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[E360 Webinar Recap] What’s Driving Trends in Control Selections?

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog is based on our most recent E360 Webinar, “Top Retailer Trends for Refrigeration, Controls and Facility Optimization.”

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I recently participated in an E360 Webinar where I discussed electronic control architectures within the context of trends in refrigeration and system design. The webinar also featured Andre Patenaude, Emerson’s director of food retail marketing & growth strategy, cold chain; and Andrew Knight, vice president of Henderson Engineers.

Before I begin, it’s useful for readers to have a basic understanding of “centralized” vs. “distributed” control architectures. In a centralized schema, the refrigeration rack and electrical control panels are typically located in a store’s mechanical room, perhaps on the roof or somewhere near the back. “Home run” sensors are placed in the cases and send temperature information back to the control area. All decisions are made from that centralized control panel.

In a distributed system, refrigeration rack controls are still in the mechanical room, but case controls are now moved to each case via a complete electronic package. In this scenario, sensors are connected directly to the electronics in the cases, and simply communicate back to the rack controls or an electronic management system.

The primary factors that influence the control architecture decision include size of the store and choice in the refrigerant architecture. Generally speaking, the smaller the store, the more distributed the architecture. Low-GWP (global warming potential) refrigerants also drive control architectures toward a more distributed approach. CO2 transcritical has higher pressures and controls are required for the coordination of low- and medium-temperature compressors. R-290 is flammable and thus has a much lower refrigerant charge; therefore, compression and controls are typically housed together in a self-contained unit. Either way, the control scheme utilizes a more distributed approach.

From stand-alone to ‘islands of control’ to the internet of things (IoT)

To envision where I think we’re headed trend-wise, it’s useful to know how we’ve evolved. Years ago, mechanical systems all had their own types of controls and were completely independent, or stand-alone. Over time, integration occurred. Stand-alone systems were tied together into what might be thought of as “islands of control”, which can include:

  • Refrigeration
  • HVAC
  • Lighting
  • Energy
  • Other mechanical functions

The sharing of information allowed for better control and efficiencies.

Then came the emergence of a “supervisory function”— a modern building automation system (BAS), where the islands are tied together to control a broad range of equipment and enable integrated optimization across a facility.

While these site-level supervisory controls are critical to efficient operations, connectivity across the enterprise is the next evolutionary step and crucial for future success. By utilizing BAS across multiple locations, businesses can tie into IoT platforms to collect enterprise-wide data, providing greater operational visibility and opening up opportunities for benchmarking. Managing across the enterprise, retailers can answer strategic questions such as:

  • Which sites are performing well, and which aren’t?
  • How many alarm incidents are occurring, and where?
  • Why is Store 17 performing differently than Store 12 when all site attributes are identical?
  • What additional efficiencies can be implemented?

Planning for the next wave of “smarter” buildings requires increased flexibility and advanced controls that can expand to enable more value in all areas of operations, not the least of which is refrigeration.

In our next blog, Andrew Knight will discuss how a few of the trends Andre and I covered in our presentations impact store design and engineering.

 

 

Alternative Refrigerants Continue to Rise in Popularity

RajanRajendran2 Rajan Rajendran | V.P., System Innovation Center and Sustainability

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I discussed a recent ruling from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and industry trends associated with low global warming potential (GWP) in ACHR News. Read the full article here.

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The EPA cannot require HVACR manufacturers to replace what they deem high-GWP refrigerants with lower-GWP replacements. That was the opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit judge Brett Kavanaugh on Jan. 27. His decision established that the court will not reconsider an Aug. 8, 2017, opinion that signified the EPA cannot ban hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under Section 612 of the Clean Air Act.

The ruling conceptually overturns a 2015 EPA proposal by former President Barack Obama’s administration to phase out the use of HFCs in retail food refrigeration HVACR applications. While HFCs appear to be around a bit longer than initially anticipated, many compressor manufacturers insist that fact won’t inhibit them from pursuing lower-GWP options in an effort to remain globally competitive and environmentally responsible.

Manufacturers approach refrigerant use from a GWP perspective, viewing refrigerants based upon their region-specific requirements. Customers and end users must make refrigerant decisions based on local regulatory mandates and their own operational objectives. Refrigerant costs, local regulations and GWP will continue to be the primary factors in our decision making.

There are also applicable standards in place that need to be followed which govern the use of flammable refrigerants. These are currently under review, and we’ll monitor any changes that may occur.

Natural refrigerants have been, and will continue to be, an integral part of Emerson’s refrigerant strategy due to the global nature of its customers. Ammonia, propane and CO2 are three natural refrigerants that have long played roles in commercial and industrial refrigeration. With increasing industry demand for lower-GWP refrigerant options, each of these will continue to have a place in our product road map.

 

Earth Day 2018: Seize the Opportunity for Sustainability

Dean Landeche_Blog Dean Landeche | Marketing Cold Chain Leader
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Since 1970, people worldwide have gathered together every April 22nd for Earth Day to bring attention to issues regarding the health of our planet and ways in which all of us can work toward a healthier, more sustainable way of life and do our best to protect our environment.

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In the refrigeration space, obtaining regulatory compliance and furthering sustainability initiatives are ambitious but necessary tasks that various food retailers face in today’s industry climate. They are not intended to be perceived as challenges, but rather opportunities for businesses to work together to optimize facility operations and create a more environmentally friendly way of doing business. Here are three ways you can seize that opportunity and emphasize sustainability.

  1. Natural refrigerant renaissance

The regulatory climate may seem to be in a constant state of change, but one consistency remains:  carbon dioxide (R-744), propane (R-290) and ammonia (R-717) headline the list of refrigerants which can deliver regulatory compliance and align with corporate sustainability goals. While not perfect, these natural refrigerants are about as close to “future proof” as facility operators currently can get. As technology continues to improve, equipment manufacturers are working closely with forward-thinking companies to develop innovative solutions that have resulted in new, creative natural refrigeration applications.

  1. Using IoT to reduce energy consumption

Integrating HVAC, refrigeration and lighting systems into building automation and supervisory controls systems can help building operators gain insights into energy use and help reduce consumption. Companies like Emerson are working to create technologies that can be easily integrated into existing systems and buildings, helping boost sustainability efforts without incurring costly construction and installation time. Combining these new technologies with smart strategies has opened the door for a bright and sustainable future in the refrigeration industry.

  1. A boom in big data

Using data gathered from remote monitoring services can be used to help reduce waste, increase efficiency, and help ensure food freshness and safety. These remote monitoring services gather data from sensors, monitor conditions like product and case temperature, and provide real-time information on critical store equipment such as energy use, equipment operating condition, refrigerant leaks and more. Utilizing the data gathered by remote monitoring allows companies to simultaneously safeguard food and further sustainability efforts.

Promoting sustainability solutions and tactics shouldn’t only be saved for special occasions like Earth Day. Developing your own “good neighbor” story and making a positive impact on the environment are continual jobs. The opportunity to develop sustainability initiatives that become the industry standard is more present than ever; consider how you can seize that opportunity today.

Supermarket Refrigeration Systems Are Constantly Evolving

anijayanth Ani Jayanth | Director, Product Marketing

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog summarizes an article from ACHR News, entitled Supermarket Refrigeration Systems Are Constantly Evolving.” Click here to read it in its entirety.

Supermarket Refrigeration Systems are constantly Evolving

The supermarket refrigeration industry is becoming increasingly more complex. Emerging technologies for refrigeration system architectures and a shift toward more environmentally friendly refrigerants have both caused contractors to alter how they approach work in today’s market.

Don Newlon, Emerson’s vice president and general manager of food retail, Cold Chain, recommends looking at the situation from the points of view of supermarket clients.

“Choosing a refrigeration system used to be all about energy efficiency, but many customers today have different things they’re trying to optimize,” Newlon said. “Energy efficiency is still important, but many customers also are seeking to reach environmental or sustainability goals. In fact, for some, that’s their primary motivation. So, be aware that there will be some segmentation of the end-user base, depending on customers’ particular goals.”

Customers are pursuing refrigeration architectures because of the benefits they want to receive from them. Knowing the needs and goals of each individual client can help contractors provide clients with the proper architecture, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to service.

Customer needs and goals aren’t the only things evolving. Technological advances in commercial refrigeration are coming at a rapid pace, especially pertaining to CO₂ systems. Andre Patenaude, Emerson’s director of food retail marketing and growth strategy (who formerly served as the company’s director of CO₂ business development), noted that these advances in CO₂ systems are benefiting both new and current technologies.

“Many of the energy-saving features on CO₂ systems can actually be applied to current HFC systems if end users want to keep their old systems but reduce their energy footprints and maintenance costs,” Patenaude said. “There are ways of significantly improving the systems we already have.”

Along with CO₂, propane is also gaining popularity as a refrigerant in smaller, self-contained cases. With its charge limit of 150 grams per refrigeration circuit, it can be easily integrated into display cases that combine several circuits.

“It’s not going to be any one thing that dominates the market in the future,” Newlon said. “Given that, we think the best advice we can give to supermarket contractors is to discuss what their end users’ long-range plans are. Learn what’s important to them, and then help them understand the system architectures that would be the best options for their stores.”

Blog 7: CO2 Leaves a Smaller Carbon Footprint in Large-Format Food Retail Market

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director Food Retail, Growth Strategy

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

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Market drivers and refrigerant regulations in recent years have placed an increased focus on sustainability for large-format retailers. Among the natural refrigerant alternatives suitable for these centralized applications, CO2 (or refrigerant name R-744) leads the pack. Offering zero ozone depletion potential (ODP) and a global warming potential (GWP) of 1, CO2 is often considered the benchmark for environmentally friendly refrigerants. In terms of customer-facing peace of mind, CO2 has neither the flammability nor toxicity challenges posed by other natural refrigerant alternatives. And, as energy efficiencies and the reliability of CO2 refrigeration systems rise, system costs have fallen to levels typically found in traditional hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) systems.

Increasing global CO2 adoption

For all these reasons, CO2 has become the preferred natural refrigerant option for large-format food retailers. A recent Shecco study1 on CO2 adoption confirms this trend, showing a growing number of CO2 transcritical stores worldwide:

  • Canada: 150+
  • United States: 260+
  • Japan: 2,400+
  • Europe: 9,000

The number of CO2 stores in the E.U., Norway and Switzerland has tripled in the last three years, representing 8 percent of the overall food retail market share in these regions. In North America, retailers are still in an experimental “trial” phase to see how CO2 — and other natural refrigerants for that matter — can be used in their facilities and across varying climatic zones.

As older systems age and require upgrading or replacement, many large-format food retailers will be seizing the opportunity to transition from higher-GWP, HFC refrigeration architectures to lower-GWP systems. This trend toward eco-friendly refrigeration is being driven by multiple forces: 1) global regulatory efforts to phase down HFCs; 2) industry organizations like the Consumer Goods Forum that advocate the use of these systems; and 3) many retailers are stating corporate sustainability objectives.

Economies of scale reduce operating costs

The steady increase in global CO2 refrigeration adoption has led equipment and component manufacturers to not only increase production, but also make continued investments in research and development to refine CO2 technologies. These economies of scale are helping to lower CO2 system costs and reduce complexities for end users and service technicians alike.

CO2 training — both formal and hands-on types — has greatly improved as the industry becomes much more familiar with CO2 architectures and performance characteristics. Even refrigeration consultants are becoming well-versed in CO2 systems and can make more educated recommendations.

While the U.S. is still in the early phases of trials and experimentation, every successful implementation increases the likelihood of more stores making the transition to CO2. Safe, environmentally friendly, economical and reliable: CO2 has all the characteristics that make it a candidate as the large-format refrigerant of the future.

Read the full Accelerate America article on the large-format refrigerant of the future [pg.16].

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