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How to Transition Into the Future With HFO Blend Refrigerants

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I was recently interviewed for an article in the ACHR News, “HFO Sightings: Refrigerant Retrofits Becoming More Common in Supermarkets,” which discusses steps that can smooth a supermarket owner’s transition to sustainable and compliant HFO blend refrigerants.

How to Transition Into the Future With HFO Blend Refrigerants

What refrigerant changes are coming, and which should you choose?

The R-22 refrigerant is in its final days, and will be officially phased out at the end of next year. There’s also a good chance that hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants will also be phased down in the U.S. in the years ahead, as their use continues to be limited in different countries and regions around the globe. Many supermarket owners see the writing on the wall and are starting to transition to lower-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants — particularly if they are uncertain about counting on the availability of HFCs or concerned about a potential rise in the cost of these refrigerants. Others simply seek to transition to more eco-friendly refrigerants that align with corporate sustainability objectives.

That is why many store owners are choosing to retrofit their existing equipment to use hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) blends, which compare well with HFCs in terms of performance but offer advantages in the forms of energy efficiency, environmental-friendliness and future availability.

However, HFO blends are not drop-in refrigerants. Equipment usually has to be modified before it can be used. Not all equipment is equally easy to retrofit, and not all HFO blends are the same. The ACHR News article lays out clear guidelines to help you navigate among HFO blend options and retrofit processes.

No two retrofits and no two refrigerants are alike

As I point out in the article, HFOs have very different characteristics than HFC or hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants. Some HFOs are classified as A1 (non-flammable) while others fall into the A2L (mildly flammable) category; many have temperature glide characteristics to consider. In addition, many HFO blends have been developed to replace specific HFC refrigerants — for example, R-448A and R-449A are designed to replace R-404A — and there are small capacity and efficiency differences that may vary based on the specific refrigeration application. That said, with the right RFO blend and the right modifications, many systems will continue to operate reliably for years after the retrofits. The age and condition of the equipment should determine if they are good candidates for a refrigerant retrofit.

Making the change

If you are interested in transitioning to an HFO blend, it’s essential to find out if your equipment is compatible with a given blend. There are specific HFO blends designed to replace the most common HFCs, depending on the type of equipment and the refrigeration application. However, not all HFCs can be replaced with an HFO, and in some instances, equipment may require major modifications.

For that reason, you need to consider the specific characteristics of each refrigeration application, the replacement HFO blend, and their impact on system performance to make sure you continue operating within your equipment’s design specifications. For example, a new blend could cause a higher discharge temperature, which could require investing in supplemental compressor cooling. That’s why you should consult with the equipment manufacturer and your refrigerant vendor about compatibility before making any transition.

Manufacturers such as Emerson conduct stringent R&D and testing of RFO blends in their compressors and other components before they are deemed “ready to use” in a retrofit. Because you may be changing the refrigerant for which the units were initially designed, you should also ask about the status of your warranties and the potential impacts before commencing a retrofit.

When you’re ready, the ACHR News article provides a more detailed guide to the retrofit process for you and your refrigeration contractor, from evaluating the system type, design and application for a compatible HFO blend, to charging a unit with its new refrigerant and fine-tuning the equipment.

Retrofitting the future

As regulations surrounding refrigerants continue to evolve, most retailers recognize that moving to HFO blends is one of their best long-term solutions for a large installed base of refrigeration equipment. With a range of safe and environmentally sustainable HFO blends available as replacement refrigerants for HFC-based systems, converting your systems to low-GWP HFO blends is the quickest and cheapest way to achieve a large overall reduction in your future carbon footprint.

New Research: The Six S’s of Supermarket Refrigeration System Selection Criteria

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Emerson recently completed a research study of leading food retailers to better understand their refrigeration system selection criteria. This blog is a synopsis of those findings.

Copeland

For several years, we’ve seen an evolution of the traditional supermarket concept, driven by a convergence of multiple market influences which include:

  • The migration to urban areas
  • Smaller store footprints
  • Renewed focuses on safety and freshness
  • Greater need for merchandising flexibility
  • The proliferation of omnichannel fulfillment models
  • The lack of qualified service technicians
  • Energy-efficiency goals and sustainability initiatives
  • The internet of things (IoT)
  • Ongoing regulatory uncertainty

Amidst these many changes, refrigeration systems have also evolved to align with modern supermarket operator preferences. To better understand how these preferences are impacting selection criteria, we recently completed a research study of several leading food retailers. We asked them which factors they feel are the most important when considering the implementation of new refrigeration systems.

We compiled results into six key categories, which we refer to as the six S’s of selection criteria. The following is a summary of those findings:

  1. Simple — Operators are seeking to minimize complexities by using systems that are easy to understand and diagnose. Many associate system simplicity with reliability and believe it can be achieved with fewer moving parts, traditional system architectures and proven refrigeration strategies.
  2. Serviceable — Technician familiarity is important to facilitate ease of service and maintenance activities, and to ensure the availability of parts and refrigerants. Engine rooms should be located away from customers and be relatively easy to access.
  3. Secure — Maintaining customer, employee and technician safety while preserving food quality and safety are always top priorities. With many operators now integrating IoT technologies for more effective facility and enterprise management, securing proprietary operational data is also critically important. Operators seek system architectures that can address these multifaceted safety and security concerns.
  4. Stable — Grocers consistently cite system stability and reliability as primary selection criteria. Systems should be capable of maintaining consistent temperatures, delivering predictable performance, and working according to design specifications.
  5. Smart Electronic controls, system connectivity and integration with facility management services via IoT are becoming more important to modern supermarket operators. They’re evaluating self-monitoring systems that give store managers immediate access to issues, allowing them to take prompt actions to protect shoppers, preserve their brands and prevent unnecessary service calls.
  6. Sustainable — For those supermarket operators driven by corporate sustainability objectives or regional regulatory requirements, the push toward lower-GWP refrigeration strategies is continuing in earnest. Sustainability also speaks to the long-term economic viability of the refrigeration selection, as operators must factor in the total cost of ownership throughout the lifecycle. Reducing energy consumption to minimize operating costs is a concern shared by all.

As refrigeration technologies evolve in response to changing market dynamics, look for emerging system architectures that align with these selection criteria. Emerson is addressing the six S’s of supermarket operator concerns by innovating new systems that blend pieces of proven architectures — borrowing from what has worked in the past and improving upon existing technologies. Stay tuned for more information on these new system strategies in the months to come.

Emerson Study Compares CO2 and Hydrocarbon Energy Efficiency in Europe

The study found that those opting for integral R-290 systems could potentially achieve up to €51,000 savings per store on maintenance, energy consumption and refurbishment. The study also points to the ongoing evolution of natural refrigerant technologies and highlights the differences between CO2 and hydrocarbon refrigeration strategies.

Read more

A Shift in Industrial Refrigeration

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I discussed the large industrial refrigeration market and the use of natural refrigerants in the Accelerate America article entitled, “Exploiting CO2on pg. 16.

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For decades, ammonia (aka NH3 or R717) has been the backbone of many cold storage applications in the large industrial refrigeration market. More recently, the increasing popularity of CO2 (R744) in commercial applications has led refrigeration manufacturers to look for ways to incorporate this natural refrigerant in industrial systems. With the technology to combine the benefits of both refrigerants and facilitate this transition coming to fruition, a shift in the industry may be coming.

NH3 has excellent performance efficiency and ultra-low environmental impact, making it a near-perfect refrigerant. However, its toxicity causes hesitancy in use. Tightening regulations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has sought to improve the safety of NH3 systems, requiring operators to provide documentation for systems charged with at least 10,000 pounds of ammonia.

Enter NH3/CO2 cascade technology, a system architecture that has been successfully deployed in many commercial applications with HFCs on the high side, to leverage ammonia’s efficiency and limit the potential for toxic exposure to workers and product spoilage.

Transitioning to the large industrial market does cause several concerns that need to be addressed, such as:

  • Finding a way to deliver high-tonnage refrigeration capacity while keeping ammonia charges low
  • Ease documentation requirements
  • Lowering the potential for exposure
  • Complexities related to installation, commissioning, operation and servicing requirements
  • Potential heat exchanger leaks of CO2 and NH3 that can mix and create ammonium carbamate, resulting in system failure
  • Maintaining uptime during the transition from a legacy system to a new cascade system

Self-contained systems

Meeting high-tonnage, cold storage requirements while addressing the known operational challenges of ammonia and CO2 meant that manufacturers have had to expand upon the existing cascade architecture. Developing a self-contained system that integrates an entire NH3/CO2 cascade system into a modular refrigeration unit seemed to be the best solution.

Designed to be located on the rooftop or next to a building of a cold storage facility, this modular refrigeration unit combines CO2 and NH3 compression technologies and electronic controls in a cascade system that contains two independent CO2 and NH3 circuits with separate condensers and evaporators (including a shared cascade heat exchanger).

The self-contained, modular unit essentially serves as the system’s mechanical room, enabling installation and efficiencies typically not found in traditional systems. Existing facilities can even install this system while their legacy system is still running, positioning the unit at the desired rooftop location and connecting the ductwork in as little as a few days. Then, as soon as the facility manager is ready, he/she can simply shut down the old system and let the new system assume refrigeration duties.

The simplicity of this drop-in, plug-and-play design also lowers maintenance requirements while improving serviceability throughout the lifecycle.

Read the full article, Exploiting CO2 on pg. 16, to find out other ways the industry is working to address these concerns and how natural refrigerants are driving innovation.

 

The Big Green Chill – Progressive Grocer

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog summarizes an article from Progressive Grocer, entitled “The Big Green Chill.” Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Sustainability initiatives and energy-efficient practices are asserting themselves as top priorities in the minds of food retailers and foodservice professionals. Suppliers like Emerson have acknowledged this trend and have begun developing technologies and solutions that can assist with furthering these initiatives and help our customers work toward a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly future.

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Retailers can implement sustainability initiatives through the use of precise temperature and pressure controls, which allow for a true steady state of operation. These can help better enable the benefits of lowering condensing temperatures to improve the efficiency of the entire system when combined with an electronic expansion valve.

Because of an increase in competitivity in the foodservice, supermarket and transport industries, customers are seeking products and solutions which provide them assurance that operators are maintaining the highest quality of perishable food items from farm to fork.

Retailers can also utilize Emerson Copeland Scroll™ digital compressors to improve “green” operations. They have digital modulation capabilities that allow for infinite capacity adjustments within specific modulation ranges. This means that instead of having to cycle on and off to match capacity, these compressors are capable of adjusting their output to precisely match a load.

Emerson’s supervisory controls are other tools that retailers can use to manage major refrigeration, lighting and HVAC systems. Supervisory controls grant powerful energy-efficient temperature and condition management capabilities through a user-friendly, dashboard-style interface that puts critical information at the users’ fingertips.

Looking ahead, the growing adoption of newer control technologies and the upgrading of older refrigeration systems will continue into the future as two primary means of achieving sustainability and energy efficiency. The combination of new systems with enhanced digital controls will serve as a way of further realizing energy efficiencies and additional cost savings.

Along with energy-efficiency improvements, retailers are simultaneously evaluating other sustainable practices such as: the use of natural refrigerants, implementing refrigeration leak detection, deploying advanced demand-reduction methods, and exploring energy storage potential and considering how to incorporate natural refrigerants.

More retailers are likely to challenge their previous decisions in these areas and learn about entirely new architectures in store controls, refrigeration systems and HVAC units that are capable of meeting overall sustainability challenges.

For more information, read the full article here.

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