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Posts from the ‘Refrigeration’ Category

Grow Your Bottom Line With Sustainable Refrigeration Retrofits

Katrina Krites | Marketing and Business Development Manager, Food Retail

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

 

Across the food retail market, supermarket operators are re-evaluating their legacy refrigeration architectures. A dynamic mix of regulatory mandates, sustainability goals and the emergence of e-commerce fulfillment models are dictating changes in the status quo of refrigeration. We recently published an article in the RSES Journal that discussed refrigeration retrofit strategies that allow retailers to meet their sustainability objectives while improving their bottom lines.

When considering refrigeration retrofits, food retailers must remember that sustainability is a two-sided coin. While reducing leaks of global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants is important for lowering direct emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), many supermarket operators often overlook the potential for indirect GHG emissions caused by poor system energy efficiencies.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that supermarkets are the most electricity-intensive of all commercial buildings. Commercial refrigeration systems account for 40–60% of supermarket energy consumption and are by far the greatest contributor to indirect GHG emissions. Combined, direct and indirect emissions make up the true measure of sustainability, or a system’s total equivalent warming impact (TEWI).

Reduce direct emissions with lower-GWP refrigerants

The transition from high-GWP refrigerants and those with ozone depletion potential (ODP) is inevitable. Common legacy refrigerant options such as the HFC R-404A will be phased down while hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) such as R-22 are being phased out. But this does not necessarily mean operators should immediately transition to an alternative refrigerant or embark on a complete refrigeration rebuild.

Lower-GWP A1 refrigerants, such as the hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) blend R-448A/R-449A, are available that allow end-users to retrofit their existing system, reduce GWP from direct emissions by up to 60%, and still maintain a familiar operational footprint similar to the one they have today.

For those operators currently using R-22, the transition to R-448A/R-449A is relatively straightforward and requires very few substantive architecture changes. The transition from R-404A to R-448A/R-449A is slightly more involved but can still be accomplished without significant architectural changes. R-448A/R-449A produces compressor discharge temperatures that run approximately 10–12% higher than R-404A. This may require additional compressor cooling mitigation such as head cooling fans, demand cooling modules, or a liquid or vapor injected scroll compressor. Consult your compressor OEM’s guidelines for specific retrofit procedures.

Improve system energy efficiencies

Any system retrofit or upgrade comes at a cost, so food retailers must ensure their investment delivers long-term viability and returns to their bottom line. This is where reducing indirect emissions by improving energy efficiencies plays such an important role. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that every dollar saved in electricity is equivalent to increasing sales by $59.

While it makes sense to undertake energy-efficiency measures in conjunction with a refrigerant transition, energy optimization best practices can — and should — be performed periodically on all systems. Before considering any retrofit options, start by performing a system assessment to determine your current performance metrics — which in many cases will deviate significantly from the system’s original commissioned baseline.

The next logical step in the energy optimization process is to enable a variable-capacity modulation strategy by either upgrading to a digitally modulated compressor or adding a variable-frequency drive (VFD) to a fixed-capacity compressor. Variable-capacity modulation provides significant system improvements, not just to energy efficiency but also to overall refrigeration system performance, reliability and lifespan. Benefits include:

  • Precise matching of capacity to changing refrigeration loads
  • Tight control over suction manifold pressures, allowing increased setpoint and energy savings
  • Improved case temperature precision
  • Reduced compressor cycling (on/off)

In digital compressor retrofit scenarios, we’ve demonstrated that replacing an underperforming, fixed-capacity compressor with a variable-capacity compressor can result in an additional 4% energy savings — even before activating digital modulation capabilities. And once digital modulation is activated, operators can expect an additional 12% energy savings.

Whether you’re trying to reduce your direct emissions with lower-GWP refrigerants or seeking to improve energy efficiencies and lower your indirect emissions, Emerson has compression technologies and sustainable refrigeration solutions to help you meet your specific objectives. The Copeland™ digital semi-hermetic and Copeland™ digital scroll compressors provide opportunities to transition to lower-GWP refrigerants and enable variable-capacity modulation to drive energy efficiencies.

Leveraging Predictive Maintenance in Commercial Refrigeration

JimMitchell_Blog_Image Jim Mitchell | Technical Manager of Customer Success

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Predictive maintenance is showing big promise in the HVACR market. I recently provided input for an article for ACHR The News that discusses how predictive maintenance technology is being used in the commercial and residential markets. You can read the full article, “Predictive Maintenance Brings New Potential to HVACR Service Market,” here.

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HVACR systems are becoming smarter and more connected using internet protocol (IP) networks and the industrial internet of things (IIoT). These allow the real-time monitoring of equipment, or predictive maintenance, which gathers data points from equipment to keep tabs on system performance in order to help reduce the likelihood of failure.

For HVACR contractors, this means identifying a problem before it causes a larger issue, so that maintenance can be done to prevent equipment negatively impacting food quality and safety or other operational imperatives. For instance, a refrigeration rack alarm may indicate an issue that can be addressed, preventing operational issues that could have a negative impact on multiple cases of perishable product or thousands of dollars in-store merchandise.

How it works

Drawing from a combination of equipment sensors and control system data, performance analytics can provide store operators and enterprise managers deeper insights for:

  • Real-time and historic operating conditions in their facilities and systems
  • Pressure, temperature and energy data to compare to established benchmarks for a single store, stores within a region or enterprise-wide
  • Enterprise-level and store-level dashboards and prioritized notifications

 

For an example of how this differs from a rack alarm scenario, let’s look at a display case analysis based on temperature sensor data. Performance analytics may detect an anomaly in case temperature deviations which, while still within safe ranges, could suggest the presence of a larger performance issue. Instead of being notified with an urgent alarm, operators can be alerted on their operational dashboards. This insight gives them an opportunity to investigate the issue at their discretion, and even potentially pre-empt a potentially larger issue. It’s important to keep in mind that timing is key.

This is also an example of how operational dashboards can help retailers to align maintenance and operational activities around performance. Today’s facility management dashboards typically break down the urgency levels of maintenance issues, as previously noted. By extending these dashboards also to include performance analytics, end users can gain a much deeper understanding of how their systems are performing and operators can take pre-emptive actions where they deem appropriate — not just respond only to systems where urgent problems are already present.

Equipped with this information, operators can receive advance notice of certain performance issues that may soon impact them — on which systems or pieces of equipment, and in which stores. Enterprise views quickly provide managers with visual snapshots of urgent and important issues across their store networks, while enabling investigation into specific assets in their respective facilities. Whether you’re a maintenance technician or an enterprise manager, operational dashboards help allow you to focus on those specific maintenance activities which may potentially impact performance in the near future.

A change in approach

Commercial refrigeration systems consist of many connected components — often originating from multiple vendors — designed to meet a wide variety of applications, ranging from coffin-style display cases to walk-in freezers. Industry macro trends further increase this complexity, including the adoption of new refrigerants and the migration from centralized to decentralized and stand-alone systems. Commercial contractors will need to do more than simply install connected sensors and devices; they will need to change their approach toward commercial refrigeration, including the ability to combine new technologies with deep experience within the context of widely varying system requirements.

Rather than focusing only on what is happening at any given moment in a location — whether that’s a low- or high-priority alarm — analytics can help operators gain deeper insights into issues that could have future operational impacts. Access to these insights helps operators transition to a condition-based, analytics-driven approach — one where they can take proactive steps, perform preventive maintenance, use resources more efficiently, and stop smaller issues from becoming larger problems — instead of a more reactive approach.

What to watch for

IIoT features new technologies that will likely result in operators being able to deploy interconnected devices more widely, potentially at a lower initial cost. These offerings may drive value for operators by causing significant energy savings, lower maintenance and service costs, and improved operator experiences.

At Emerson’s innovation centers and in customer field trials, we are working with our customers to tackle the challenges related to predictive maintenance head on. By modeling refrigeration applications, we have helped our partners take a more methodical, deliberate approach to predictive maintenance. Our goal is not simply to throw more IIoT at the problem, but to help provide true insights from the data while leveraging our deep intellectual capital and experience in the commercial refrigeration space. We believe this helps us deliver the transformative value that predictive maintenance represents. By doing so, we can be a part of simplifying the complex and uncover insights that are representative of the industry’s most common refrigeration scenarios.

For example, a typical refrigeration system or rack has alarms that identify current issues only, and slow leaks often can be difficult to discern from normal fluctuations. But with a machine-learning supervisory app, multiple models can account for variable operating envelopes with up to ~90% accuracy and identify leaks as many as 30 days before physical detection devices.

While it is difficult to predict five years in the future accurately, it is safe to assume that with the adoption of 5G technology and other advances in component miniaturization and cost reduction, solutions will continue to get smarter. With a flood of data occurring at both the enterprise level (reporting) and the device level (gathering data), we will need more intelligence in interpreting this information in order to help deliver better, more accurate results.

In the meantime, one thing that contractors can do is avoid the rush to recommend IIoT implementation that can result in applications which can create more “noise” — i.e., a barrage of events to monitor and triage — and trigger false errors or events that identify issues too early (or too late).

 

 

Information in this article was first published in ACHR The News, March 16, 2020.

Natural Refrigerants Remain Viable Among Emerging Options

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director, Food Retail Marketing & Growth Strategy, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I was recently asked by the editor of Accelerate America to offer my opinion on the viability of natural refrigerants, including CO2 (R-744), propane (R-290) and ammonia (R-714). Among the many emerging refrigerant alternatives, natural refrigerants check important boxes for owners and operators who are preparing for the rapidly changing commercial refrigeration landscape. View the full article here and read a summary of its key points below.

For more than a decade, natural refrigerants have factored prominently in the search for environmentally friendly refrigeration in both commercial and industrial sectors. We’ve seen the introduction of R-290 in micro-distributed, self-contained cases; increased global adoption of CO2 in centralized systems; and the emergence of ultra-low-charge ammonia, by itself as well as integrated with CO2 in cascade systems. As we kick off a new decade, we will likely continue to see these refrigerants progress along those established lanes.

Drivers for natural refrigerant adoption

Since their introduction, the drivers for natural refrigerant adoption have not changed. Most legacy refrigeration strategies rely on the use of high global warming potential (GWP) hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, and companies with sustainability objectives or regulatory mandates were among the first to make the transition to natural refrigerants — which by many are considered immune from regulatory-mandated GWP caps.

In 2020, the phase-down of HFCs remains a focus of global environmental regulations. From the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and the European F-Gas regulations to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), many countries, states and regions share the goal of an HFC phase-down.

It’s often said that there’s no such thing as a perfect refrigerant — and that’s certainly the case with natural options. But natural refrigerants are among the very few alternatives capable of meeting some of the more aggressive GWP targets. R-290 has a GWP of 3; CO2 has a GWP of 1; and ammonia has a GWP of 0. So from environmental and regulatory perspectives, this puts them in a class by themselves.

Characteristics and caveats

With decades of field use and research to draw from, the performance characteristics of natural refrigerants are well known. But each option has operating caveats that equipment owners must carefully consider before investing in a long-term refrigeration strategy.

  • R-290 offers excellent energy efficiencies, but as an A3 (flammable) refrigerant, safety regulations limit its use to small charges globally from 150g to 500g. R-290 is a natural fit for small-capacity, self-contained cases that require a lower charge and are hermetically sealed at the factory.
  • CO2 is a high-pressure refrigerant with a low critical point (87.8 °F) that determines its modes of operation (subcritical, or below the critical point; transcritical, or above the critical point). It also has a high triple point where the refrigerant will turn to dry ice. Systems must be designed to manage these characteristics, and operators must have access to qualified technicians.
  • Ammonia has been used in industrial refrigeration for the past century, but its toxicity (B2L classification) presents challenges to equipment owners. Tightening safety regulations and the risk of exposure have led to system architectures designed to lower charges and move it out of occupied spaces.

Selecting a natural architecture

When evaluating natural refrigerant architectures, store formats and application requirements will often dictate the refrigerant choice. R-290 is well-suited for either smaller-format stores or as a spot merchandising option for larger stores. CO2 makes the most sense in larger stores seeking a centralized architecture alternative to HFCs. Ammonia is relatively rare in commercial applications but is finding its way into innovative architectures designed to mitigate its risks and benefit from its excellent performance characteristics.

R-290, from integrated cases to micro-distributed — For nearly a decade, manufacturers have worked within the 150g charge limit to create self-contained, integrated cases, in which the refrigeration system (compressor and condensing unit) is built into the display case. These evolved into a micro-distributed approach for small stores, where multiple units share a water/glycol loop to remove excess heat. This approach provides very low-GWP, total-store cooling while keeping charges low, typically operating with 90% less refrigerant than a centralized system.

CO2 transcritical booster — CO2 came into prominence more than a decade ago in large supermarkets where centralized architectures are preferred. CO2 transcritical booster system technology continues to improve today, offering an all-natural solution for both low- and medium-temperature cooling. Compared to centralized HFC systems, CO2 transcritical boosters represent a completely different approach to system operation and servicing. Operators must acquire technicians that are trained to service CO2 systems and implement strategies for power outages in order to mitigate “stand-still” pressure while the system is off.

CO2/ammonia hybrid subcritical (cascade) — CO2 cascade systems are designed to utilize CO2 in the low-temperature (LT) suction group where the refrigerant stays below its critical point and operates at lower pressures, much like a traditional HFC. Typically, an HFC (or HFO/HFC blend) is used in the medium-temperature (MT) circuit, where heat produced from the LT circuit is discharged (i.e., cascaded) into a heat exchanger and into the suction stage of the MT circuit. However, the recent introduction of ammonia as the MT refrigerant has transformed this configuration into an all-natural refrigerant option.

Safety first

With each of these natural refrigerant options, safety must be the primary consideration. Manufacturers have poured a great deal of effort into ensuring the safe operation and maintenance of natural systems with a variety of strategies, including pressure relief valves, specially designed components, leak detection devices, and proper guidance to owners and operators.

The global regulatory climate and trend toward environmentally friendly refrigeration will help natural refrigerants to proliferate along these well-established paths of least resistance. Still, there is much to consider for system operators, who must weigh the opportunity costs for selecting a natural refrigerant option.

 

Low-GWP Strategies for Achieving CARB Compliance

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director, Food Retail Marketing & Growth Strategy, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Emerson was recently invited to participate in a webinar series hosted by the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC) aimed at helping retailers prepare for California’s refrigerant regulations and incentives. In the webinar, Diego Marafon, refrigeration scroll product manager at Emerson, and I discussed emerging refrigeration strategies for supporting low-GWP (global warming potential) compliance and hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) reductions while uncovering opportunities to lower operating costs.

Low-GWP Strategies for Achieving CARB Compliance

In the U.S., the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is leading the charge for regulations impacting commercial refrigeration. For large centralized refrigeration systems — which today make up the majority of retail refrigeration — CARB’s current proposal would require new systems with more than 50 pounds of refrigerant to use refrigerants below 150 GWP. As a result, CO2 is a primary refrigerant choice for operators seeking to stay with a large centralized system and meet CARB’s proposed regulation.

But as retailers evaluate new system architectures, they also have an expanding variety of decentralized and distributed options to consider. What’s more, CARB’s latest proposals provide new approaches for achieving HFC reductions that are giving retailers the option to remodel, rather than invest in all-new refrigeration systems for their fleet of stores. These proposals include:

  • Greenhouse gas emission potential (GHGp) reduction by 55% — Requires the total GHGp of all refrigeration systems in all stores to be 55% below the 2018 baseline by 2030, where GHGp equals the sum of the refrigerant charge times GWP — or GHGp = ∑(charge X GWP). This is a per-company target which gives retailers some flexibility in achieving compliance. As retailers retrofit their stores, they’ll receive credits for refrigerant charge and GWP reductions. But retailers must have the abilities to track, report each store’s GHGp baselines as well as document and verify any equipment changes.
  • Weighted average GWP (WAGWP) reduction < 1,400 — Requires the WAGWP of each retailer to be less than 1,400 by 2030. It’s calculated by finding the sum of the charge times GWP in every system in every store, divided by the total charge — or weighted average GWP = ∑(charge X GWP) / ∑ This approach allows retailers to aim for a fixed target — without the need for tracking a company baseline — while giving them the option to only retrofit the stores needed to meet the 1,400 GWP target. Retailers may need to apply this equation to multiple retrofit scenarios to successfully deploy this strategy. Simply put, they’ll need to do the math and figure out how to best reach this target.

Weighing your retrofit options

In the webinar, we discussed each of these approaches and ran the numbers to show how retailers could take a long-term view of their store fleet strategies and make modifications to achieve their goals — utilizing refrigerant changes, system retrofits or installing new refrigeration systems. Using a WAGWP calculator developed by Emerson, we demonstrated different strategies for achieving CARB compliance, providing cost projections for each option. If you’re interested in learning more about the WAGWP calculator, you can contact your salesperson, or visit the contact us page.

For this exercise, we looked at a hypothetical scenario of a California retailer with 25 stores, 66 total refrigeration systems and a WAGWP of 2,715. Then we evaluated three different retrofit options and calculated their impacts:

  • Refrigerant change from R-404A to R-448A — By changing out the refrigerant in all 25 stores, the retailer could achieve a WAGWP of 1,383 (nearly a 50% GHGp reduction). The total CapEx for the changes were $3M, with a cost per WAGWP reduction of $2.2k.
  • Convert half the stores to a new CO2 system — By installing new CO2 systems in 12 of the stores and leaving the other 13 untouched, the retailer could achieve a WAGWP of 1,277 (or a 54% GHGp reduction). The total CapEx for the changes were $27.3M, with a cost per WAGWP reduction of $19k.
  • Hybrid approach — By converting 20 systems to R-448A and installing 28 new scroll booster systems (with R-513A) — leaving 18 systems as is — the retailer could achieve a WAGWP of 1,520 (or 55% GHGp reduction). The total CapEx for the changes were $15M, with a cost per WAGWP reduction of $13k.

These scenarios demonstrated how to calculate system retrofit and remodel impacts while showing the multiple alternatives for implementing lower-GWP remodel strategies. It’s important to realize that in California, CARB has incentive programs to help retailers offset the cost of making these system changes.

But CARB is just one piece of a dynamic regulatory landscape — which includes energy, environmental and food safety regulations within varying regional, national and global jurisdictions — that continues to drive changes in refrigeration equipment and architectures. In response, Emerson is committed to developing a full spectrum of low-GWP refrigerant technologies, including CO2, R-290 and hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), as well as lower-GWP HFC A1 refrigerants that are still in use. Most recently, we’ve expanded our offerings to support the industry’s need for more flexible, distributed architectures which deliver both high energy efficiencies and low-GWP ratings.

To learn more about using Emerson’s tools for calculating the impacts that system retrofits or remodels would have on your store fleet’s environmental footprint, view this NASRC webinar with the title of, “Emerson Technology Solutions.”

 

[New Webinar] Will Explore the Advantages of Digital Outdoor Refrigeration

Julie Havenar | Product Manager – Condensing Units
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Outdoor condensing units (OCUs) have been a mainstay for small refrigeration applications for decades. In an upcoming webinar, we will review recent OCU technology innovations that utilize digital compressors to achieve the many benefits of variable-capacity modulation. This informative webinar will take place on Tuesday, June 9 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT.

New Webinar

Commonly used by small-format grocers, convenience stores and restaurants, OCUs have traditionally provided refrigeration for walk-in coolers, display cases and food preparation rooms. By equipping this proven refrigeration strategy with digital compressors, OCUs can provide a greatly expanded role in refrigeration applications. We will explore these new possibilities by taking a closer look at Emerson’s Copeland Digital Outdoor Refrigeration Unit, X-Line Series.

Instead of providing one refrigeration load per unit, the digital X-Line allows operators to service multiple refrigeration loads with one unit — potentially eliminating the need for multiple condensing units. In addition, their ability to modulate capacity per refrigerated load requirements enables precise temperature control and load matching for maximum energy efficiencies.

Webinar attendees will learn how the digital X-Line delivers major advancements to outdoor refrigeration:

  • Fewer units to install and maintain
  • Tight temperature precision
  • Simple and quick commissioning
  • Lightweight and flexible installation options
  • Reduced costly call-backs via advanced diagnostics
  • Lowered refrigerant charge and line sets

Unlike traditional OCUs that utilize a fixed-capacity compressor, the digital X-Line enables continuous capacity modulation from 20 to 100 percent to deliver significant reductions in energy consumption and refrigeration improvements. This advanced compression technology — combined with variable-speed fan motor control, large-capacity condenser coils, and smart protection and diagnostics — provides operators with a state-of-the-art OCU solution that’s ideal for meeting today’s challenging refrigeration requirements.

To learn more about the benefits of variable-capacity modulation in OCUs, register now for this free webinar.

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