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Grow Your Bottom Line With Sustainable Refrigeration Retrofits

Katrina Krites | Marketing and Business Development Manager, Food Retail

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

 

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.

Transform Commercial Kitchens with Automation

Paul_Hepperla Paul Hepperla | Vice President, Solutions Strategy – Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Commercial kitchens can maximize efficiency, increase food safety, and reduce labor costs by implementing internet of things (IoT) technologies into restaurant operations. So, why has the foodservice sector been relatively slow to adopt advanced, connected automation?

Transform Commercial Kitchens with Automation

That’s among the many questions discussed by a recent E360 panel of key industry stakeholders, including:

  • Chuck Guerin, vice president for controls of the Middleby Corporation, a leading manufacturer of commercial cooking equipment
  • Jim Kleva, director of equipment engineering of Wendy’s, a global quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain
  • Matt Toone, vice president, sales and solutions, cold chain, Emerson

They acknowledged that restaurants lag behind the digital transformation achieved in other industries, largely due to concerns about data security. Nevertheless, kitchen operators are in “an experimentation phase” with an eye toward how automation can enable them to optimize commercial operations.

New on the menu: Predicting what customers will order

Among the potential improvements resulting from IoT technologies are faster ordering, cooking and drive-through procedures for quick-service restaurants.

Kleva said the technologies at Wendy’s can potentially predict what customers will purchase before they order, making it possible to speed up cooking and service. In this scenario, smart devices, cameras and sensors would connect to identify individuals, access their purchase history, and provide real-time analysis of conditions at nearby stores, traffic patterns, weather and school events — all while determining the number of patrons in the store, cars in the drive-through area and consumers entering the restaurant.

How much of this is a good idea remains to be seen. Many consumers may welcome the option to speed up service by allowing businesses to identify them by reading their vehicle license plates or through the use of facial recognition technology. Other consumers will likely object, viewing application of these advanced technologies as intrusive.

“Currently, our customers don’t want us to go there,” Kleva said.

Consumers might be more comfortable with restaurants implementing technology based on the last time they ordered. In addition, this recognition technology could be used for much less-specific identification purposes, to determine whether incoming customers are children, adults or other demographic details which could help QSRs accelerate service levels.

“Even a five- to 10-second heads-up could make a huge difference in our drive-through operation,” Kleva said.

The amount of data — along with the hardware and software — to make this smart restaurant vision a reality requires investments in connected equipment. Middleby’s cooking equipment already offers data processing for menu pushes and service-related alerts.

“The next generation of technologies will assist restaurant managers not by just predicting what food is needed but also by automatically starting the cooking process,” Guerin said.

Top concerns: Data security and communications

Potential barriers to wider adoption of IoT in commercial kitchens arise due to concerns from business owners and consumers about the security of data collected, stored and shared by restaurant equipment.

Among the challenges: how to pull all of the data safely and securely into meaningful, useable information. QSRs must manage equipment from multiple providers, each often designed with communication protocols and connectivity standards that are proprietary.

“There’s not safety or a compelling critical infrastructure issue forcing the industry to adopt a standard system,” Guerin said. “As OEMs, we’re all competing and we’re all trying to figure out an approach that meets our customers’ needs.”

Standardizing commercial kitchen technology would enable the devices to communicate more easily while enhancing data security. One solution is the growing use of application programming interfaces (APIs), software that make it possible for one system to share information in precisely controlled ways with another system. It’s the path Emerson has chosen.

“Establishing a common architecture, or at least flexible APIs, will become more important as the foodservice industry becomes more connected,” Toone said.

Emerson can help automate your restaurant

Emerson is helping QSRs leverage IoT in commercial kitchens to exercise control over equipment and systems and automatically perform routine tasks. Our smart facility management and supervisory controls, food temperature probes and IoT technologies are helping QSRs monitor and control food storage and cooking temperatures to comply with food safety regulations and maximize food quality and consistency. Implementing the systems can either free up workers for other tasks or enable kitchen managers to reduce labor costs.

These efforts can provide commercial kitchen equipment that is financially viable and easily connectible across legacy systems and modern, IoT-enabled devices. Learn more by reading the final article of this series about IoT-driven kitchen automation. We welcome you to read article 1 and article 2 if you’d like to review the full series.

There’s Only One Rebuilt Compressor That’s as Good as New: Copeland Certified

Michael Williams | Copeland Product Manager

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

When you purchase a Copeland Certified remanufactured compressor, Copeland will stand behind the quality and reliability of the replacement. Our latest E360 Product Spotlight takes a closer look at why Copeland Certified compressors are the service aftermarket’s most reliable option for replacement semi-hermetic compressors.

While the service aftermarket is full of independent mechanics and larger rebuilders, only Copeland Certified semi-hermetic compressors are remanufactured to the same Emerson engineering guidelines and production standards as our OEM compressors. You’ll get a replacement model that is as good as new.

Why is this so important to contractors? There’s no need to worry about a Copeland Certified compressor harming your reputation due to installation challenges, safety issues or potential system failures.

Likewise, business owners and managers can be confident that selecting a Copeland Certified compressor will help restore their refrigeration system back to its optimum performance.

Remanufactured to OEM specifications

Rebuilding a Copeland Certified compressor is an extensive production process. We examine every component to ensure its operational integrity. That means replacing all outdated, discontinued or unfit parts. When we’re done, the rebuilt compressor will meet all of Emerson’s stringent engineering and manufacturing guidelines.

The process starts by disassembling salvaged compressors into individual components, where more than 500 parts can be evaluated. Then our expert builders inspect, clean, upgrade or replace each essential component with Copeland Certified parts — qualifying them according to the latest engineering specifications.

Our team then reassembles each compressor and subjects them to Emerson’s quality assurance and testing procedures. We perform air board tests on every compressor, checking for leaks, motor performance and pressure integrity. Every day, remanufactured compressors are selected via a random audit program to fully verify their performance and ensure that Copeland Certified compressors are restored to Emerson’s OEM specifications.

To make sure that happens, Copeland Certified compressors are remanufactured in the same state-of-the-art manufacturing facility — and on the same production lines — as our new compressors. This production consistency delivers the following benefits and capabilities:

  • Cellular manufacturing processes
  • UL recognized and approved
  • Use of all Copeland Certified parts

The benefits of choosing a Copeland Certified compressor include:

  • Built with the latest engineering guidelines; remanufactured to OEM specifications
  • Peace of mind knowing that your replacement compressor will work as good as new
  • No compromise in reliability and performance or degradation in energy efficiencies
  • Reputation protection by removing risks of system failure and performance issues from using sub-par replacement compressors

 

Trusted reliability, performance and safety

The result of all these quality-enhancing measures is that you get the most trusted remanufactured compressors for the refrigeration aftermarket from the industry leader in compression technology. If you need a service compressor that delivers unwavering reliability, unrivaled performance and superior safety, trust Copeland Certified.

Contact one of our 850 certified wholesalers to learn more about using Copeland Certified compressors for your next installation.

Leveraging Predictive Maintenance in Commercial Refrigeration

JimMitchell_Blog_Image Jim Mitchell | Technical Manager of Customer Success

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Predictive maintenance is showing big promise in the HVACR market. I recently provided input for an article for ACHR The News that discusses how predictive maintenance technology is being used in the commercial and residential markets. You can read the full article, “Predictive Maintenance Brings New Potential to HVACR Service Market,” here.

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HVACR systems are becoming smarter and more connected using internet protocol (IP) networks and the industrial internet of things (IIoT). These allow the real-time monitoring of equipment, or predictive maintenance, which gathers data points from equipment to keep tabs on system performance in order to help reduce the likelihood of failure.

For HVACR contractors, this means identifying a problem before it causes a larger issue, so that maintenance can be done to prevent equipment negatively impacting food quality and safety or other operational imperatives. For instance, a refrigeration rack alarm may indicate an issue that can be addressed, preventing operational issues that could have a negative impact on multiple cases of perishable product or thousands of dollars in-store merchandise.

How it works

Drawing from a combination of equipment sensors and control system data, performance analytics can provide store operators and enterprise managers deeper insights for:

  • Real-time and historic operating conditions in their facilities and systems
  • Pressure, temperature and energy data to compare to established benchmarks for a single store, stores within a region or enterprise-wide
  • Enterprise-level and store-level dashboards and prioritized notifications

 

For an example of how this differs from a rack alarm scenario, let’s look at a display case analysis based on temperature sensor data. Performance analytics may detect an anomaly in case temperature deviations which, while still within safe ranges, could suggest the presence of a larger performance issue. Instead of being notified with an urgent alarm, operators can be alerted on their operational dashboards. This insight gives them an opportunity to investigate the issue at their discretion, and even potentially pre-empt a potentially larger issue. It’s important to keep in mind that timing is key.

This is also an example of how operational dashboards can help retailers to align maintenance and operational activities around performance. Today’s facility management dashboards typically break down the urgency levels of maintenance issues, as previously noted. By extending these dashboards also to include performance analytics, end users can gain a much deeper understanding of how their systems are performing and operators can take pre-emptive actions where they deem appropriate — not just respond only to systems where urgent problems are already present.

Equipped with this information, operators can receive advance notice of certain performance issues that may soon impact them — on which systems or pieces of equipment, and in which stores. Enterprise views quickly provide managers with visual snapshots of urgent and important issues across their store networks, while enabling investigation into specific assets in their respective facilities. Whether you’re a maintenance technician or an enterprise manager, operational dashboards help allow you to focus on those specific maintenance activities which may potentially impact performance in the near future.

A change in approach

Commercial refrigeration systems consist of many connected components — often originating from multiple vendors — designed to meet a wide variety of applications, ranging from coffin-style display cases to walk-in freezers. Industry macro trends further increase this complexity, including the adoption of new refrigerants and the migration from centralized to decentralized and stand-alone systems. Commercial contractors will need to do more than simply install connected sensors and devices; they will need to change their approach toward commercial refrigeration, including the ability to combine new technologies with deep experience within the context of widely varying system requirements.

Rather than focusing only on what is happening at any given moment in a location — whether that’s a low- or high-priority alarm — analytics can help operators gain deeper insights into issues that could have future operational impacts. Access to these insights helps operators transition to a condition-based, analytics-driven approach — one where they can take proactive steps, perform preventive maintenance, use resources more efficiently, and stop smaller issues from becoming larger problems — instead of a more reactive approach.

What to watch for

IIoT features new technologies that will likely result in operators being able to deploy interconnected devices more widely, potentially at a lower initial cost. These offerings may drive value for operators by causing significant energy savings, lower maintenance and service costs, and improved operator experiences.

At Emerson’s innovation centers and in customer field trials, we are working with our customers to tackle the challenges related to predictive maintenance head on. By modeling refrigeration applications, we have helped our partners take a more methodical, deliberate approach to predictive maintenance. Our goal is not simply to throw more IIoT at the problem, but to help provide true insights from the data while leveraging our deep intellectual capital and experience in the commercial refrigeration space. We believe this helps us deliver the transformative value that predictive maintenance represents. By doing so, we can be a part of simplifying the complex and uncover insights that are representative of the industry’s most common refrigeration scenarios.

For example, a typical refrigeration system or rack has alarms that identify current issues only, and slow leaks often can be difficult to discern from normal fluctuations. But with a machine-learning supervisory app, multiple models can account for variable operating envelopes with up to ~90% accuracy and identify leaks as many as 30 days before physical detection devices.

While it is difficult to predict five years in the future accurately, it is safe to assume that with the adoption of 5G technology and other advances in component miniaturization and cost reduction, solutions will continue to get smarter. With a flood of data occurring at both the enterprise level (reporting) and the device level (gathering data), we will need more intelligence in interpreting this information in order to help deliver better, more accurate results.

In the meantime, one thing that contractors can do is avoid the rush to recommend IIoT implementation that can result in applications which can create more “noise” — i.e., a barrage of events to monitor and triage — and trigger false errors or events that identify issues too early (or too late).

 

 

Information in this article was first published in ACHR The News, March 16, 2020.

Natural Refrigerants Remain Viable Among Emerging Options

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director, Food Retail Marketing & Growth Strategy, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I was recently asked by the editor of Accelerate America to offer my opinion on the viability of natural refrigerants, including CO2 (R-744), propane (R-290) and ammonia (R-714). Among the many emerging refrigerant alternatives, natural refrigerants check important boxes for owners and operators who are preparing for the rapidly changing commercial refrigeration landscape. View the full article here and read a summary of its key points below.

For more than a decade, natural refrigerants have factored prominently in the search for environmentally friendly refrigeration in both commercial and industrial sectors. We’ve seen the introduction of R-290 in micro-distributed, self-contained cases; increased global adoption of CO2 in centralized systems; and the emergence of ultra-low-charge ammonia, by itself as well as integrated with CO2 in cascade systems. As we kick off a new decade, we will likely continue to see these refrigerants progress along those established lanes.

Drivers for natural refrigerant adoption

Since their introduction, the drivers for natural refrigerant adoption have not changed. Most legacy refrigeration strategies rely on the use of high global warming potential (GWP) hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, and companies with sustainability objectives or regulatory mandates were among the first to make the transition to natural refrigerants — which by many are considered immune from regulatory-mandated GWP caps.

In 2020, the phase-down of HFCs remains a focus of global environmental regulations. From the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and the European F-Gas regulations to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), many countries, states and regions share the goal of an HFC phase-down.

It’s often said that there’s no such thing as a perfect refrigerant — and that’s certainly the case with natural options. But natural refrigerants are among the very few alternatives capable of meeting some of the more aggressive GWP targets. R-290 has a GWP of 3; CO2 has a GWP of 1; and ammonia has a GWP of 0. So from environmental and regulatory perspectives, this puts them in a class by themselves.

Characteristics and caveats

With decades of field use and research to draw from, the performance characteristics of natural refrigerants are well known. But each option has operating caveats that equipment owners must carefully consider before investing in a long-term refrigeration strategy.

  • R-290 offers excellent energy efficiencies, but as an A3 (flammable) refrigerant, safety regulations limit its use to small charges globally from 150g to 500g. R-290 is a natural fit for small-capacity, self-contained cases that require a lower charge and are hermetically sealed at the factory.
  • CO2 is a high-pressure refrigerant with a low critical point (87.8 °F) that determines its modes of operation (subcritical, or below the critical point; transcritical, or above the critical point). It also has a high triple point where the refrigerant will turn to dry ice. Systems must be designed to manage these characteristics, and operators must have access to qualified technicians.
  • Ammonia has been used in industrial refrigeration for the past century, but its toxicity (B2L classification) presents challenges to equipment owners. Tightening safety regulations and the risk of exposure have led to system architectures designed to lower charges and move it out of occupied spaces.

Selecting a natural architecture

When evaluating natural refrigerant architectures, store formats and application requirements will often dictate the refrigerant choice. R-290 is well-suited for either smaller-format stores or as a spot merchandising option for larger stores. CO2 makes the most sense in larger stores seeking a centralized architecture alternative to HFCs. Ammonia is relatively rare in commercial applications but is finding its way into innovative architectures designed to mitigate its risks and benefit from its excellent performance characteristics.

R-290, from integrated cases to micro-distributed — For nearly a decade, manufacturers have worked within the 150g charge limit to create self-contained, integrated cases, in which the refrigeration system (compressor and condensing unit) is built into the display case. These evolved into a micro-distributed approach for small stores, where multiple units share a water/glycol loop to remove excess heat. This approach provides very low-GWP, total-store cooling while keeping charges low, typically operating with 90% less refrigerant than a centralized system.

CO2 transcritical booster — CO2 came into prominence more than a decade ago in large supermarkets where centralized architectures are preferred. CO2 transcritical booster system technology continues to improve today, offering an all-natural solution for both low- and medium-temperature cooling. Compared to centralized HFC systems, CO2 transcritical boosters represent a completely different approach to system operation and servicing. Operators must acquire technicians that are trained to service CO2 systems and implement strategies for power outages in order to mitigate “stand-still” pressure while the system is off.

CO2/ammonia hybrid subcritical (cascade) — CO2 cascade systems are designed to utilize CO2 in the low-temperature (LT) suction group where the refrigerant stays below its critical point and operates at lower pressures, much like a traditional HFC. Typically, an HFC (or HFO/HFC blend) is used in the medium-temperature (MT) circuit, where heat produced from the LT circuit is discharged (i.e., cascaded) into a heat exchanger and into the suction stage of the MT circuit. However, the recent introduction of ammonia as the MT refrigerant has transformed this configuration into an all-natural refrigerant option.

Safety first

With each of these natural refrigerant options, safety must be the primary consideration. Manufacturers have poured a great deal of effort into ensuring the safe operation and maintenance of natural systems with a variety of strategies, including pressure relief valves, specially designed components, leak detection devices, and proper guidance to owners and operators.

The global regulatory climate and trend toward environmentally friendly refrigeration will help natural refrigerants to proliferate along these well-established paths of least resistance. Still, there is much to consider for system operators, who must weigh the opportunity costs for selecting a natural refrigerant option.

 

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