In 2020, the Department of Energy (DOE) will begin enforcing its new energy-efficiency standards on walk-in coolers and freezers (WICF). With the compliance deadline now on the horizon, the commercial refrigeration supply chain is taking a closer look at the ruling and preparing for its impacts. Our next E360 Webinar, on Thursday, Sept. 26 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT, will shed light on the details of this rulemaking.
Improving the energy efficiency of refrigeration equipment is a goal shared by most stakeholders in the commercial refrigeration supply chain. But when specific energy reductions are mandated by DOE regulations on a commonly used class of equipment, then these goals take on a much greater sense of urgency. The DOE’s 2020 WICF mandate is no exception.
Generally speaking, the ruling will require 20–40 percent energy reductions in WICFs smaller than 3,000 square feet. But, like many regulations of this kind, when you start digging into the details, you’ll find that they’re complicated and often difficult to interpret.
In our next E360 Webinar, I’ll provide a detailed overview of the DOE’s WICF ruling and discuss how it can impact you — regardless of whether you’re an equipment manufacturer, contractor, end user, design consultant or wholesaler. So, if you’re unsure about how to prepare for compliance or just curious how the ruling may impact you, then be sure to join me on Thursday, Sept. 26 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT for this informative webinar. Attendees will learn:
The full scope of the WICF rulemaking
Definitions of key terms, concepts and language used
Final enforcement dates per equipment category
Examples of WICF system configurations
Required efficiency levels per the Annual Walk-in Efficiency Factor (AWEF) metric
Impacts to various stakeholders throughout the supply chain
How to verify and ensure compliance
As with all E360 Webinars, we will allocate time after the presentation for a question and answer session. To make sure we’re able to address your specific questions, this session will be supported by additional Emerson experts on the DOE WICF regulation, including: Roxanne Scott, senior lead project engineer; and Brian Buynacek, senior consultant. So, register now for this informative webinar and let us help you prepare for the DOE WICF compliance deadline.
To raise awareness about the prevention of food poisoning, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have designated September as National Food Safety Education Month. Whether you’re a consumer, provider, processor, distributor, restaurant, supermarket or refrigerated equipment manufacturer, it is important to be aware of issues related to food safety so we can all help to minimize risks of potential contamination throughout the food supply chain.
What’s at stake? According to CDC estimates, one out of every six people (48 million) gets sick, 128,000 people per year are hospitalized, and 3,000 per year die from eating contaminated food each year in the United States. Although this could potentially happen to anyone, those whom are especially vulnerable include: children 5 and under, adults 65 and older, those with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women.
But the potential costs of foodborne illness outbreaks go far beyond their tolls on human health. Researchers have found that restaurants have incurred costs of up to $2.5 million for a single outbreak of foodborne illness. This may be in addition to brand reputation impact that are more difficult to calculate. Studies have shown that 44 percent of consumers will avoid a brand for a few months after an outbreak, while 20 percent have reported in surveys that they never intend to make a return visit or purchase anything from that brand again.
How to protect yourself Foodborne illnesses occur when food becomes contaminated with harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses or toxins. Common types of bacteria associated with raw or undercooked poultry include campylobacter and salmonella. Fruits and vegetables (such as leafy greens) can become contaminated with E. coli, salmonella and listeria due to several factors: from unclean water and runoff at a farm; contaminated processing equipment; and from poor hygiene during handling and preparation.
It is critically important for anyone preparing food to maintain proper holding temperatures as part of ensuring food safety. This also often maximizes food quality and shelf life.
So, when it comes to preparing your own food, the CDC recommends four simple steps to protect yourself and your family:
Clean — Wash hands, utensils and cooking surfaces.
Separate — Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from cooked food and fresh produce.
Cook — Use a food thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to an internal temperature sufficient to kill potential germs.
Chill — Refrigerate perishable foods and leftovers within two hours; chill within one hour if ambient temperatures are above 90 °F.
But what about the food we buy at restaurants, food trucks or supermarkets? One-third of Americans eat fast food every day, and more than 60 percent have dinner at a restaurant at least once a week. On its way to those points of sale, food passes through multiple hands and stakeholders throughout the supply chain, each with a responsibility to help ensure food safety and quality. Here are a few more common sense tips to consider when dining out or buying from your local grocer.
Shop smart — Choose tidy, well-kept establishments with clean tables, aisles and floors. Some cities/states require facilities to post their cleanliness ratings. If you live in one of those regions, ask for the location of that
Ask questions — Inquire about how items on the menu are prepared, how grocery items are stored, and any other pertinent information about the source.
Inspect your selections — Look for holes, tears or openings in food packages. Frozen foods should be solid throughout with no signs of thawing. Refrigerated foods should feel cold.
Ensuring safety in the food supply chain
While most of these tips can also apply to the food supply chain, ensuring adherence to them from farm to fork is an even more complex challenge for producers, processors, distributors and others in the food supply chain. By the time food reaches consumers, there are potentially any number of handling and temperature excursions that could have taken place. There are also an ever-increasing number of food safety regulations and documentation requirements that stakeholders must comply with.
Today, Emerson is helping leading food supply chain providers, processors, warehouses, distributors and retailers ensure food safety and protect their brand reputations. Building upon our foundation of refrigeration expertise, we’re providing solutions to help operators at nearly every point of this process to help form a comprehensive, unbroken cold chain. From connected, communicating devices and enterprise management software to temperature loggers, trackers and probing devices, we’re helping our customers achieve cold chain temperature certainty and food safety verification throughout its journey to consumers.
My colleague John Wallace, director of innovation, retail solutions, and I recently partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) GreenChill program to present a webinar about making the transition to an effective refrigerant architecture. In it, we discussed leading natural refrigerant systems, centralized and distributed options, and the controls schemes that support them. What follows are the key takeaways from that discussion, which you can view here in its entirety — last bullet under ‘Webinar Archives’.
Over the past decade, the transition toward natural refrigerants has been driven by a combination of dynamic market trends, which include: global refrigerant and food safety regulations, rapidly changing consumer expectations and corporate sustainability goals. This historic transition has helped accelerate the adoption and investigation of “future-proof” natural refrigerant architectures.
Regulatory drivers of transition to naturals
In the U.S., the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has not only fully implemented the now defunct EPA rules designed to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP), it is also actively working to enact more aggressive measures that would greatly impact future refrigeration system architectures. One current proposal under review would take effect in 2022 and mandate the following:
Systems charged with more than 50 pounds of refrigerant must use an option that is less than 150 GWP
New refrigerant sales with less than 50 pounds of refrigerant must use an option that is less than 1,500 GWP
But California is not alone in these initiatives; there are currently 25 states in the U.S. Climate Alliance which have vowed to follow its lead.
Since natural refrigerants are among a very small list of viable options capable of meeting the above criteria, the commercial refrigeration industry is likely to see an increase in system architectures designed to utilize natural options. These include centralized architectures for larger-charge systems and distributed (or micro-distributed) options for smaller-charged system types.
Leading natural refrigerants
When we think of natural refrigerants in commercial refrigeration, we are typically referring to R-744 (CO2 aka carbon dioxide), R-290 (refrigerant-grade propane) and R-744 (ammonia). Let’s look at their unique characteristics and how they can be effectively utilized.
CO2 has proved very effective in both low- and medium-temperature applications and is typically found in centralized systems such as secondary, cascade and transcritical booster. Having been successfully deployed in commercial and industrial applications in Europe for nearly two decades, it has made significant inroads in North America in recent years.
CO2 is not a retrofit refrigerant and is intended for use only in new systems. System designers, operators and technicians need to be aware of CO2’s unique characteristics, particularly its low critical point, high operating pressures and standing pressure (power outage) considerations. It has a GWP of 1, which puts it in an elite class of environmentally friendly options.
Propane continues to experience a global resurgence as a viable, efficient and very low-GWP refrigerant choice. Its high flammability has traditionally limited system charges to 150g, which is why today it’s found primarily in stand-alone systems that operate efficiently with a low refrigerant charge — such as integrated display cases often utilized in micro-distributed applications. In Europe and abroad, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) recently raised its charge limit to 500g; the U.S. conservatively remains at 150g. Also, propane is not a retrofit option and is intended for new systems designed specifically for its use.
With its superior thermodynamic properties, ammonia was a logical first choice for early refrigeration systems. However, its toxicity requires careful adherence to safe application procedures to ensure operator safety and customer well-being. Traditionally, it has been used in industrial, process cooling, cold storage and ice rink applications. Most recently, ammonia has been introduced into commercial applications via cascade systems that utilize lower refrigerant charges and isolate the ammonia circuit away from occupied spaces.
System controls to support natural refrigerant architectures
Because of the unique properties in these emerging natural refrigerant architectures, system controls are even more essential to ensuring efficient operation, troubleshooting and servicing. Generally, the controls are loosely coupled to the refrigeration architecture, often following either a centralized or distributed approach.
However, the expanding variety of natural refrigeration systems can also pose new challenges for operators trying to maintain controls consistency or access a unified view across different systems. Here, a supervisory system — with its ability to integrate different devices into a common user interface — ensures that all stakeholders can quickly and easily evaluate each refrigeration system.
As regulations continue to evolve and natural refrigerant systems gain more acceptance, Emerson is prepared to help equipment manufacturers, system designers and end users utilize these very low-GWP alternatives in the development of efficient, user-friendly and economically viable refrigeration systems.
Emerson is writing a series of articles about the implications of new and transformative technologies for the commercial refrigeration industry. In our first article, I described the challenges and methodologies related to transforming a newfound wealth of data into true predictive maintenance capabilities. You can read the full article here.
One trend driving the commercial refrigeration industry’s rapid adoption of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies is the promise of predictive maintenance. Collecting massive amounts of real-time data comes with the potential to develop data-driven algorithms that can accurately predict looming problems and failures in refrigeration systems and equipment.
In the commercial refrigeration space, operators’ goals related to predictive maintenance are to reduce energy savings, lower maintenance and service costs, improve food quality and safety (and indirectly, customer experiences), increase comfort, and reduce downtime. So as IIoT technologies become more affordable, widely deployed and interconnected, a question naturally arises: “When will we see the results of these predictive maintenance capabilities?”
It’s a fair question. After all, some industries, such as industrial automation, are seeing rapid advances in their predictive maintenance capabilities. But many of these industries also have an inherent advantage: they’re often monitoring identical devices with well-defined historical performance models, making early problem detection relatively easy.
However, commercial refrigeration is a different ballgame. Commercial refrigeration applications are diverse and complex, making the development of their predictive maintenance capabilities far more challenging. Commercial refrigeration systems consist of many diverse and interdependent components, which often originate from multiple vendors. They encompass a wide range from traditional centralized direct expansion systems to an ever-expanding array of emerging architectures designed to achieve very specific operational (and more often, sustainability) objectives. Industry trends further complicate the issue, such as the adoption of new refrigerants and the migration from centralized to distributed, self-contained and integrated systems.
These complex systems differ in the amount, type and quality of the data they can provide — making data modeling and writing algorithms for different equipment even more difficult. Add more variables into the mix, such as weather, humidity and climate — not to mention widely varying operator goals, processes and workflows — and you can start to comprehend the depth of the challenge.
Developing predictive maintenance capabilities for commercial refrigeration is not a matter of simply pouring more data into the cloud via the IIoT. That data is as diverse as the equipment and systems which produce it. Determining the predictive potential of all that data requires fundamentally changing how we understand and approach the needs of the commercial refrigeration industry.
At Emerson, we’re tackling this challenge head on, taking a methodical, deliberate approach to predictive maintenance. Our goal is not to simply throw more IIoT technologies at the challenge. We’re working to help deliver on the promise of predictive maintenance by applying our deep knowledge of the commercial refrigeration space to help operators uncover the predictive value of data gathered from many different applications. By doing so, we’re simplifying the complexities and uncovering insights into the industry’s most common refrigeration scenarios.
We’re deriving predictive maintenance solutions from IIoT data via a three-pronged methodology: 1) understand the complexity of the domain and its individual systems; 2) define what data is relevant to which situations; and 3) determine how application sensors should be used to generate the necessary data. Then we can take the crucial step of developing tools to extrapolate true predictive maintenance answers from real-time and historical data.
In upcoming articles, Emerson will expand on these learnings and provide examples of how new technology is already being used for successful predictive maintenance programs in commercial refrigeration.
Many supermarket operators face a common dilemma regarding their refrigeration systems: they know they need to make changes or upgrade their legacy systems, but they’re not sure what their retrofit options are — or even where to begin. In our next E360 Webinar, I’ll offer guidance on how supermarket owners/operators can embark on this critical journey.
Join me on Tuesday, Aug. 13 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT for this informative webinar.
There’s no question that reliable refrigeration is the backbone of any supermarket operation; it accounts for more than 50 percent of the electrical consumption for an average supermarket. That’s why keeping your refrigeration system running at optimal efficiency is essential to maximizing profits and ensuring operational success.
But if you’re like many owners/operators, you’ve been relying on the same centralized refrigeration architecture for decades. During that time, these systems have typically experienced declining performance levels and energy efficiencies — all due to progressive deviations from their original commissioned states. And while these systems are perfect candidates for an upgrade or a retrofit, even newer systems can offer opportunities for improvements, especially within the context of today’s rapidly evolving industry and market dynamics.
Compared to just 10 years ago, the drivers behind refrigeration decisions have changed dramatically, and the days of a one-system-fits-all mentality are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Environmental concerns, energy costs, shifting regulations, shrinking store formats, consumer demands and omnichannel delivery have all irrevocably reshaped the supermarket landscape.
As a result, more supermarket owners/operators are reevaluating their existing (and often aging) systems while looking for any retrofit opportunities that are available to them. Our next E360 Webinar is designed with them in mind. To help you better understand the many factors to consider when evaluating a supermarket refrigeration retrofit, I’ll be discussing the following topics:
Industry and market trends driving the need for refrigeration system retrofits
How to identify deficiencies and baseline performances in centralized architectures
A look at the potential architectures of the future
Recommended technologies for retrofits and recommissioning
Energy-efficiency strategies for refrigeration, HVAC and the complete building envelope
As always, we will take time after the presentation to answer any of your questions. So, be sure to register now and add this event to your August calendar.
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