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Refrigeration Decisions Driven by Diverse Priorities

DonNewlon_V2 Don Newlon | V.P./G.M., Refrigeration Marketing
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog summarizes an article from our most recent E360 Outlook, entitled Diverse Priorities Continue to Influence Refrigeration Landscape.” Click here to read it in its entirety.


Today, there are as many factors influencing commercial refrigeration decisions as there are system architectures. As the industry continues to be shaped by regulations, emerging technologies and changing technician demographics, it has become more apparent that there is tremendous diversity among end user priorities.

From first costs, refrigerant considerations and sustainability goals to environmental regulations, energy-efficiency targets and maintenance requirements, end users have more drivers influencing equipment selection criteria than ever before. Since each end user values these factors according to their individual priorities, the hierarchy of priorities differs widely from one customer to the next.

Take Whole Foods Market, for example, a food retailer known for pioneering the use of all-natural refrigeration systems. By using CO2 and R-290 instead of synthetic hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants in their Santa Clara, Calif., location, the grocer is seeking to leave the smallest possible carbon footprint while meeting its energy-efficiency targets. All other criteria are secondary.

But for operators in other parts of the country, where energy costs are lower and environmental mandates are less demanding, a more traditional HFC system with lower first costs and more familiar maintenance protocols may be preferred. The same may be said for those who are intimidated by the increased complexities or relative “unknowns” of new system architectures.

If there’s anything we can be certain of, it’s that the refrigeration landscape will continue to change. You may have read about a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had exceeded the authority of its Clean Air Act in its efforts to limit the use of HFCs in commercial refrigeration. While some may support the court’s ruling, others who believe the process of phasing down HFCs is already well underway are calling for an appeal. As of now, we’ll have to wait and see what the true implications of this ruling will be.

Already in Europe, where F-gas regulations limit the use of high global warming potential refrigerants, the price of HFCs is on the rise as supplies dwindle. This is also indicative of how regional idiosyncrasies throughout the world also factor into refrigeration decisions, as the potential of carbon taxes, refrigerant price hikes and local climates must also be considered.

To be sure, there currently is no one-size-fits-all approach to commercial refrigeration. Our goal is not to favor one architecture over another, but to help end users balance this difficult equation for themselves — and based on their unique priorities, take the best approach.

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