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Refrigerant Leak Detection: Four Areas for Retailers to Consider

Do you have a refrigerant leak detection program in place? I recently wrote an article featured in Convenience Store Decisions addressing best practices for retailers on this topic.

LeakCheck-02Effective refrigerant leak detection strategies can help retailers with savings not only at the individual store level, but across an entire enterprise. Refrigerant leaks are caused by a number of factors and can occur in any system. Facilities using commercial HVACR equipment that implement refrigerant best management practices will ultimately reduce their consumption of refrigerant, affecting their bottom line and sustainability efforts.

Here are four areas that retailers should focus on for effective leak detection programs:

  1. Establish a zero-tolerance policy for refrigerant leaks: Convenience store leaders should clearly communicate the importance of detecting and minimizing leaks throughout all levels of their organization. We also recommend developing a refrigerant management plan, including a mission statement that does not tolerate leaks.
  2. Utilize automatic detection to track leaks: Install Automatic Leak Detection (ALD) equipment, which is critical to detecting leaks, issuing notifications, and continuous monitoring and reporting. Leak detection alarms can be integrated into a facility management system, and remote monitoring can assist with management of leak notifications as well as preventive measures.
  3. Analyze data to identify trends and implement actions: Through utilization of leak detection technologies, retailers can begin to use that data to correlate the leaks with specific equipment or sites that are causing the problems, and then apply focused efforts to improve those issues. Monitoring and analyzing the system data to identify potential leaks early on will help prevent these costly minor leaks.
  4. Institute proper maintenance procedures: Performing regular preventive maintenance on refrigeration systems will ultimately save retailers more. It’s important to have proper maintenance procedures in place to minimize leak rates.

You can read the full Convenience Store Decisions article online here.

  For more than 20 years, Emerson Retail Solutions has been helping businesses like yours safeguard food, reduce energy consumption, protect the environment and optimize business results. To learn more about our technology solutions and services for retailers, visit our website.

 John Wallace
Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions
Emerson Climate Technologies

College Students Conceptualize the Supermarket of the Future

E-week challenge calls for a fresh approach and new thinking

Emerson Climate Technologies hosted the University of Dayton’s E-week Innovation Challenge at Emerson’s new Helix Innovation Center. The entrepreneurial student club EMpwr and engineering-based KEEN organization also co-sponsored the challenge.


Read more

Safety codes for flammable refrigerants are under revision; HFC phase-down continues

Flammable refrigerant alternatives are becoming increasingly viable as global environmental regulations push the HVACR industry toward low-GWP refrigerants. Naturally occurring hydrocarbons (HC) such as propane (R-290) and a new class of hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) refrigerant blends are among the most likely flammable refrigerants to be considered as replacements. Since these low-GWP options have varying degrees of flammability, they’re subject to requisite standards to ensure safe operating and handling protocols.


In the current industry landscape, there are a number of organizations that have developed codes and standards to manage the safe use of flammable refrigerants. Since the majority of today’s safety standards were developed prior to the increased emphasis on green refrigerant alternatives, many are now currently under revision to include A2L and A3 refrigerants with the intent to evaluate their potential use with modern equipment, applications and system architectures.

While we can’t predict the extent of the code changes, we can report on the most relevant safety standards currently under revision:

ASHRAE Standard 34
In the U.S., ASHRAE Standard 34 defines the flammability and toxicity classification of refrigerants, with the letters A and B designating lower and higher toxicity, and the numbers 1, 2 and 3 denoting the level of flammability from none, lower and higher flammability, respectively. For example, R-290 is classified as A3, meaning it has lower toxicity and higher flammability. This standard was recently updated to include the flammability subclass of 2L for refrigerants that burn slower than those designated as Class 2. Newer HFO blends, such as R-1234yf, fall into this A2L classification.

ASHRAE Standard 15
ASHRAE Standard 15 is the U.S. safety standard for refrigeration system design, construction, installation and operation. It adopts the classifications set forth in ASHRAE 34, and is under revision in part due to the inclusion of the A2L classification. The current standard also prohibits the use of A3 and B3 refrigerants except where approved by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). Once Standard 15 is revised, ASHRAE will propose revising the building model codes in the U.S.

UL standards
UL 1995 is the most recent Underwriters Laboratory (UL) listing pertaining to HVACR; it does not address flammable refrigerants. However, it is being revised in accordance with the international standard, IEC 60335-2-40, which is currently under revision to include the introduction of A2Ls.

International standards
In addition to the IEC revision mentioned, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is in the process of revising its codes that affect heating and cooling equipment, commercial refrigeration appliances, and ice and ice cream machines, including: IEC 60335-2-89 and IEC 60335-2-24. It’s widely anticipated that the standards around charge limits — for both A3 and A2L refrigerants — will be included in the IEC’s revisions.

While exact timing on regulatory matters is difficult to predict, we expect some movement in these areas through 2017 due to the urgency of HC and HFO adoption.

New SNAP proposal

The EPA recently issued another SNAP proposal1 regarding the listing status of certain high-GWP refrigerants deemed as “unacceptable” in specific applications. Although the new proposal is relatively smaller in scope, there are a few potential impacts to be aware of, including:

  • Listing of R-290 as an acceptable alternative in commercial ice makers, water coolers and very low-temperature refrigeration equipment
  • Exempting R-290 from the Clean Air Act’s section 608 venting prohibition
  • R-404A will be unacceptable in soft-serve, frozen carbonated beverage and slush machines as of Jan. 1, 2021
  • R-404A will be unacceptable in cold storage warehouse by Jan. 1, 2023

Per usual, the EPA will accept public comments to the proposal for 45 days after publication of the rule in the Federal Register.

This blog originally appeared in our recent edition of E360 Outlook. Click here to read the issue in its entirety.



Rajan Rajendran
V.P.,Systems Innovation Center And Sustainability
Emerson Climate Technologies



E360 Webinar to Focus on Efficiency Regulations and Refrigerant Changes in Commercial HVAC

The commercial HVAC industry is facing significant changes to energy efficiency regulations, safety standards and refrigerant changes over the next several years. In our next E360 Webinar, “Are You Ready for the Upcoming Efficiency Regulations and Refrigerant Changes in Commercial HVAC?”, we will look at the convergence of these activities, their timing and what the potential impacts are to commercial HVAC operators. David Hules, Emerson Climate Technologies’ director of commercial marketing, air conditioning business, will present this informative Webinar on August 2 at 2 p.m. EDT. The Webinar will begin by outlining key industry trends and then discuss options available to address imminent regulations.


According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), HVACR comprises 50 percent of all energy consumed in U.S. commercial and residential buildings. On Jan. 1, 2018, the DOE will nationally adopt the IEER portion of the ASHRAE 90.1-2013 standard in A/C packaged and split systems to help mitigate this energy consumption. Currently, this building energy code has been adopted only minimally at a state level.

Meanwhile, the global movement to phase down hydcrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants will soon impact the A/C industry, specifically, proposed actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to change the status (delist) of common chiller refrigerants such as HFC-I34a, R-410A and R-407A. As a result, the industry is moving toward new alternative refrigerants that have a much lower global warming potential, among these being mildly flammable A2L refrigerants. In response, national and international standards are under revision to evaluate the safety of A2L fluids as manufacturers move to develop A2L-based equipment.

The Webinar will also present incentive opportunities for complying with the Consortium for Energy Efficiency’s unitary specification for A/C and heat pumps that went into effect earlier this year — specifically, the energy efficiency ratios and integrated energy efficiency ratios for part load efficiencies per size category, system type and tier level. To achieve these efficiencies, there are a number of technology options on the table that will be discussed, including: multi-speed blower and condenser fans, modulated compressors, large coil heat exchangers and electronic controls.

The impacts of achieving these higher part load system efficiencies will also be explained:

  • Potentially higher first costs, yet lower operating costs
  • Increased in system footprint from larger heat exchanger surface area
  • Reduction in system refrigeration circuits
  • Increased use of mechanical modulation and variable speed compression technology

Finally, the Webinar will present the timing of these converging regulations and provide an opportunity for attendees to get answers to their specific concerns.

Register to join this informative Webinar taking place August 2 at 2 p.m. EDT, and don’t let the coming changes catch you unprepared.

Equipment Investments for Increased Customer Engagement

I was recently featured in an article for the Grocery Headquarters 2016 Equipment, Design and Operations Handbook. Below are some highlights around in-store equipment investments.

Grocery Headquarters EDO Handbook 2016_cover

We know that the demands of today’s consumers are increasing while their time is decreasing. Food retailers are addressing this trend by focusing their efforts on fresh, specialty and convenient offerings – which has prompted a need to think about the impact on store-level equipment.

In this Grocery Headquarters article, the editor discusses the criticality of the “fourth wall of retailing” – a term coined by the theater industry about the separation between the audience and stage. Grocers are aiming to break down the wall with consumers by focusing on their senses. They want to create “a more interactive, community-centric shopping experience.”

More supermarket consumer engagement is happening in perimeter departments, especially where fresh foods are on display. Safe, efficient equipment is needed and downtime is not an option.

We’ve seen that when retailers use a “cost-focused” mindset to procure equipment at lower prices, it may not last. Grocers should use a lifecycle approach in reviewing equipment to retain its value and achieve better operating levels. With attention on maintenance and upkeep, equipment performance will be extended and staff training costs can be reduced.

To read more about how grocers are investing in equipment and lighting to better engage with shoppers, read the full article here.

 For more than 20 years, Emerson Retail Solutions has been helping businesses like yours safeguard food, reduce energy consumption, protect the environment and optimize business results. To learn more about our technology solutions and services for retailers, visit our website.

Paul Hepperla
Director, New Solutions Development & Enterprise Product Management
Emerson Climate Technologies



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