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[Webinar Recap] Factoring Energy Management Into Your Refrigeration Retrofits

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

In today’s dynamic food retail climate, many operators are wondering why they should retrofit their aging refrigeration supermarket refrigeration architecture. For most, this is a not an easy decision to make. While you’ll often find some form of a refrigerant regulation accelerating this process, a viable refrigeration retrofit should also include plans for ongoing energy optimization. In our most recent E360 Webinar, I discussed how to merge these two considerations into a sustainable, long-term refrigeration strategy. Read the summary below and/or view the webinar in its entirety.

The transition to more environmentally friendly, future-ready refrigerants is underway, and as a result, many supermarket retailers are evaluating retrofit options on their existing systems. But for large enterprises or individual stores that consume a lot of energy, the rising costs of energy (especially in certain regions with high rates) are moving conversations toward energy management — not only in refrigeration systems, but also entire facility ecosystems and across the enterprise.

Ultimately, the goal of an effective approach to energy optimization is to minimize energy costs in every way possible. Doing so requires an understanding of the various factors that contribute to energy costs, including:

  • Energy consumption profile of key store systems such as refrigeration, HVAC and lighting
  • Peak electric consumption cycles and periods in each store
  • Time of use rates as dictated by the electrical utility, including both on- and off-peak rates
  • Seasonal changes and their impacts on consumption and electricity rates

This is particularly important in certain areas of the country where charges exceed $15 per kW during peak demand periods.

Why the focus on refrigeration?

A typical supermarket uses a centralized direct expansion refrigeration architecture which accounts for more than 50 percent of its total annual energy consumption, with HVAC systems the next largest consumer at 20 percent. At the same time, an average supermarket consumes three times more energy per square foot than other retail facilities. It’s no surprise then that these systems are becoming prime targets for energy optimization in the U.S. and around the globe.

The tendency for refrigerant leaks in traditional centralized systems — most of which are also charged with refrigerants that have a high global warming potential (GWP) — makes these systems ideal candidates for retrofits. Many of them can transition to lower-GWP refrigerants with relatively minimal retrofit requirements.

Six steps along the “Journey to Energy Excellence”

In the webinar, I cited a case study of a supermarket that went through a retrofit process in its centralized refrigeration system. The process followed a methodology that Emerson refers to as the Journey to Energy Excellence. By upgrading only the refrigeration system (i.e., the first three steps below), the supermarket reduced its energy costs by nearly $40 thousand per year.

The six steps along the journey to energy excellence include:

  1. Conduct a baseline energy audit of the existing system.
  2. Recommission the system to its original condition and setpoints.
  3. Make refrigeration technology upgrades, such as: digital compressors, variable frequency drives and floating the head/suction pressures.
  4. Change the lighting and other renewable upgrades such as adding doors, electronic expansion valves and electrically commutated motors on evaporators.
  5. Expand focus to HVAC technology upgrades, including rooftop units and demand control ventilation.
  6. Deploy a condition-based maintenance, internet of things (IoT) infrastructure to accurately monitor asset and system performance.

Each step enables progressive degrees of energy optimization, and as the case study demonstrates, implementing just the first three steps can provide significant financial gains. Collectively, this methodology can help supermarkets develop energy management strategies that consider entire facility ecosystems.

Regardless of where you are in this process, Emerson is providing solutions at every step to help retailers achieve energy excellence in stores and across the enterprise.

GreenChill Hosts Emerson-led Webinar on Natural Refrigerant Architectures

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

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.

 

[New E360 Webinar] Why Retrofit Your Aging Supermarket Refrigeration Architecture?

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

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.

[New E360 Webinar] Why Retrofit Your Aging Supermarket Refrigeration Architecture?

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.

Emerson Will Present at GreenChill Webinar on Natural Refrigerants

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Emerson is happy to announce its participation in a webinar sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) GreenChill program. Join Andre Patenaude, director of food retail marketing & growth Tuesday, July 30 at 2 p.m. EDT / 11 a.m. PDT for a discussion about Making the Transition to an Effective Natural Refrigerant Architecture.

Emerson Will Present at GreenChill Webinar on Natural Refrigerants

For several years, the use of natural refrigerants in supermarket refrigeration has become an increasingly relevant topic across our industry. While taking a natural approach may seem like a far-away future concept to some, successful implementations are happening in various global regions and slowly becoming more commonplace in the U.S. as well.

Typically, discussions about natural refrigerants are part of a larger context, one that recognizes the ongoing transition from legacy refrigerants to sustainable alternatives. Here, natural refrigerants are among the most readily available, viable options, because they offer very low global warming potential (GWP) and no ozone depletion potential (ODP). But with relatively low adoption in U.S. supermarkets, there is still a fair amount of uncertainty among operators considering a move to natural refrigerant systems.

Industry initiatives like the GreenChill program are helping to promote broader use of natural refrigerants. Over the last decade, Emerson has been a leader in the development of natural refrigerant-ready components and systems. That’s why we’re pleased to announce a free GreenChill webinar that will feature two of Emerson’s experts on this topic, Andre Patenaude and John Wallace. Attendees will learn:

  • Characteristics and caveats of using CO2 (R-744), propane (R-290) and ammonia (R-717)
  • Market trends driving the use of natural refrigerants, such as: evolving store formats, corporate sustainability objectives and the dynamic regulatory climate
  • Examples of successful natural refrigerant system installations and trials taking place
  • Details about common natural refrigerant architectures and innovations

Backed by innovations from leading equipment manufacturers, regional governance incentives and federal sustainability programs, the transition to natural refrigerants is more viable today than ever before. We hope you’ll make plans to join Andre and John on Tuesday, July 30 at 2 p.m. EDT / 11 a.m. PDT for this informative free GreenChill webinar.

How to register and attend

To register for this informative free event, please mark your calendar now and then follow these steps on the day of the webinar:

  1. Visit the webinar access page: Making the Transition to an Effective Natural Refrigerant Architecture
  2. If you get a Window Security screen, click “OK”
  3. Select “Enter as a Guest”
  4. Enter your name
  5. Click “Enter Room”
  6. Click “OK”

Six Steps to a Successful Refrigeration Retrofit

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog summarizes an article from ACHR NEWS, entitled “Refrigeration Retrofits Offer ‘Cool’ Savings for Supermarkets.” Click here to read the article in its entirety.

The commercial refrigeration system is the biggest energy user in supermarkets, accounting for about 40 to 60 percent of electricity consumption, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For food retailers, getting energy consumption under control is a top priority, and the refrigeration industry has stepped in with new, higher-efficiency equipment and technologies, such as advanced monitoring and control via the internet of things (IoT). However, for many retailers, virtually all their equipment is aging, and buying new equipment and systems across the board would be prohibitively expensive. But there is another path to saving a considerable amount of energy: targeted retrofits or upgrades to their existing systems.

Some energy-saving modifications can be simple and obvious, such as adding doors to cases. But at a recent Emerson E360 Forum, I explained how a systematic approach to retrofits and upgrades can identify savings throughout a store’s entire refrigeration infrastructure, particularly older, energy-demanding direct expansion (DX) centralized systems. It is a six-step process that reveals the primary causes of energy loss and, step by step, proposes energy-saving retrofits and upgrades to your system that can systematically reduce energy costs without breaking the bank.

  1. Conduct a baseline energy audit throughout the store by installing energy-monitoring equipment. These sensors help you analyze the existing energy signature of the entire store before you make any adjustments or retrofits, and will also be invaluable for future temperature monitoring and control to ensure food safety and quality.
  2. Recommission your existing equipment to factory specifications. This may include adjusting setpoints, superheat, suction pressure and other settings. In the process, any broken components can be repaired. This one step alone can result in energy savings of 18 percent or more.
  3. Upgrade your refrigeration technologies. One effective upgrade is changing discus compressors to digital compressors. This single retrofit can reduce compressor cycling, increase system reliability, and improve energy efficiency by 16 percent or more. Installing variable-frequency drives on condenser fan motors can save even more.
  4. Upgrade your HVAC system. Ambient store temperatures are major stressors on refrigeration systems. Consider upgrading rooftop units and adding demand-controlled ventilation and humidity controls. Integrating the rooftop units with the refrigeration system in the store is another option, creating a self-contained ecosystem that balances ambient and refrigeration temperatures for significant energy savings.
  5. Upgrade lighting and other renewables. Adding modern lighting technology lowers temperatures. Installing doors onto units lowers energy losses. Electronic case controls and expansion valves (EEVs) fine-tune equipment temperatures, while upgrading to electronically commutated (EC) motors lowers electricity consumption while improving equipment efficiency.
  6. Perform condition-based maintenance. Once you’ve migrated to these capital upgrades, it’s important to step up your regular maintenance intervals to continue your gains in efficiency and cost savings.

With these targeted retrofits and upgrades, you can systematically make your centralized DX system more effective in maintaining food quality and safety while simultaneously uncovering efficiencies that can result in significant savings.

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