Welcome to our new series of blogs intended to help not just beginning service technicians, but anyone who wants to learn more about the basics of refrigeration. I plan to share insights, best practices and other information from our Emerson training program as well as from our commercial and residential solutions experts. In addition, we’ve created companion videos about each topic that you can cross-reference while accessing other related information at Education.Emerson.com.
In this series, I’ll touch on topics ranging from how condensers, compressors and evaporators work, to superheating and subcooling, to the refrigeration cycle, vapor injection and basic refrigeration system troubleshooting. In this blog, I explain the key environmental considerations of refrigerants, how to account for refrigerant glide, and how the dew point impacts climate control equipment performance.
What’s the difference between ODP and GWP?
A refrigerant’s environmental characteristics are determined largely by two factors: 1) its impact on the Earth’s ozone layer, or ozone depletion potential (ODP); and 2) its potential to produce greenhouse gas emissions, or global warming potential (GWP). Chlorine-containing ODP refrigerants have been banned for use, while high-GWP hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants are currently the target of global regulations (i.e., the HFC phasedown). Today, refrigerant manufacturers are introducing a variety of lower-GWP refrigerant alternatives to help commercial and residential customers achieve a full spectrum of sustainability goals.
In the United States, federal and state regulations are accelerating the phasedown of the use of high-GWP refrigerants. Meanwhile, corporate sustainability objectives also are driving more companies to re-evaluate their choices of refrigerants and refrigeration systems.
What is refrigerant glide?
Refrigerants are often comprised of a blend of two or more constituents. These individual components’ different saturation temperatures can impact the refrigerant’s performance characteristics. Working with refrigerants with glide requires understanding the boiling point of each of its constituents:
Bubble point, or lowest condensing temperature of a constituent
Mean condensing temperature
Dew point, or the highest condensing temperature of a constituent
The difference between the boiling points of the first and last constituents is referred to as glide. Essentially, the least volatile component condenses first, and each additional component of a refrigerant blend will start and end at different boiling points. The total temperature glide of a refrigerant blend is defined as the temperature difference between the saturated vapor temperature and the saturated liquid temperature at a constant pressure. An alternate definition is the temperature difference between the starting and ending temperatures of a refrigerant phase change within a system at a constant pressure.
Now in its 18th year, the Dealer Design Awards program recognizes exceptional manufacturing of HVACR technology as well as product designs that benefit HVACR contractors. This year, the awards program received 117 entries, which were judged by an independent panel of contractors.
For the gold: The Copeland digital outdoor refrigeration unit, X-Line Series
Designed specifically for small-format operations, the digital X-Line Series is a compact condensing unit solution that provides refrigeration for multiple fixtures while delivering precise temperature control and significant energy savings. With 20 to 100% capacity modulation, proven Copeland digital scroll technology, large-capacity condenser coils, variable-speed fan motor control and smart controls, the digital X-Line Series is a superior solution for convenience stores (C-stores), small-format food retailers and restaurants.
Standard features include multiplexing capabilities, onboard diagnostics, connectivity, installation flexibility, ultra-quiet operation and corrosion resistance. In addition, expanded refrigerant approvals provide operators with multiple options for selecting a lower-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant that helps them to meet their sustainability and operational objectives. Many of the X-Line unit’s innovations — including faster, simpler setup, more diagnostics and better communication capabilities that improve reliability and reduce equipment downtime — are the result of direct customer feedback.
Bringing home the bronze: The Lumity E3 supervisory control
Launched in February, the Lumity E3 controller is the next generation in facility management and refrigeration controls. The E3 controller is powered by Emerson’s Lumity supervisory control software to provide food retail and foodservice operators with comprehensive control of critical facility systems. In addition to an intuitive, user-friendly and web-accessible interface, it offers customizable graphs and summary pages; smart alarms to detect, prioritize, troubleshoot and resolve issues; and a performance meter to fine-tune the performance of refrigeration fixtures and equipment.
The Lumity E3 controller’s simplicity provides operators with powerful control to manage and optimize energy use throughout a facility via built-in algorithms which support demand response, curtailment and load shedding programs. The E3 controller was designed to empower contractors and operators across a wide range of skill levels, helping them to work more efficiently, decisively and tackle the challenge of skilled staff shortages. And finally, the E3 controller is engineered for adaptability, providing operators with greater flexibility to revamp their store designs or expand their operations.
Our commitment to innovation
Both the digital X-Line Series and the Lumity E3 controller embody Emerson’s commitment to helping our customers attain greater temperature stability and certainty, improve food quality and safety, minimize equipment failures, curb energy use, and achieve regulatory compliance. The awards underscore our causes to lead our customers through complex technical, regulatory and economic challenges and deliver sustainable solutions that improve efficiency, reduce emissions, and conserve resources.
We are honored to be recognized by the 2021 Dealer Design Awards program and will continue to engage with contractors and end-users to identify ways to further improve our products and solutions.
Charles Larkin | Director of Data and Analytics, Cold Chain
Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business
The utilization of data analytics and data science techniques is rapidly expanding throughout the commercial refrigeration sector. From the implementation of food safety programs to the identification of potential equipment performance issues, operational data can be transformed in a variety of ways to drive operational improvements and business outcomes. In our most recent E360 Webinar, I explored some real-world examples of how our analytics team is helping leverage data to drive improvements in their quality control (QC) initiatives.
When considering the role of data analytics in commercial refrigeration, it is important to understand that data should be viewed as an entry point for discovering larger issues and digging deeper to find root causes. Historically, the management of food safety QC programs has relied on paper-based recording and tracking methods, but these can be cumbersome to maintain, inaccurate and difficult to transform into usable insights. In addition, refrigeration data can be very complex and difficult to interpret and our industry is just beginning to unlock the potential uses of data in these applications.
Thankfully, modern data science techniques and machine learning algorithms are helping to deliver insights that uncover issues previously hidden from food service and food retail operators. Here are a few examples that I discussed in the webinar.
Descriptive analytics of QC programs in foodservice
Traditional hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) programs are paper-based checklists that do not easily yield valuable insights. In addition, the process of manually checking the temperatures of coolers, freezers and food (pulp temperatures) — and physically recording all of this data — is labor-intensive, inefficient and often inaccurate.
By leveraging cloud-connected sensors, we are able to digitally record HACCP temperature data and present that information in the form of easy-to-digest descriptive analytics. Through intuitive visual dashboards, foodservice operators can see their HACCP compliance checklist rates — per store or operation on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis. By doing so, they can then easily identify patterns that indicate areas of improvement.
Diagnostic analytics of refrigerated shipping container performance in marine transport
Applying data science to the process of measuring condensing unit performance in a refrigerated shipping container has allowed us to leverage more diagnostic analytic capabilities for our customers. These containers are at sea for extended periods of time, typically carrying high-value perishable shipments, so it is critical for operators to continually monitor refrigeration performance, identify issues early and make the necessary equipment or process corrections.
Performance data patterns in refrigeration units can be unpredictable, chaotic and difficult to interpret. By capturing this data over extended periods of time and processing it through advanced analytics techniques, we are able to identify patterns in condensing unit system health and make recommendations. For example, our analytics teams can diagnose when system health begins to decline so the operator can take proactive steps to fix potential issues before they become larger ones. When used across a fleet of shipping containers, we are also able to reframe this data into dashboard views to indicate which containers have issues that need immediate attention at any given time.
Prescriptive analytics in food retail
As we move these concepts into the retail space, we are applying similar techniques used in our food service and marine examples in an environment that can be significantly more complex — with diverse refrigeration systems, compressor racks and display cases to monitor. We are finding ways to make operational data simple for food retail operators to consume and to give them tools to identify precisely when and where they are having temperature excursions or performance issues.
Through a combination of performance dashboards and live alarms, we are able to help our customers assess the health of key assets and identify temperature deviations. This allows them to see which cases were having product deviations and begin the process of figuring out root causes (such as set point changes, defrost effectiveness or myriad other factors). From an enterprise view, these insights give large retailers the ability to monitor and analyze performance across multiple sites and examine why different stores have variations in performance characteristics.
Effective data analytics also provide more insight into which alarms are most indicative of critical performance issues. As a result, we can deliver a reduction in total alarms — on display cases and product temperature probes — which simplifies food retail operations and improves the overall likelihood of maintaining the desired temperatures.
To learn more about how data analytics can uncover insights in your operation, please view this webinar.
Half of all U.S. consumers worry about the safety of fresh and frozen foods during transportation to stores. That’s the big discovery from a recent Emerson study.[i] Half of consumers also decide where to shop based on the quality and freshness of their foods.
62% agree better technology has a role to play in keeping their food safe to eat.
56% say better data is needed to track proper food safety practices from farm to table.
51% are less likely to shop from stores that aren’t using — nor having suppliers use — the latest technologies available to keep their food safe.
That’s a wake-up call for food retailers who have not yet made ensuring food quality and safety among their top priorities. Across the United States, grocery stores and supermarkets play vital roles in food production and the supply chain. They’re uniquely positioned to coordinate an interdisciplinary focus on cold chain management, from supplier partners to monitoring shipping logistics.
Starting point: Establish proper temperatures
Effective management of the retail food cold chain often begins with ensuring proper harvesting times in consultation with preferred produce providers and establishing the temperature setpoints for each commodity type.
Respiration rates of harvested produce can be impacted by the setpoints; produce cooling processes can also place excess strain on food products. For example:
Pulling heat from products picked in 90 °F heat down to a 33 °F transport temperature is not ideal.
The goal should be to limit the variance between picked and storage temperatures.
This is also why it’s extremely important to be able to monitor temperatures in produce pre-cooling sheds.
The age of harvest fields is another consideration. Late-season fields experience excess crop strain; thus, extra efforts must be taken to reduce these impacts after harvest.
Ensuring food safety compliance
Food retailers already are shifting to more proactive prevention in order to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This federal law gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to mandate comprehensive, science-based and preventative controls governing the safe storage, handling and preparation of food throughout the supply chain.
Grocers can take additional steps to help ensure compliance, such as:
Establishing a corporate food safety specialist and placing quality control (QC) experts in distribution centers (DCs) and/or logistics operations
Investing in technologies that enable the continuous collection of data related to food safety and providing the necessary documentation to validate these initiatives on request
Keeping up with e-commerce fulfillment
Not only did COVID-19 permanently reshape consumers’ buying habits, retailers’ responses to new consumer behaviors also introduced food safety challenges. Chief among them are:
Chilled fresh and frozen goods for click-and-collect fulfillment must be kept within their optimal temperature ranges throughout in-store picking, order staging and customer pickup.
Direct-to-consumer deliveries have the added responsibility of maintaining temperatures in delivery vehicles.
In both new fulfillment models, grocers must make extra efforts to mitigate improper handling or cross-contamination risks.
What’s next: Steps to enhance safety and quality
Meeting these new customer expectations can require additional effort and investment. This is not a time to bend food safety rules or skip best practices to save money. Cutting costs almost always backfires by creating shrink and introducing potential safety risks.
Instead, grocery retailers can take steps to help ensure better food safety and quality. Start by establishing a temperature-monitoring program. Maintaining tight temperature setpoint control for all types of fresh and frozen commodities is a key factor in preserving freshness and enhancing safety.
Retailers also should plan for any scenario that can occur during fresh and frozen food’s journey from farm to fork. Without that planning — and coordination by retailers with their food providers and shippers — the likelihood of shrink and food safety risks will only increase.
Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business
Throughout the world, HVACR technicians play essential roles in society — providing comfort cooling and maintaining the integrity of the cold chain responsible for preserving food and life-saving medicines. While this career path offers lifelong learning opportunities and salaries often exceeding those of many college graduates, our industry is experiencing a global shortage of qualified technicians. In a recent E360 Webinar, we assembled an international panel of expert technicians, practitioners and apprentices to reflect on their personal career journeys, explore the importance of technician professions, and discuss strategies for attracting the next generation of candidates.
In the U.S., we refer to this career path as HVACR technicians. In other parts of the world, they are known as different titles, such as: engineers in the UK; workers in Asia-Pacific; and experts in the Middle East. As I moderated this engaging discussion, each of the panelists provided interesting anecdotes that spoke to different aspects of the global importance of this role and the expanding opportunities that exist. Here is a brief sample of those perspectives.
Don Gillis, technical training specialist at Emerson
As a 30-year journeyman technician and current educator, Don spoke about a typical technician career trajectory for those starting out in the industry that mirrored his own life experiences. A technician often begins their career as an installer, carrying tools, cutting, cleaning and fitting copper together for new applications. A next logical step would be to shadow a more experienced professional, helping them with preventative maintenance and seeing firsthand how rewarding this career can be. Learning more about servicing, troubleshooting and diagnosis exposed him to a variety of issues that can impact system performance, capacity and efficiency. Don shared that his son has followed in his footsteps and started his own HVACR contracting business.
Joe Healy, director of application engineering, MEA, at Emerson
Currently based in Hong Kong, Joe’s experience serving the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions provided a unique perspective regarding the variety of HVACR approaches within different countries and continents — from the cutting-edge sustainability initiatives of Australia and New Zealand to advanced HVACR technologies in Japan to the manufacturing-focused China to the challenges of underdeveloped infrastructures in India. Joe explained that this broad diversity makes HVACR-related professions both interesting and exciting endeavors in these regions. He also shared how technicians make it possible to not only live, work and thrive in extreme climates and densely populated environments, but also serve as the wheels on which these diverse cultures run.
Alonso Amor, director of engineering services, Mexico, at Emerson
Alonso explained that the ambient temperatures in the Latin American region place high demands on refrigeration and AC loads. Perhaps these conditions have led to what he observed as an eagerness and commitment to learn the technician trade in this region. He explained that HVACR-related seminars are always very well attended, indicating a high level of interest in these skilled trades throughout the region. From his experience, candidates take the initiative to receive training, achieve certifications, and make their contributions felt, despite the hot climate and difficult working conditions.
Carlos Obella, vice president of engineering services and product management, Latin America, at Emerson
Carlos shared how his distinguished career started 35 years ago as an HVAC field technician. As an engineer with a college degree, he quickly gained expertise in installing and servicing parallel rack compressor systems for large supermarkets, which has served as a foundation for understanding the proliferation of today’s refrigeration architectures. He offered an anecdote about how the most competent refrigeration technician he ever met was not a degreed engineer. This individual went on to start his own refrigeration contracting business and became the primary refrigeration consultant for one of the biggest supermarket chains in Argentina.
Trevor Matthews, HVACR training and development specialist at Emerson
As a first-generation refrigeration technician, Trevor explained how this rewarding career checked other boxes on his job criteria checklist. First, he knew he wanted a career that would be universally in demand and allow him to travel the world. Second, like many job seekers, he was interested in earning potential. Not only did his job as a refrigeration technician allow him to travel, but he was making a six-figure salary after five years. He said his passion for refrigeration is fueled by the opportunity for continuous learning. Even though it can be a demanding career, Trevor loves the fact that it proportionately rewards the level of commitment you put into it.
Becky Hoelscher, director, aftermarket sales at Emerson
Becky discussed the growing urgency for our industry to replace a retiring generation of baby boomer technicians with the next generation of technicians. She explained that there will be an estimated 15% deficit of qualified technicians by 2026, and the industry needs to start recruitment efforts in high school and entice students to consider this career. Becky reiterated the importance of apprenticeships and discussed federal, state and local efforts to support these initiatives. She believes that a combination of classwork learning and on-the-job training can ultimately lead to certification — where students can even start getting paid while working toward a certification.
Nicholas Didier, mechanical technician (HVACR student)
As a high school senior enrolled in an HVACR program, Nicholas shared his experience participating in a pre-apprenticeship opportunity at Emerson’s The Helix Innovation Center. His goals were to understand the basics of refrigeration and get hands-on HVACR field experience. But in the process, he gained insights into the technician profession and uncovered a desire to further explore system design. Nicholas’ passion and accomplishments earned him a $1,000 scholarship from the Today’s Opportunities Offering Lifetime Skills (TOOLS) program and a new Ford Ranger truck. He plans on using the money to purchase tools for the HVACR technician trade and further his education.
All these anecdotes and individual perspectives speak to the opportunities that await those who enter this rewarding career path. To learn more about the importance of HVACR technician careers and how to attract the next generation of candidates, view this webinar.
Commercial & Residential Solutions is a global innovator of energy-efficient heating, air conditioning and refrigeration solutions for residential, industrial and commercial applications. www.climate.emerson.com
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