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[New E360 Webinar] Pioneering Natural Refrigerants: A Grocery Case Study

Dean Landeche_Blog Dean Landeche | Vice President of Marketing , Cold Chain
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Join us for our next E360 Webinar, “Pioneering Natural Refrigerants: A Grocery Case Study” on Thursday, April 26 at 2 p.m. EDT / 11 a.m. PDT.

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Few food retailers have staked their reputation on environmentally friendly practices more than the natural foods industry leader, Whole Foods Market. At the heart of Whole Foods Market’s sustainability initiatives is their pioneering approach to the use of refrigeration architectures based entirely on ultra-low GWP, natural refrigerants — a strategy that makes them one of the first retailers in the United States to embrace propane (R-290) in their stand-alone display cases.

In our next E360 webinar, we will give you an opportunity to hear firsthand from Tristam Coffin, director of sustainability and facilities for Whole Foods Market’s northern California region, as he discusses the factors driving the retailer’s pioneering strategy of natural refrigerant use.

We will also provide an update on the regulations governing the use of R-290, including the potential changes to charge limits and evolving safety standards. Finally, for an OEM perspective, the webinar will feature a leading manufacturer of R-290 stand-alone commercial refrigeration equipment — one which has recently migrated its entire stand-alone product line to R-290.

Webinar attendees will learn:

  • The latest global regulations governing R-290 use
  • Drivers behind Whole Foods’ natural refrigerant strategy and R-290 adoption
  • An OEM perspective on making R-290 the basis of its stand-alone units

Whether it’s low-charge ammonia, CO2 refrigeration architectures or R-290 in stand-alone units, natural refrigerants are becoming more commonplace in commercial refrigeration. For retailers like Whole Foods, these alternatives are part of their mission to conduct environmentally friendly business practices.

This webinar will provide a unique opportunity to gain a 360-degree perspective on the subject of natural refrigerants, from the component manufacturer to the OEM to the end user. If you would like to hear multiple sides of the natural refrigerant story, please join us for this informative webinar on Thursday, April 26 at 2 p.m. EDT / 11 a.m. PDT.

 

[Webinar Recap] Factors in Evaluating and Selecting Refrigerants

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director Food Retail, Growth Strategy

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 we explored trends in refrigeration systems and controls and discussed how they continue to evolve to keep up with changes in consumer preferences, global regulations and market dynamics. The webinar also featured John Wallace, Emerson’s director of innovation, and Andrew Knight, vice president of Henderson Engineers. Together, we presented insights into the factors driving refrigerant selection, controls architectures and design strategies.

The first of these trends is the continuing global transition toward the use of more environmentally friendly refrigerants. When we look at the market dynamics behind this movement, refrigerant selection is one factor among a long list of considerations for food retailers — but one that impacts system architectures, controls and long-term operational goals.

It’s important to keep in mind that food retailers are making refrigerant decisions within an increasingly complex cold chain. As the product journey from farm to fork requires many handling and transportation steps involving multiple intermediaries, the objective of maintaining consistent temperature remains paramount. But, once food arrives in their stores, retailers then face a combination of consumer-driven and operational requirements, including:

  • Producing consistently fresh, high-quality foods
  • Appealing to the growing demand for “experiential retail”
  • Meeting energy efficiency and sustainability objectives

As a result, retailers are making investments in improved shopping experiences, new refrigeration systems and facility management controls.

Natural Refrigerant Architectures

The current regulatory climate has paved the way for the resurgence of natural refrigerants — largely due to their ultra-low global warming and ozone depletion potentials. Commercial and industrial refrigeration manufacturers continue to develop systems that utilize the potential of these gases while mitigating their operating challenges. Among the leading natural refrigerant architectures used in supermarkets are:

  • CO2 booster transcritical — large-capacity system based completely on CO2; ideal for low ambient conditions; high ambient strategies are becoming more viable
  • Indirect chiller with cascade — niche application delivers a fully natural solution for large commercial or industrial applications; capable of utilizing multiple, low-charge refrigerant options, including: naturals, HFOs or A2Ls
  • Distributed — well-suited for smaller applications; allows for multiple refrigerant options (including CO2) and the flexibility to deploy individual systems for low- and medium-temperature suction groups
  • Integrated case (or micro-distributed) — integrates the refrigeration system into the case, typically using a low charge of R-290 (propane); unit condensers connect to a shared water loop for heat management

In our next blog, John Wallace will discuss the crucial role of controls in these systems and how refrigerants influence controls architectures.

Modernizing the Middle of the Store

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog summarizes an article from our E360 program, entitled Cooling the Middle of the Store to Heat up Sales.” Click here to read it in its entirety.

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The perimeter of most grocery chains has always been at the forefront of the customer experience, occupied by shopper-friendly delis, fresh produce and bakeries, among other things. The middle of the store? That’s where you’d find the less sexy necessities like canned goods and other grocery staples.

Emphasizing the perimeter and stockpiling the middle with necessities was a dependable strategy. But times are changing. Case in point: a major food retailer discovered that in recent years, as the middle of the store began to shrink, so did overall revenues, with some major brands seeing as much as 2.8 percent drops per quarter. It needed a way to boost profits in the middle of stores.

The solution was to add new, low-profile refrigerated units to showcase more exciting products and packaging, bringing the pizzazz and flair of the perimeters to the middle of stores. But keeping these units working properly and monitoring their performance in this central location was the real challenge.

The necessity of maintaining consistent temperatures in refrigeration units exposed to ambient air meant stores would have to hook up sensors to monitor and control the temperatures in free-standing cases. However, these sensors required wiring that would need to be encased inside the stores’ walls — which would disrupt customers and cost stores a decent amount of money.

Emerson Retail Solutions presented one client with another option, which required no wiring at all.

Emerson’s Wireless Sensor System allowed the grocery chain to connect temperature probes, product simulators and other refrigeration sensors in critical refrigeration equipment throughout their stores, running around the perimeter and filing into the middle. This system also allowed the chain to collect key data that helped store managers monitor perishables which, in turn, allowed for maximized shelf life, reduced shrinkage and ensured safety.

The wireless module inside the cases transmitted data from the probes, product simulators and other sensors to a remote wireless gateway overhead. That gateway then converts the wireless signals into usable, real-time information, allowing for constant monitoring and data that can be used for supervisory controls. The signal sent from the module is strong and reliable enough to reach up to a 100-foot radius, all while using a minimal amount of energy. Repeaters can boost this signal even more, allowing for reach across the entirety of stores.

The Emerson Wireless Sensor System can, oftentimes, be installed in just 3.5 hours, potentially accumulating a 70 percent savings in installation costs when retrofitting stores, and cutting construction costs on new retail stores by up to 15 percent. Savings continue after installation by allowing the grocery chain to avoid fluctuating temperatures and reduce energy costs with their highly efficient wireless systems.

This particular grocery chain firmly believes that maintaining food quality is their top priority. Recent changes in the Food Safety and Modernization Act establish that it should be every chain’s top priority. Solutions such as the Emerson Wireless Sensor System allow chains to monitor free-standing refrigerated equipment in their stores, ensuring proper merchandise temperatures and giving customers the confidence in the retailer’s ability to consistently provide fresh and nutritious products — regardless of where product is located.

 

 

 

 

Blog 6: New Natural Refrigerant Equipment and System Architectures Come to Small-format

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director, CO2 Business Development

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

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Over the past several years, a dynamic regulatory climate has prompted original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to develop new equipment and system architectures for small-format retailers. The transition from hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) with high global warming potential (GWP) to new refrigerant alternatives is underway. These new alternatives must simultaneously offer lower GWP levels and performance efficiencies that meet new environmental and energy targets. Natural refrigerants propane (or R-290) and CO2 (or R-744) are part of a very short list of refrigerants capable of meeting both of those criteria.

R-290 applications

R-290’s flammable (A3) classification and current 150g charge limit have largely restricted its use to smaller systems that utilize fractional horsepower compressors or condensing units. Efforts are currently underway to increase its charge limits. Here’s a look at some of the new R-290 equipment and system architectures.

Stand-alone — R-290 is most commonly found in self-contained display cases that feature a built-in condensing unit in each refrigeration fixture. These cases have been in service for more than a decade in Europe and have become increasingly popular in the U.S. in recent years.

Integrated cases — deployed as an alternative to centralized systems, these large refrigeration cases integrate multiple R-290 compressors on individual 150g circuits. Each compressor has its own supporting system components (e.g., fans, valves, piping, etc.). An increase to the 150g charge limit would greatly simplify equipment design and expand R-290’s application potential.

Micro-distributed architecture — like stand-alone cases, each fixture is designed with its own condensing unit. The difference is, micro-distributed systems are designed to remove exhaust heat from the building through a shared heat rejection/water loop system that extracts the heat from each unit and diverts it to a condenser/cooler on the roof. While store comfort is optimized, operators may expect higher first costs and a slight energy penalty due to the secondary heat exchange design. However, in warmer climates, the removal of exhaust heat from a facility — and the load reduction on its HVAC system — may offset this penalty.

Ice machines — the EPA recently listed R-290 as acceptable for use in ice machines. Choosing which type of ice machine (cuber or flaker) to use is a key design consideration for OEMs, but component manufacturers are offering fractional horsepower compressors to integrate with both types and help with evaporator design.

R-744 applications

R-744 is effective alternative to HFCs in both low- and medium-temperature applications. Its high operating pressure (around 1,300 psig or 90 bar) and low critical point require refrigeration strategies to account for these unique characteristics. Although CO2 is more common in large-format grocery stores, OEMs have begun manufacturing systems and components sized for smaller equipment.

Small, centralized CO2 systems — appropriately sized for small-format applications, these systems are based on existing CO2 architectures (such as cascade and transcritical booster). A typical small system relies on four compressors to supply the complete refrigeration needs of the retailer.

Remote condensing units — many OEMs are manufacturing CO2 condensing units that can serve small-format needs, such as walk-in freezers and coolers. These recently developed solutions will likely become increasingly used in applications in the coming years.

Read the full Accelerate America article on small-format refrigeration applications [pg.18].

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