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Bringing the Need for Qualified Technicians Into Focus on National STEM Day

benpicker Ben Picker | Product Manager – Copeland Condensing Units

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

National STEM Day is Nov. 8. From Emerson’s perspective, it’s a day to recognize the importance of science, technology, engineering and math — not only in our education curriculum, but also in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) industries.

Bringing the Need for Qualified Technicians Into Focus on National STEM Day

Bringing the Need for Qualified Technicians Into Focus on National STEM Day

With the commercial refrigeration industry evolving to utilize more sophisticated technologies, technician jobs are becoming more technological than mechanical — and becoming viable options for those pursuing a STEM career path. A new workforce recruitment initiative by the Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) is addressing the technician shortage head-on via a new full-length documentary.

HVACR supply chain feeling the impacts

The impacts of the service technician shortage are being felt throughout the HVACR supply chain. While the vast majority of HVACR contracting business owners today are actively looking for technicians, this pain has far-reaching consequences — from wholesaler distributors to end users, owners and operators. Whether you’re operating a supermarket, c-store, restaurant or virtually any facility that has HVACR needs, the lack of qualified technicians is making it increasingly difficult to find reliable sources for new installations, routine servicing or emergency repairs.

And while industry stakeholders have been sounding the alarms for nearly a decade, it’s a problem that’s not going away. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, HVACR mechanic and installer jobs are expected to grow at a rate of 15 percent nationwide through 2026.

A perfect storm of market trends, technological advancements and demographic changes are compounding the issue. This is especially true in refrigeration, where shifting store formats and environmental regulations have led to a proliferation of system types. These systems are introducing connected technologies, electronics and alternative refrigerants, many of which represent completely new servicing procedures. As the industry struggles to attract a new generation of recruits, many of our current service technicians are scrambling to keep pace with these system changes, or are planning for retirement.

HARDI releases “Hot Commodity”

The goal of HARDI’s new workforce recruitment initiative is to spread awareness of the HVACR wholesale distribution industry to the younger generation and encourage these individuals to pursue an HVACR career path. To spearhead this effort, HARDI is releasing a documentary that exemplifies their mission and explores the many HVACR-related career opportunities.

While the full-length film has yet to be released, HARDI is currently promoting a short trailer of the documentary. As one of the professionals featured in the film states, now’s the time “for the younger generation to carry the ball” forward.

The themes presented in the documentary include:

  • Alternative to traditional college — Many high school students are encouraged to attend college, even if it’s not necessarily the best fit. Vocational and technical schools offer an alternative to traditional college, while allowing attendees to begin earning a living as they learn.
  • Financial viability — With a median annual salary of $47,080, HVACR technician profession earnings are significantly higher than other occupations, even though the job doesn’t require a four-year degree. As one of the contractors in the film explained, it’s possible for service technicians with 10 years of experience to earn as much $100K per year. Increased demand for these jobs is driving salaries upward.
  • Variety of career paths — Whether you’re coming out of high school, or college, or seeking a career change, there are multiple opportunities and positions to explore. For example, the film mentions a microbiologist who sought a career change offering the potential to achieve ideal indoor air quality.
  • Changing perceptions — The perception of working in a dirty, dark and dangerous environment is changing. The next generation of HVACR technicians will work with rapidly changing, emerging technologies, electronics, computers and more.
  • Evergreen market — Achieving ideal air quality and reliable refrigeration in a dynamic market is an evergreen opportunity. As a result, HVACR professions are among the most sustainable across all occupations.

 

As a HARDI supporter and long-time champion of this cause, Emerson will continue to do its part to raise awareness of the technician shortage facing our industry. Our Educational Services group frequently partners with vocational and technical schools to donate equipment, offer training and career advice, and even judge HVACR-related competitions. Look for the full HARDI documentary to be released later this year.

How Kelley’s Market Quietly Saved Money With Smarter Refrigeration

benpicker Ben Picker | Product Manager – Copeland Condensing Units

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

The family-owned Kelley’s Market chain, founded in 1926 and based in Rockford, Ill., prides itself on running crisp, clean stores offering top-quality products and outstanding service. They’re also astute businesspersons, highly focused on operational issues such as energy efficiency, maintenance and product protection. But they had another priority when designing and building a new store in their hometown: being a good neighbor. Read the full Convenience Store News article here.

Kelly’s Market put a high value on finding a refrigeration solution that would be efficient, attractive and quiet for the best possible customer — and neighborhood — experience. So when their refrigeration contractor walked them through the energy efficiency, maintenance and product protection of the Emerson product line, one aspect of Copeland Scroll™ Outdoor Refrigeration X-Line Units caught their attention: their ultra-quiet operation. They operate up to 16 dB quieter than traditional outdoor units — roughly the difference in volume between a vacuum cleaner and a friendly conversation. They were intrigued by the idea that by moving units outdoors they would also reduce noise in both their neighborhood and their store and wanted to learn more.

Lowering the volume while lowering energy costs

Emerson’s Copeland Scroll outdoor walk-in refrigerator technology offered energy-efficiency levels that could lower their energy bills by nearly 33 percent, plus built-in diagnostics to enable better service. Their ultra-quiet, variable-speed fan motors and internal baffling cut compressor noise by more than 50 percent.

Advances in walk-in refrigeration technology in a single unit

Copeland Scroll Outdoor Refrigeration X-Line Units range in power from ¾ to 6 HP, making them a great fit for the needs of Kelley’s Market. They chose one X-Line unit to power their walk-in freezer, one for their walk-in cooler, and one dedicated for a merchandising display case. By using outdoor units instead of self-contained or other indoor refrigeration systems, they would lower the heat load on their building’s HVAC system — further lowering energy bills.

Designed to be great outdoors

The new X-Line units were encased in a lightweight, slim enclosure that could be wall mounted, so they could place their units in locations previously not available, without the need to rent a crane for installation. In addition, the clean design of the outdoor units offered a more aesthetic atmosphere for neighbors and customers alike.

Walking into savings

The Copeland Scroll Outdoor Refrigeration X-Line Units at the new Kelley’s Market store was their first foray into scroll compressor technology. From the day the store opened, the company saw major operational benefits. In just one year, the X-Line Units delivered energy savings of 29 percent compared to their legacy store technology, with the three Copeland Scroll X-Line Units inside saving about $2,500 in energy costs per year — a significant long-term savings for a company operating nearly 50 stores.
In the market and throughout the neighborhood, the energy efficiency and optimum performance of the Copeland Scroll Outdoor Refrigeration X-Line Units are humming along quietly — just the way Kelley’s Market likes it.

The Case for Outdoor Condensing Units

benpicker Ben Picker | Product Manager – Copeland Condensing Units

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Restaurant and convenience store landscapes are facing unprecedented market pressures and increasing demands to meet consumer expectations. Consumers are seeking fresh, sustainably sourced food offerings from providers that emphasize eco-friendly practices from farm to fork. Pair those demands with pressure to reduce operating expenses while also maintaining regulatory compliance and you have a stressful situation.

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Making the move toward outdoor condensing units (OCUs) may be able to alleviate some of that stress. Modern OCUs can help solve a myriad of operational challenges and are emerging as a preferred option for store and enterprise operators.

Compared to legacy OCUs, modern remote systems can deliver annual efficiency improvements of up to 20 percent or more. Modern OCUs can also create a better, more desirable indoor environment for consumers, improving indoor comfort levels by lightening the load on air conditioning (AC) systems, reducing refrigeration noise, and reclaiming space that would be occupied by a centralized rack.

Modern OCUs are engineered to address today’s regulatory challenges as well, maximizing energy efficiencies and meeting the requirements set by the Department of Energy (DOE). These OCUs also utilize low-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants and keep refrigerant charges to a minimum.

With built-in compressor electronics, modern OCUs provide operators with peace of mind knowing that their equipment is functioning properly and reliably. System faults are immediately communicated to service technicians to help them quickly — and remotely — diagnose conditions and expedite the service process. Advanced diagnostics and smart algorithms, connected to a facility management/control system, provide operators and technicians with early detection alerts, evaluate key performance indicators, help prevent compressor failure and more.

While there are clear and present benefits to using modern OCUs, there are still considerations to be made before making the switch. Physical constraints are typically prevalent when determining whether to invest in OCUs. Some examples of these constraints are: installation in a leased building where drilling holes in the wall/ceiling is prohibited; unachievable access to the outside for remote installation; and difficulty moving equipment in an inflexible layout. There are also cost considerations to be made, such as whether low first costs or lower total cost of ownership are more important.

Sustainability targets, total store energy usage and regulatory compliance are all important factors in the modern refrigeration equation. Modern OCUs can deliver on all these factors, including enhanced reliability, improved installation flexibility, protection against system failures and much more. All of these benefits add up to a lower total cost of ownership compared to other traditional refrigeration methods.

The case for modern OCUs is strong and could take your operation to the next level.

Addressing Modern Refrigeration Challenges Through Technology

benpicker Ben Picker | Copeland Units Project Manager

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog summarizes an article from our E360 program, entitled Technological Transformation.” Click here to read it in its entirety.

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Today’s commercial refrigeration market faces a number of challenges, some of the more prominent being a surplus of regulations, a shortage of qualified technicians, and a consumer base demanding fresh, premium quality foods. Commercial refrigeration manufacturers have maximized their efforts to develop technological solutions that help store operators achieve compliance, sustainability and profitability goals.

This technological transformation starts with the use of electronic controls at the individual component, system and facility/supervisory levels. These controls serve as the brains of new equipment, typically relying on sensors to measure environmental conditions pertaining to mechanical operation. Here’s a closer look at the different levels of electronic controls:

  • Component controls: integrate with a certain component, like a compressor, to maintain efficiency and identify operational issues
  • System controls: operate multiple components within a system, such as a valve, compressor and fan, to control, direct and optimize system-level efficiencies
  • Supervisory controls: coordinate the operation of multiple systems, like refrigeration, HVAC and lighting, allowing for component and system controls to communicate their conditions for store operators or technicians to assess and interpret

The second important technological development is the emergence of new electro-mechanical components that perform specific functions within the refrigeration cycle, including compressors, valves and fans. These can either be self-contained or in two separate components that are installed together.

An exception is scroll compression technology, which doesn’t necessarily need electronic controls to address many operator challenges. The inherent benefits combine multi-refrigerant capabilities with reliable operation and energy efficiency.

However, the addition of controls elevates scroll compressor benefits. One of these is the ability to modulate capacity, enabling precise temperature control and improved energy efficiencies. In fact, capacity modulation is so effective in reducing energy consumption that some utilities offer incentives for operators to make the transition. New electronic expansion valves also improve system efficiencies, providing precise control of refrigerant flow and system superheat using today’s new class of lower-GWP, HFC refrigerant alternatives.

The advanced diagnostic capabilities help operators prevent system failures, limit reliance on technicians, and take maintenance operations into their own hands. Even when maintenance is required, these diagnostics greatly improve the servicing process. Remote access allows technicians to quickly diagnose and fix refrigeration system errors, improving a technician’s effective service capabilities and reducing maintenance costs.

The adoption of these technologies allows operators to address compliance and operational challenges, all while protecting profitability. As the commercial refrigeration industry begins to see new challenges and regulations arise, the expanding capabilities of refrigeration technology and controls will ease the worries of operators and make problem-solving easier.

 

 

[Webinar Recap] Technological Solutions to Help Modern Refrigeration Challenges

benpicker Ben Picker | Copeland Units Project Manager

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

View our most recent E360 Webinar, “Using Technology to Help Meet Modern Refrigeration Challenges.”

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Today’s commercial refrigeration industry is facing a confluence of challenges. Chief among these are a surplus of regulations, a shortage of qualified technicians, and a consumer base demanding fresh, premium quality foods. And while supermarket, restaurant, mixed retail and convenience store operators try to sort out these complexities, they’re also tasked with driving profitability.

Fortunately, commercial refrigeration manufacturers have stepped up their efforts in recent years to develop technologies to help store operators achieve their compliance, sustainability and profitability goals. In our recent E360 Webinar, I discussed the current shape of the regulatory landscape and how operators can leverage these technologies to address a wide range of challenges.

At the heart of the solution is the emergence of component, system and supervisory electronic controls to provide continual monitoring, automated reporting and diagnostics. Combined with the inherent efficiencies of scroll compression technology, these electronics help operators respond to the federal and state regulations that are mandating significant environmental and energy-efficiency improvements.

I explained how these electronics-enabled refrigeration systems and components can be leveraged to help maximize efficiencies through techniques such as capacity modulation and low-condensing operation. The specific ways technology can be used to protect the environment, reduce energy usage and ensure food safety include:

  • Detecting refrigerant leaks and reducing overall system refrigerant charge
  • Performing on-demand controls such as anti-sweat and defrost
  • Monitoring temperature and humidity conditions from farm to fork

The good news for operators is that by adopting refrigeration strategies that utilize these technologies, they can address many of their compliance challenges simultaneously, while protecting profitability. For example, built-in diagnostic capabilities help technicians quickly troubleshoot and resolve system issues before they could lead to food losses. The benefits are not only reduced food shrink and maintenance costs, but much-needed assistance to mitigate technician shortage concerns.

To learn more about technological solutions to help modern refrigeration challenges, view this webinar in its entirety.

 

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