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Why Refrigerant Leak Repair Still Matters

Jennifer_Butsch Jennifer Butsch | Regulatory Affairs Manager

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Proactive refrigerant management isn’t just good for the environment. It is also sound business practice. I was recently interviewed by ACHR’s The News magazine on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) partial rollback of Section 608 provisions for appliance leak repair and maintenance. You can read the full article here  and more on our perspective below.

Why Refrigerant Leak Repair Still Matters

In February, the EPA eliminated leak repair and maintenance requirements on appliances containing 50 or more pounds of substitute refrigerants, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). As a result, equipment owners are no longer required to:

  • Repair appliances that leak above a certain level
  • Conduct verification tests on repairs
  • Periodically inspect for leaks
  • Report chronically leaking appliances to the EPA
  • Retrofit or retire appliances that are not repaired
  • Maintain related records

But just because these leak repair provisions are no longer required doesn’t mean food retailers should ignore these best practices. There is a price to pay for refrigerant leakage that extends far beyond environmental damage. Detecting, repairing and even proactively reducing refrigerant leaks will help operators avoid a variety of associated costs.

The high cost of refrigerant leaks

The rollback of legal penalties for refrigerant leaks does not change the math on the operational costs. An average food retail store leaks an estimated 25 percent of its refrigerant supply each year, which can quickly add up to thousands of dollars in lost refrigerant. In addition, retailers must consider the maintenance and equipment costs. Persistently low levels of refrigerant can cause:

  • Excess compressor wear and tear
  • Reduced compressor and system capacities
  • Premature system failures
  • Double-digit efficiency losses

Left unchecked, even minor leaks can eventually lead to equipment failure. When this occurs, emergency repair costs are often only the tip of the iceberg. Operators may also be looking at revenue loss from food waste, business disruptions and reputational damage.

Proactive refrigeration management

So what can operators do to prevent leaks, even in the absence of federal requirements?

In the near term, they can — and should — implement rigorous leak detection and repair programs. Refrigerant leaks can occur anywhere in a system. Thus, an effective refrigerant leak detection program will combine monitoring, detection and notification.

Multiple technologies are available to support these efforts, including active and passive devices for monitoring and detection. Internet of things (IoT) capabilities allow for remote monitoring, enabling operators to focus on more pressing tasks. And with the integration of data analytics platforms, operators can uncover trends, identify persistent problem areas, and make informed choices about equipment upgrades and replacement options.

Over the longer term, operators can adopt refrigeration architectures that reduce the potential for refrigerant leakage in the first place. Legacy, centralized direct-expansion rack systems are high leak-rate offenders. That shouldn’t be a surprise; with thousands of feet of pipe, hundreds of joints and large refrigerant charges, there are many opportunities for leaks to occur.

In contrast, distributed micro-booster, indoor distributed and outdoor condensing unit (OCU) architectures experience lower leak rates by design. As an added benefit, they offer more options for lower-GWP alternative refrigerant use. This is a crucial advantage for operators who want to position their business for future regulations.

Sustainable best practices

The EPA’s Section 608 leak repair provisions were good for the environment. They are also part of a larger body of best practices for optimizing HVACR equipment. As states take the lead in adopting standards for leak detection and control, operators may find the rollback of these regulations to be short-lived.

Emerson is proud to take a lead in developing sustainable and cost-effective refrigeration systems and supporting technologies. Operators and original equipment manufacturers count on us to deliver strategies and solutions that anticipate emerging trends and regulations. From pioneering refrigeration architectures to refrigerant leak detection tools, we are committed to providing operators with the capabilities to meet their sustainability and operational goals today and into the future.

 

 

 

[Webinar Recap] Digital X-Line Enhances Proven Condensing Unit Platform

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

For decades, fixed-capacity outdoor condensing units (OCUs) have been a popular architecture choice for foodservice and food retail applications — providing refrigeration for walk-in coolers, display cases and food preparation tables. With recent advances in digital compression technology to enable variable-capacity modulation, modern condensing units offer an even more compelling alternative to traditional centralized architectures. In our recent webinar, I discussed the many benefits of taking a decentralized approach to refrigeration, specifically by using Emerson’s Copeland™ Digital Outdoor Refrigeration Unit, X-Line series.

[Webinar Recap] Digital X-Line Enhances Proven Condensing Unit Platform

First, it’s important to review the many reasons why fixed-capacity condensing units have experienced wide industry adoption. Their simple architecture — with one dedicated condensing unit per evaporator (or refrigeration fixture) — makes them extremely easy to implement and a flexible option for load expansion or facility retrofits. By locating the condensing units outside the store, this approach also removes heat and mechanical sound from the shopping environment. In addition, their air-cooled design removes the need for water loops while eliminating excess cost and unit cooling.

But there is always room for improvement. So, we reached out to our customer base to gather feedback about their pain points when using these fixed-capacity OCUs. Common challenges included: the use of mechanical controls; lack of remote communications, onboard diagnostics and system protections; limited mounting/installation options; single speed (on/off) fan cycling; single unit required for every load with each unit individually wired.

Overcoming these challenges became the basis of our Copeland™ Outdoor Refrigeration Unit, X-Line series launched a few years ago. X-Line offered the following improvements:

  • Slim, lightweight profile — can be wall-mounted or mounted on rails
  • Quiet — can be located near entrances, patios or residential areas
  • Energy efficient — Copeland scroll compression, variable-speed fan motor control, large condenser coils and enhanced vapor injection (on low-temp, fixed-speed only)
  • Connectivity — communicates with facility management systems, such as Emerson’s XWEB, Site Supervisor and E2 platforms
  • Protection — electronic controls enhance reliability; on-board diagnostics enable fast setup, troubleshooting and alert codes
  • AWEF-compliant — meeting DOE (Department of Energy) regulations

Digital modulation addresses additional customer challenges

With the introduction of the digital X-Line, Emerson was able to address another key customer challenge — requiring a separate condensing unit for each refrigeration load — while enabling variable-capacity modulation from 100% to 20%. The digital X-Line utilizes multiplexing technology to connect multiple fixtures to one condensing unit and detects the required refrigeration demand from each fixture. So, if the digital X-Line were servicing multiple evaporators and only one was calling for cooling, the digital X-Line can run at less than 100% capacity and match the exact load capacity requirement at that moment. This means that operators will need fewer condensing units to meet their refrigeration demands — potentially reducing the equipment footprint.

Other installation benefits include:

  • Simple and quick commissioning — requires only three setpoints: refrigerant, time clock and suction pressure
  • Reduced refrigerant charge and line sets — up to 50% reduction with the option to utilize lower-GWP alternatives
  • Reduced costly call-backs — advanced diagnostics help contractors set it up right the first time

From an operational standpoint, the digital X-Line is designed to deliver continuous performance improvements that impact food quality/safety, energy efficiency and servicing, such as:

  • Tight temperature precision — digital, variable-capacity modulation enables precise control over case temperatures to maximize food quality and safety
  • Energy efficiency gains — larger condenser coils, electronic controls and digital compression (which reduce large amp draws from excessive starts/stop) deliver substantial energy efficiency savings
  • Advanced diagnostics and protection — onboard controls alert end users of faults and KPIs, simplify troubleshooting and provide compressor protection

It’s also important to point out that the digital X-Line maintains the platform’s ultra-quiet operation, which allows the units to be installed nearly anywhere without disrupting customers or neighbors.

Whether you operate a convenience store, restaurant, supermarket or cold storage facility, the digital X-Line 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 the digital X-Line in these applications, view this webinar in its entirety.

Preparing for the Future of Alternative Refrigerants

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

 

Regulations governing the use of refrigerants in commercial refrigeration remain in a state of flux. While the United States currently lacks a federal mandate for phasing down hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions, many states are already vowing to adopt their own HFC phase-down initiatives. In a new article in RSES Journal, I highlight several proven sustainable refrigeration strategies that operators should begin evaluating now as they prepare for a future that will be fueled by systems that utilize refrigerants with lower global warming potential (GWP). Read the article here.

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It’s clear that the future favors more environmentally friendly refrigeration systems. But the lower-GWP refrigerants and emerging architectures that comprise these systems are up for debate in the United States, where state-led efforts to curb climate change could result in a patchwork of environmental regulations.

The good news for owners and operators is that, even absent federal guidance, component manufacturers, OEMs, contractors and end users are leading the charge. For more than a decade, industry stakeholders have been developing and fine-tuning lower-GWP refrigerants and corresponding technologies to satisfy a range of applications, store formats and corporate sustainability goals.

The resulting proliferation of sustainable refrigeration systems is providing operators with more options than ever before. But as the one-size-fits-all solutions of the past give way to a broader array of strategies, operators need to become experts on alternative refrigerant technologies and architectures — all while trying to predict where future environmental regulations will land. While this may sound like a daunting task, it can be made easier by building a baseline understanding of current and emerging systems.

An expanding set of sustainable refrigeration strategies

Whether motivated by potential regulatory changes or corporate sustainability goals (or both), operators have no shortage of lower-GWP refrigerant systems from which to choose. Proven, viable alternatives to HFC-based systems already on the market include:

  • Lower-GWP A1s (HFO/HFC blends): By blending hyrdrofluoroolefins (HFOs) with HFCs, refrigerant manufacturers have created a new generation of lower-GWP A1 alternatives. These refrigerants do not satisfy the very low-GWP levels of many global HFC regulations, but they do allow for a gradual transition to lower-GWP refrigerants. Refrigeration architectures that use A1 refrigerants include macro-distributed (large) integrated cases, micro-booster (distributed) and small-charge distributed cases.
  • A2L HFO blends: New synthetic HFO blends offer widespread applicability within commercial refrigeration for operators seeking lower-GWP alternatives. U.S. safety codes and standards are still catching up to their use, but many operators anticipate A2L blends will emerge within the next several years. Both macro-distributed and micro-booster architectures that use A1 refrigerants can be used with some A2L blends, enabling operators to maximize their investment as they adopt lower-GWP alternatives.
  • Propane (R-290): This natural refrigerant is energy-efficient and has a very low GWP of 3. Because it’s classified as an A3 (flammable) refrigerant, U.S. building codes currently limit its use to small-charge applications — and that may require more compressors than other approaches. R-290 can be paired with micro-distributed, R-290 integrated cases, which allow for flexibility in store layouts and use 90% less refrigerant than centralized systems.
  • CO2 (R-744): A proven alternative in European and North American applications, CO2 is nonflammable and nontoxic. It also has a GWP of 1, meaning it satisfies current and potential future regulatory requirements. It can be used with CO2 transcritical booster systems — where CO2 provides both low- and medium-temperature cooling — and CO2 sub-critical (cascade) architectures that utilize an HFC or HFC/HFO blend on the medium-temperature side of the system. Both systems are particularly beneficial for large-format supermarkets where a centralized architecture is preferred. However, due to their higher pressures, these systems require access to a trained, skilled workforce for service and maintenance.

Staying ahead of the curve

Emerson is at the forefront of engineering a future that supports the entire spectrum of refrigeration strategies. We’ve been partnering with equipment manufacturers and end users alike to develop future-ready, low-GWP refrigerant technologies to support operators at every stage of their transition to a lower carbon footprint.

From our wide range of energy-efficient compressors, flow controls and smart electronics to fully integrated solutions, we’re providing our customers with the ability to implement sustainable refrigeration strategies that support their unique facility requirements, business objectives and regulatory requirements.

Evaluating Sustainable Supermarket Refrigeration Technology

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Progressive Grocer recently interviewed me about Emerson’s and the commercial refrigeration industry’s efforts to help promote the emergence of more sustainable, refrigeration technologies. The complete article can be found here.

Evaluating Sustainable Supermarket Refrigeration Technologyd

It’s not news that supermarkets are under continuous regulatory pressure to not only lower the energy demand of their refrigeration systems, but also to make the transition to low global warming potential (GWP) and zero ozone depletion (ODP) systems. The permanent ban on R-22, long the industry standard, becomes official on January 1, 2020.

What is news is how intensely suppliers and retailers are focused on and sharing information on sustainability initiatives intended to sharply reduce the costs and impact of their refrigeration systems, both in anticipation of future regulations and to attain long-term economic and environmental sustainability.

As different manufacturers approach these issues with a variety of new technology options, the challenge becomes defining new standards for sustainable products and systems, so that the industry can converge on proven, synergistic solutions.

Taking a full system’s approach to sustainability

At Emerson, our approach to sustainability is based on a multi-faceted goal. First, sustain the environment through lower-GWP refrigerant and technology choices. Second, sustain companies financially from a total cost of ownership perspective. And third, focus on energy efficiency as a path to sustainability through forward-looking engineering and the implementation of new monitoring and control technologies, particularly Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities.

At Emerson, we take a full system approach to evaluate the sustainability of new and existing technologies in the context of multiple key selection criteria. This is part of Emerson’s “Six S’s” approach to refrigeration sustainability: simple, serviceable, secure, stable, smart and sustainable.

(To learn more about the rationale, methodology, application and impact of Emerson’s “Six S’s” philosophy, read the blog found here.)

Exploring the potential of natural refrigerants

One area of Emerson’s focus is our work to better understand and then implement emerging natural refrigerants, such as R-744 (carbon dioxide) and R-290 (propane) for different types of applications.

Recent innovations include the development of an integrated display-case architecture. This R-290 system is designed to use one or more compressors and supporting components within cases, removing exhaust heat through a shared water loop — incorporating our expertise in R-290 compressors and our experience with stand-alone condensing units. We’ve also developed a full range of CO2 system technologies, including valves and controls for both small and large applications. For cold storage applications, our modular refrigeration units utilize both CO2 and ammonia-based refrigerant configurations.

Early adopters pave the road to the future

Over the past decade, there have been many retailers committed to testing sustainable refrigeration technologies and low-GWP refrigerants in their stores. For example, the article quoted Wayne Posa of Ahold Delhaize USA, who discussed the company’s transition from R-22, stating: “Food Lion has been committed to zero-ODP and low-GWP refrigerants for several years.”

Different manufacturers are taking different approaches to studying and applying refrigerants and technologies to reach that goal, from the use of hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) refrigerants (such as R-448A and R-450) in distributed refrigeration systems to proven CO2-based system architectures.

In the area of refrigerants — let alone technologies in development for increased energy efficiency and remote monitoring and control — the refrigeration industry continues its search for a new standard. As Brian Beitler of Coolsys, a consulting and contract engineering firm explains, “Between transcritical, ejector systems, NH3 over CO2, cascade, propane, multidistributed and hybrid gas coolers, the jury is still out.”

As we move closer to the most sustainable standard for refrigerants, Emerson continues its work on total refrigeration system sustainability — in refrigerants, energy efficiency, and control — as guided by our “Six S’s” philosophy. This work is our road map to the future.

 

[New E360 Webinar] GreenChill Will Report on Supermarket Refrigeration Trends in New E360 Webinar

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

For more than a decade, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration Partnership program has worked with supermarkets across the country to help them implement “greener” refrigeration strategies. In our next E360 Webinar, Tom Land, manager of the program, will present findings from GreenChill’s recent report examining 10 years of supermarket data trends. Join us on Thursday, June 20 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT for this informative update.

As we all know, the supermarket industry is experiencing a significant transition in its approach to refrigeration. Global, federal and regional environmental regulations have mandated the use of more environmentally friendly refrigeration alternatives. At the same time, many supermarket retailers are being driven by corporate sustainability objectives as well as market pressures to implement more sustainable practices in all their operations. The net result is an industry that is in varying degrees of conversion, from legacy refrigeration systems to new alternatives that do not rely on ozone-depleting refrigerants and offer lower global warming potential (GWP) and improved energy efficiency.

Since launching in 2007, the EPA’s GreenChill program has partnered with companies representing nearly one-third of U.S. supermarkets. Its goals are to reduce refrigerant emissions and decrease their negative impacts on the environment. To date, more than 350 individual stores have met GreenChill’s stringent certification criteria by demonstrating their commitment to environmentally friendlier commercial refrigeration systems with minimal leaks.

Because of its unique position, the GreenChill program is a microcosm for understanding larger refrigeration trends in the food retail industry — as well as providing insights into how companies are responding to increasing environmental mandates. In our next E360 Webinar, which will take place on Thursday, June 20 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT, Tom Land, manager of the EPA’s GreenChill program, will report on the 10-year data trends gathered from companies participating in the program.

Attendees will learn:

  • Emissions and refrigerant leak rates of refrigeration systems
  • Types of refrigerants installed and emerging system architectures
  • Technology innovations and refrigerant transition trends in GreenChill-certified stores

Register now for this informative free webinar.

 

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