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Latest E360 Webinar Explains Applications for New A1 Refrigerants

jasonprenger Jason Prenger | Refrigeration Engineering Director

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

View our latest E360 webinar, “Understanding Applications for New Refrigerant Alternatives”.

Since the EPA’s 2015 rule that changed the listing status of certain hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants to “unacceptable,” the commercial refrigeration industry has been closely evaluating new refrigerant alternatives. With a high global warming potential (GWP) of 3,922, R-404A was at the top of the list of those refrigerants scheduled for phase-out. Today, there are A1 refrigerants with GWPs below 1,500 that are available for use, such as R-448A and R-449A/B. But because they are largely unproven outside of manufacturer testing facilities, their reliability in specific applications is still in question.

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In our recent E360 webinar, I examined these new A1 refrigerants by comparing their performance characteristics and operating envelopes to R-404A and R-134a. Emerson has been testing these new A1s across our compressor platforms for several years. So, from an engineering perspective, we have compiled significant data to help the commercial refrigeration industry address these questions and evaluate this emerging class of refrigerants.

I reviewed the extensive process required to qualify compressors with new refrigerants and discussed several important considerations when using A1s:

  • R-404A alternatives have a higher heat of compression; R-134a alternatives have similar heat of compression
  • Liquid injection allows compressors to run at full low temperature operating envelopes for the R-404A alternatives, albeit with higher power consumption
  • Temperature glide is important to consider with R-404A alternatives

Per the first polling question posed in the webinar, nearly two-thirds of the audience is currently using or working with A1 replacement refrigerants. As I pointed out, some applications are more challenging to address with new A1s than others. For example, supermarket refrigeration systems have been trying non-R-404A options that are still allowable for many years, including R-407A and the natural refrigerant CO2. But, in medium-temperature, stand-alone units, the medium pressure A1 alternatives to R-404A — the R-407 series or lower GWP options like R-448A/R-449A — will either not be allowable or have yet to be listed by the EPA as acceptable for use. It’s also important to remember that these stand-alone applications are facing an EPA HFC phase-out date of Jan. 1, 2019 for the higher GWP refrigerants.

Aside from A1 alternatives, the industry is also evaluating A2L and A3 options, both of which fall into the flammable refrigerant classification. While the natural A3 refrigerant R-290 (propane) has gained acceptance by the EPA, many mildly flammable A2Ls are still going through the approval process. Both refrigerant types are the subject of numerous revisions to safety and building code standards.

Finally, I discussed the impacts of this transition to new refrigerant alternatives throughout the commercial refrigeration channel, from OEMs and wholesalers to contractors and end users; all will be impacted in one way or another over the coming years.

If you would like to view this webinar in its entirety, click here.

Into the Green

This blog is a summary of the article Into the Green from our recent edition of E360 Outlook. Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Leak detection program shrinks grocer’s carbon footprint and grows its bottom line

Refrigerant leaks are a persistent concern in the commercial refrigeration industry, and forward-thinking grocers are seeking ways to limit leaks, reduce their negative environmental impacts, and avoid the potential for significant Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fines. For one prominent U.S. supermarket chain, these efforts have even become formalized in a leak detection program that serves as a key component in their corporate sustainability objectives.

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Emerson’s remote slow leak detection program is based on harnessing the power of machine learning technologies to continuously monitor system refrigerant levels and notifying stakeholders when there is a deviation in these levels compared to established models. Unlike “sniffing” leak detection systems, which can only monitor parts of the refrigeration systems typically located in closed areas, remote leak detection monitors the complete refrigeration system by analyzing key refrigeration operating indicators to provide actionable intelligence.

To capture key performance data in the retailer’s network of 100 retail stores, Emerson utilized an existing refrigeration management controller at each location. Key data points measured to evaluate refrigerant levels included:

  • Ambient temperatures
  • Discharge pressures
  • Liquid refrigerant levels
  • Times of day

Using this time-based data to analyze equipment performance, smart fault detection algorithms in Emerson’s remote leak detection system established models that depicted normal liquid refrigerant levels in various operating conditions. Data and refrigerant level models were then consolidated and processed through Emerson’s ProAct™ Services using cloud-based data analysis.

When the system detected a deviation in refrigerant level from an expected level for the given operating conditions, it generated an advisory notification reporting on the anomaly. Depending on the degree of deviation, the system issued a warning or alarm to Emerson’s ProAct Service center.  There, a team of experienced refrigeration experts remotely performed triage to prioritize the advisory.  Then, the system notified the appropriate parties in the retailer’s stores, providing additional information on the equipment, its operating condition, location and potential resolution steps. Critical situations that required immediate attention were routed directly to the chain’s contractor crews to perform on-site validation and necessary repairs.

After one year of participating in the Emerson remote leak detection program, the supermarket chain had reduced its refrigerant leaks by 25 percent, dropping its overall refrigeration leak rate to less than half of the industry average.

This 25 percent reduction in leaks equated to $560 savings annually in reclaimed refrigerant per store, totaling $56,000 annually for the 100-store network included in the pilot. Overall, the chain calculated it would achieve payback on its investment in significantly less than 24 months — the financial benchmark established for the program’s success.

Upon completion of the Emerson’s remote leak detection pilot, the supermarket chain was convinced of the program’s operational, financial and sustainability benefits. The retailer elected to expand the service beyond its network of 100 stores.

[New E360 Webinar] Explaining Applications for New Refrigerant Alternatives

JOIN US for our next E360 Webinar, “Understanding Applications for New Refrigerant Alternatives” on Tuesday, January 24 at 2 p.m. EST / 11 a.m. PST.

With recent EPA SNAP rulings mandating the phase-down of high-GWP refrigerants, the number of new refrigerant alternatives has increased dramatically. They’re designed to offer improved energy efficiencies and environmental sustainability across a wide range of commercial refrigeration applications. But with so many new refrigerants becoming available, many operators are trying to determine which options are best suited for their businesses.

The EPA has also listed some new, lower-GWP A1 refrigerants as acceptable for use. Because these alternatives may likely be among the first options that operators will consider, many of them are wondering what impacts these alternatives will have on equipment performance.

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In our next E360 Webinar, entitled “Understanding Applications for New Refrigerant Alternatives,” Jason Prenger, director of refrigeration engineering, will answer these important questions to help operators make the transition to lower-GWP refrigerants with confidence.

Jason will address the impacts of these new refrigerants on compressor performance, with specific emphases on reliability, efficiency and capacity. To provide regulatory content of this discussion, he’ll review the current state of regulations and their impacts on existing high-GWP refrigerants per refrigeration application. Then, he’ll evaluate the new alternatives that the EPA has already listed as acceptable for use.

Attendees will learn:

  • How new refrigerants compare to their predecessors in efficiency and capacity
  • Operating envelope considerations for lower-GWP A1 alternatives
  • Challenges facing the various industry channels — OEMs, wholesalers and contractors

So, if your business will soon be impacted by the transition to lower-GWP refrigerant alternatives, this webinar is designed to help you make the best decision about which options will be most effective in your refrigeration applications.

Register now to join Jason Prenger for this important refrigerant discussion on January 24 at 2 p.m. EST / 11 a.m. PST.

Key Benefits of Refigerant Leak Detection Program

I recently wrote an article featured in Food Safety Magazine that discussed the broad impacts of refrigerant leaks on food retailers and the benefits to having an effective leak detection program. Highlights from the article are below.

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Minimizing refrigerant leaks is important to food retailers not only from a financial perspective, but also to protect the environment and meet government regulations. Investing in a leak detection program can help retailers to minimize and even eliminate leaks, thereby improving store operations and the overall customer experience.

Impacts of Refrigerant Leaks

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) GreenChill research, the average U.S. supermarket leaks an estimated 25 percent of its refrigerant supply per year. In a 100-store chain, this could result in $600,000 annually in refrigerant leaks, not to mention additional costs due to labor, loss of business and food quality issues.

Leak Detection Methods

Remote leak detection programs continuously monitor system refrigerant levels and notify stakeholders when there is a deviation from normal operating conditions. This system analyzes key indicators that help provide actionable insights. “Sniffing” detection methods can only monitor parts of the refrigeration systems that are located in closed areas.

Best Practices for Effective Leak Detection

Retailers should aim to implement a zero-tolerance policy for refrigerant leaks. When establishing a leak detection program, three key areas are critical to incorporate:

  • Detection Methods: There are different technologies to choose from, but depending upon the retailer’s requirements, automatic leak detection equipment can provide early detection of leaks and help to identify the location.
  • Reliable Notifications: When a leak occurs, it’s critical that the appropriate people are alerted. Alarm notifications can be remote, local or a combination of the two.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Recording and analyzing the data at the time the leak occurs can help to determine the best course of action.

Read the full Food Safety Magazine article online here.

And to learn more about the latest options in refrigerant leak detection, read this blog post from my colleague Mike Saunders.

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.

James Mitchell
Product Manager, ProAct Enterprise Software and Services
Retail Solutions
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Food Bank Pays It Forward and Nets Refrigeration Payback

This blog is a summary of the article Food Bank Pays It Forward and Nets Refrigeration Payback from our recent edition of E360 Outlook. Click here to read the article in its entirety.

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Digital refrigeration upgrade leads to utility rebate and increased reliability

As an affiliate of Feeding America, the West Ohio Food Bank serves 170 food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters throughout 11 counties in western Ohio. The non-profit organization stores both purchased and donated items in its 35,000 square-foot facility, including a wide variety of nutritious frozen and refrigerated offerings in its 5,000 square-foot freezer and 2,500 square-foot refrigerator. In recent years, the refrigeration equipment supporting these cold storage units was becoming failure-prone, resulting in excessive maintenance costs and unwanted headaches to the West Ohio Food Bank’s operators.

So, when representatives from Emerson Climate Technologies approached the non-profit about donating all-new equipment and components for a digital refrigeration system, operators were intrigued. When they found out that the system could significantly reduce their energy footprint, greatly improve refrigeration reliability and significantly lower maintenance costs, they were all ears. And, when Emerson secured a $2,500 rebate from the utility, AEP Energy, based on analysis of projected efficiency gains, operators officially gave Emerson the green light to begin the project in late 2014.

In with the new, low-condensing operation

The West Ohio Food Bank had inherited their refrigeration system from the facility’s previous tenant, a supermarket warehouse. Like many traditional, fixed-capacity compressor and mechanical component systems, theirs was characterized by a high rate of compressor cycling (on/off) to match the required refrigeration capacity. The legacy system had become a source of excessive downtime and repair costs for food bank operators, requiring the purchase of replacement fixed-capacity compressors to keep the system running and resulting in as much as $20,000 in operating expenses.

For Emerson, the project presented an opportunity to demonstrate a proof-of-concept that utilized their Copeland Discus™ Digital compressor for precise capacity modulation and the components needed to enable low condensing operation. Although low condensing is not necessarily a new concept, improvements in controls technology and a reduction in costs are making it a more valid option for many operators seeking to reduce energy consumption while improving refrigeration reliability.

Low-condensing systems allow the head pressure to float from 10–20 °F above the ambient temperature down to 60 °F, as opposed to fixed-capacity systems that are designed for 105 °F conditions, regardless of the actual ambient temperatures. Floating the head pressure allows compressor capacity and energy efficiency to increase as the ambient temperature drops, delivering up to 15–20 percent energy efficiency ratio improvements for every 10 °F decrease in head pressure.

 

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