energy savings — even before activating digital modulation capabilities. And once digital modulation is activated, operators can expect an additional 12% energy savings.

Whether you’re trying to reduce your direct emissions with lower-GWP refrigerants or seeking to improve energy efficiencies and lower your indirect emissions, Emerson has compression technologies and sustainable refrigeration solutions to help you meet your specific objectives. The Copeland™ digital semi-hermetic and Copeland™ digital scroll compressors provide opportunities to transition to lower-GWP refrigerants and enable variable-capacity modulation to drive energy efficiencies.

How to Comply With DOE Standards on Walk-In Coolers and Freezers

Julie Havenar | Product Marketing Manager
Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

In 2017, the Department of Energy (DOE) passed its final rule on new energy conservation standards for walk-in coolers and freezers (WICFs). The ruling mandated new efficiency requirements on WICFs with dedicated condensing systems in both low- and medium-temperature applications. With enforcement of these requirements now having taken effect, I recently published an article for Contracting Business that explained the implications of the DOE’s ruling. View the full article here and read a summary of it below.

Per the ruling, 20–40 percent energy reductions are now required on WICFs smaller than 3,000 square feet manufactured after the following enforcement dates:

  • January 1, 2020, for WICFs with medium-temperature dedicated condensing systems
  • July 10, 2020, for WICFs with low-temperature dedicated condensing systems

Now that enforcement dates are here, industry stakeholders are tasked with verifying that they are achieving compliance with the DOE’s WICF rule.

Who and what does the ruling apply to?

The ruling directly applies to anyone manufacturing, producing, assembling or importing to certify WICF components. From a refrigeration system standpoint, compliant components refer to dedicated and packaged condensing units (indoor and outdoor) used in both new and retrofit applications, including:

  • Condensing units that are assembled to construct a new WICF
  • Condensing units used to replace an existing, previously installed WICF component (retrofit)
  • Condensing units used within packaged systems

Other components — such as unit coolers (evaporators), doors, panels and lighting — are also within the jurisdiction of the DOE’s WICF ruling.

Contractors and wholesalers can still use and stock condensing units that were manufactured before the DOE enforcement dates. All newly manufactured condensing units must be compliant if intended for use in applicable WICF applications, as defined by the DOE’s ruling.

How can you measure efficiency and achieve compliance?

The DOE uses a metric created by the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) called the Annual Walk-In Energy Factor (AWEF) to evaluate a WICF system’s energy efficiency. This AWEF calculation is based on “a ratio of the total heat, not including the heat generated by the operation of refrigeration systems, removed, in Btu, from a walk-in box during a one-year period of usage for refrigeration to the total energy input of refrigeration systems, in watt-hours, during the same period.”

Per the DOE, there are several WICF equipment classes below the 3,000 square foot limit that must meet or exceed the minimum AWEF ratings based on capacity and application (e.g., medium- or low-temperature, indoor or outdoor). Condensing unit manufacturers and WICF original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) must follow approved AWEF testing and certification procedures to meet or exceed the DOE standards.

How will the ruling impact you?

From OEMs and wholesalers to contractors and end users, the DOE’s WICF ruling has broad impacts throughout the industry. Because the DOE WICF ruling impacts both new and retrofit equipment, every segment of the commercial refrigeration supply chain will need to understand its implications. Here’s what you need to know:

  • OEMs —need to complete the engineering design cycle, testing and certification to sell new compliant equipment.
  • Contractors —must understand that if they replace a condensing unit with one manufactured after the DOE enforcement dates, it must be an AWEF-compliant unit. However, units manufactured prior to the DOE’s enforcement dates already in inventory may still be used.
  • Wholesalers —must be prepared for changing inventories and begin to carry only AWEF-compliant condensing units that were manufactured after the 2020 enforcement dates for the relevant WICF applications.
  • Design consultants —must be well-versed in the regulatory impacts to advise end users in the selection of energy-compliant, sustainable systems.
  • End users —need to select future-proof equipment that aligns with their long-term refrigeration strategies.

How is Emerson helping OEMs?

As a manufacturer of condensing units for a wide range of refrigeration applications, we manufacture WICF condensing units that have been certified as meeting the DOE’s minimum AWEF requirements. Compliance data is listed in our condensing unit AWEF product literature.

For WICF OEMs, using certified condensing units will help them meet the compliance requirements in one of their primary refrigeration system components. OEMs should be able to combine an Emerson AWEF-compliant condensing unit with any AWEF-compliant unit cooler in order to achieve compliance in a dedicated system.

So if you’re an OEM of walk-in coolers and freezers, you now need to manufacture WICFs that meet the DOE’s minimum AWEF standards. If you’re not sure how to proceed with this compliance process, you may consult with Emerson’s Design Services Network to expedite your product development, design and testing processes.

With our breadth of products, expertise and resources, we can help you achieve compliance and develop sustainable refrigeration strategies for your customers — and our future.

Refrigerant Transition Continues Along State and Federal Lines

Jennifer Butsch | Regulatory Affairs Manager

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

Emerson recently participated in the Atmosphere America online conference, where commercial refrigeration industry stakeholders discussed the ongoing transition from hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants to those with lower global warming potential (GWP). Dr. Rajan Rajendran, Emerson’s vice president of system innovation center and sustainability, and I were speakers at the event; ACHR The News reported on our thoughts on the topic in a recent article.

Recapping recent events that impacted refrigerant rulemaking

To recap the activities regarding U.S. federal refrigerant regulations, I explained how these policies have faced many legal headwinds over the past few years. These began in 2017, when in response to a court challenge, a federal court vacated the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Rule 20 on the basis that the EPA didn’t have authority to regulate non-ozone depleting substances. If you remember, SNAP Rules 20 and 21 had been adopted on the basis of reducing global warming by phasing down the use of higher-GWP HFCs in some commercial and air conditioning equipment.

In response to the court’s ruling, the EPA released a guidance document stating that they would no longer be enforcing the delisting of HFCs under SNAP Rules 20 or 21. As a result, the scope of the SNAP program — including its ability to regulate HFCs and implement Rules 20 and 21 — remains to be seen. As of this time, the industry is still waiting for clarification from the EPA on this matter.

Reviewing new regulatory activity

However, as I explained at the conference, the EPA did introduce a SNAP Rule 23 proposal earlier this year, which recommended the use of three additional lower-GWP refrigerant alternatives for commercial refrigeration — R-448A, R-449A and R-449B — subject to narrow use limits. While the industry is currently awaiting the EPA’s final rule on SNAP Rule 23, this new activity demonstrates that the EPA is continuing to evaluate new refrigerants and list additional substitutes — which is a positive step in the right direction for our industry.

But in the absence of federal regulations governing HFCs, many states have taken measures into their own hands. The U.S. Climate Alliance now consists of 25 member states that are taking the lead on climate policy and in general, refrigerant regulations. So far, the majority of those efforts have been through the adoption of SNAP Rules 20 and 21, which California was the first to adopt into state law via its California Air Resources Board (CARB) initiatives. And as we’ve discussed previously in this blog, additional CARB proposals are currently under review and being formulated with guidance and input from industry stakeholders.

Rajan also spoke about a pair of new bipartisan bills that have been introduced in the House and the Senate which would phase down the production and consumption of HFCs over a 15-year period in accordance with guidance from the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. The passing of these companion bills — known as the Senate American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act of 2019 and the House American Innovation and Manufacturing Leadership (AIML) Act of 2020 — would authorize the EPA to regulate HFCs and establish standards for HFC management (service, repair, recovery, recycle, reclaim, etc.).

Both the AIM and AIML Acts would not affect existing equipment but would provide allowances for the aftermarket servicing needs of our industry. Their goals would be to preserve previous technological investments while supporting innovation and potential job creation.

As Rajan stated, by adopting a federal approach proposed by these bills, our industry would benefit greatly from much-needed regulatory consistency and certainty. It’s important to note that Emerson and its industry partners, such as the American Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), have pledged their support for these new bills. In addition, since these bills do not preclude states’ rights, efforts that have taken place in California and other states are still valid. While these states might be slightly leading in the refrigerant transition, our hope would be that the rest of the country would soon catch up and follow a standardized approach.

Supermarket Food Safety: Emerson Cold Chain Solutions

Katrina Krites | Marketing and Business Development

Manager, Food Retail

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Providing consistently safe and high-quality food in supermarkets is important to each stakeholder in the food retail supply chain. From farm to fork, grocers depend on their cold chain suppliers to collect, share and report on the handling and shipping practices that contribute to food safety. In the first blog based on an article in PerishableNews.com, we examined food retail market trends and risk factors impacting food safety and quality. In this companion blog, we will explore how Emerson is helping food retailers and stakeholders address these challenges at nearly every step of the food supply chain.

Harvest and processing

The potential decay of perishable produce starts the moment it is picked, but this can be stunted by controlling temperatures and the ambient environment via: flash cooling/freezing; temporary staging in storage coolers; and pre-cooling shipping containers. Shipping containers may be modified with ripening agents, and processors often measure the levels of ethylene, a natural gas that can accelerate ripening.

Emerson provides temperature-probing devices that can be used to measure internal “pulp” temperatures prior to and during the staging and loading processes. Our real-time temperature monitoring and tracking devices can be activated inside a shipping container to immediately begin monitoring location, temperatures and other environmental conditions of in-transit perishable shipments.

Transportation

Food’s journey to supermarket shelves can last anywhere from days to weeks — by truck, sea and/or air — and grocers rely on their shippers to provide an unbroken chain of temperature certainty. Loading best practices promote airflow and shipments to be “load locked” in order to limit excess vibration. Transport containers must be able to maintain temperatures and provide visibility into container conditions. Mixed-load cargos may have different refrigerated temperature zones within the same shipment.

Emerson’s field-tested, proven compression technologies can withstand the rigors of the road while helping operators to ensure that their transport refrigeration systems preserve product at specified temperature ranges. Temperature monitoring, logging and tracking devices — combined with our cloud-based software portal — can provide real-time temperature and location conditions of product in-transit. The software enables live remote monitoring and issues alerts to stakeholders based on user-defined parameters, such as: temperature excursions; changes to shipping atmosphere; vibration; security breaches; and shipping delays.

Cold storage distribution centers

Upon receipt of food at a cold storage facility, handlers must inspect product temperatures and conditions, including pulp temperatures with probing devices, and trip data from logging and tracking devices. Relying on only the ambient air temperature of the shipping container is not an accurate measure, as some carriers may turn off the refrigeration system during shipping to preserve fuel. After inspection, handlers must promptly transfer perishable cargo into a designated cold storage temperature zone. The entire process must adhere to each facility’s established Hazardous Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and/or Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventative Controls (HARPC) plans.

Emerson’s logging and tracking devices give end-users the ability to maintain live, remote visibility for monitoring the temperatures and locations of their in-transit shipping containers. In cold storage facilities, our compression and refrigeration technologies help operators to establish and maintain proper temperatures in various cold storage zones. Robust facility monitoring solutions help operators to remotely oversee conditions, ensure proper temperatures, and automatically record temperatures for use in HACCP reporting.

Grocery stores

From the moments perishable shipments are unloaded in supermarkets, operators take ownership of food quality and safety. This starts with inspection — checking pulp temperatures and trip data logs — and continues with the prompt transfer of perishables into designated cold storage coolers or freezers. Once in cold storage, control platforms help retailers to monitor perishable temperatures and optimize food quality.

Refrigerated storage and staging coolers for click-and-collect fulfillment must have sufficient capacity to handle fluctuations in order volumes and frequent opening/closing of walk-in doors. Order-picking processes and customer pick-ups and deliveries must be optimized to ensure safe handling and proper temperatures. Supermarket food preparation introduces hot-side complexities as consumers look to grocers for home meal replacements. Staff must be trained in safe cooking best practices — such as those provided by the U.S. National Restaurant Association’s (NRA’s) ServSafe® certification course — and cook-and-hold procedures should also follow established HACCP/HARPC plans.

In addition to our proven compression and refrigeration technologies, Emerson solutions address a variety of modern supermarket requirements. These include condensing units with variable-capacity modulation to precisely match refrigeration load requirements and flexible distributed architectures that can augment existing refrigeration systems. We also offer a suite of temperature-probing devices to help grocers automate the recording of prepared food temperatures and assist grocers with food safety and process compliance concerns.

Our powerful facility management, monitoring and control platforms address both existing and emerging food retail complexities. These tools provide near real-time access to critical information to help retailers track, triage and respond to issues pertaining to food quality and safety compliance — in individual stores and across their multi-site networks. In addition, these control platforms utilize alarms, notifications and remote access to provide end-users with continuous building and refrigeration monitoring at any retail location.

Connectivity drives cold chain visibility

Modern food retailers are held to increasingly higher food safety and quality standards. Store operators, consumers and health inspectors all demand greater transparency into the food supply chain and improved visibility of food’s journey from farm to fork. With today’s connected internet of things (IoT) monitoring and tracking infrastructures, operators now have the potential for visibility into each step of food’s journey — and even the possibility for comprehensive cold chain traceability. Emerson provides the refrigeration technologies and IoT-enabled infrastructures to help stakeholders at each point monitor, control and track a variety of conditions necessary for preserving food safety and quality.

 

 

 

 

 

Supermarket Food Safety: Trends and Risk Factors

Katrina Krites | Marketing and Business Development

Manager, Food Retail

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Ensuring food safety throughout the food retail supply chain has taken on new importance in 2020. As COVID-19 pushed many grocery shoppers online and reshaped consumer buying habits, grocers had to quickly adapt to new demands without compromising food safety and quality. In a recent article in PerishableNews.com, we explore the impacts of these rapidly changing market dynamics and discuss Emerson’s commitment to helping retailers and supply chain stakeholders preserve food quality and safety. In the first of a two-blog series, we will examine the evolving food retail landscape and explore food safety best practices at various steps along food’s cold chain journey.

With the onset of the global health crisis, retailers were suddenly inundated with click-and-collect orders and home deliveries. This unexpected high order volume not only placed pressures on e-fulfillment infrastructures, but also required renewed adherence to food safety best practices. Grocers not only had to maintain proper temperature ranges during storage, picking, staging and delivery, but also follow proper sanitation and hygiene protocols for in-store customers and employees alike.

At the same time, grocers began playing an even larger foodservice role by providing ready-to-eat, home meal replacements while still supporting deli- and freshly prepared offerings. Combined, these new challenges only highlighted pre-existing supply chain concerns and underscored the importance of maintaining food safety at every point of its journey to consumers. Consider the dynamic mix of food retail market and consumer trends impacting supermarket food safety in 2020:

Understanding food safety risk factors

Food safety is a cumulative process involving multiple stakeholders. From harvest to production, shipping and cold storage, order fulfillment and delivery, food preparation and handling, grocery retailers rely on food safety best practices across a wide range of disciplines.

Food shipments can proceed through up to 30 individual steps and have multiple changes of ownership, custody and control before they reach supermarkets. Once there, this chain of custody now includes the complexities of click-and-collect fulfillment — from picking processes and staging through customer pick-up. Throughout these processes, multiple factors can either decrease perishable food’s shelf life or increase its risk of becoming unsafe and a potential cause of foodborne illness.

An unbroken chain of temperature certainty and safe handling practices is essential for maintaining food safety. Common risk factors include:

  • Safe handling practices must guard against the spread of bacterial pathogens that can cause food poisoning, such as E. coli and listeria. Cross-contamination, poor employee hygiene, and unsafe or unsanitary processing or food preparation methods are key contributors.
  • Produce and perishable commodities must be kept within optimal temperatures to prevent the growth of bacteria, maximize freshness and shelf life, and avoid food waste and shrink. Environmental conditions within shipping containers must be monitored and managed throughout food’s journey to optimize humidity, ripening agents, security and real-time location tracking.
  • Online order fulfillment presents new challenges for maintaining temperature control. Chilled perishables and frozen goods must be kept within optimal temperature ranges, which can impact in-store picking processes and order staging prior to customer pick-up. Fluctuations in demand can also affect walk-in cooler performance due to changes in employee foot traffic and increased unit access.
  • Cook-and-hold procedures must maintain food at optimal holding temperatures. Per the U.S. National Restaurant Association’s (NRA’s) ServSafe® guidelines, this requires frequent checking and documentation of internal food temperatures to ensure food quality and safety.

Part two of this blog series will explore Emerson refrigeration and temperature monitoring solutions for helping ensure food safety throughout the cold chain and in supermarkets.

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