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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.

[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”

Trends Impacting the Supermarket Refrigeration Landscape

JasonBorn_Blog_Image Jason Born | Innovation Lead, The Helix
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

During our E360 Forum last year in Houston, I led a Q&A panel discussion on the trends and market forces impacting the refrigeration landscape in food retail. Sharing their thoughts and insights were industry experts Derek Gosselin, director, technical product support, Hillphoenix; and Brad Thrasher, south central regional sales manager, Zero Zone. Below are some of their views on key trends; view the full E360 Forum presentation.

The Changing Face of Food Retail

Thirsty from wandering the aisles of your local grocery megamart? How about a craft beer break? Or maybe shopping for food just makes you hungry. Grocery shoppers today can virtually eat their way around the world as in-store food bazaars offer freshly prepared ethnic fare: Mexican “street food”, noodle bowls and wood-fired pizza. No time to shop? There’s always curbside pick-up of weekly grocery staples on your way home from work — just click and collect. And today, going small has never been bigger, with millennials and Generation Z flocking to urban areas and higher-density living. It’s no surprise that smaller-footprint grocery and food specialty stores are popping up in mixed-use buildings that were never intended to support things like complex refrigeration or HVAC systems.

Yes, the face of food retail is changing. And with this change comes a host of new opportunities (and challenges) for commercial refrigeration. I’ve summarized some of the key takeaways from this informative question and answer session.

On e-commerce, omnichannel and digital shopping

The first topic of discussion was the impact of the digital shopping trend. Today, more consumers are shopping for groceries online. I asked the panelists how brick-and-mortar retailers were responding.

Thrasher: I’ve seen some reports (FMI-Nielsen) that say that online grocery sales could grab up to 20 percent of the market. That seems pretty aggressive to me. But it’s definitely a rising trend. Traditional food retailers are responding by adding services like curbside pick-up. They are making home deliveries. You have to adapt to whatever direction the market is going.

Gosselin: For the retailers, it’s about what identifies them as different. Amazon is driving sales directly online. What can you offer to differentiate yourself, not only from online shopping, but the competition in your marketplace? Many stores have found success creating destination centers within their produce and other perimeter departments: food preparations, beer and wine tastings, restaurants, meals-to-go programs. That’s where the trends are going to be. And, of particular interest to everyone here: How do make sure you have appropriate refrigeration at these dynamic destination centers so that they can control your food quality and get it efficiently distributed?

On Click & Collect

Building on the idea of curbside service, I asked our panelists about the grocery pick-up lockers that are popping up everywhere and what that might mean for the future.

Gosselin: If you’re going to offer perishables as part of your curbside pick-up, you’re going to need to incorporate refrigeration. And it’s not just with in-store Click & Collect programs. I’ve also seen trends where retailers will place a portable refrigerated unit on your porch, so when they deliver fresh food or frozen items, they have a convenient and appropriately refrigerated location. Most consumers are probably not going to give you the key to their home.

Thrasher: Many stores are looking at self-contained or hybrid systems. Future refrigeration will need to be more flexible so that retailers can expand quickly and easily. If your curbside (pick-up) starts minimally but grows quickly, you’ll want a flexible, easy-to-implement solution so you can move quickly to serve customer demand.

Curbside pick-up is a relatively recent phenomenon. To add it as service, you have to dedicate and adapt more space in your store. But that doesn’t come without cost and questions. As we all know, for everything new you add in-store, something else will probably need to come out.

On the future

Before jumping into an audience Q&A, I asked the panelists how their retailers are dealing with change and some of the main factors driving their refrigeration decisions.

Thrasher: No one knows with certainty where the future will go. Some decisions will continue to be informed by technology and regulatory changes. And, certainly, costs always play a critical role. With refrigerants, for example, as regulations come, they may eliminate possibilities. It’s hard to go “all in” into a refrigerant when it could eventually be obsoleted, driving costs up for replacements. The same concept applies to system architectures.

Gosselin: How do you get in front of change? Do you go micro-distributed? Do you use natural refrigerants? What technologies will be developed in answer to changing rules?

For the end user, the challenge is not only what do they have to do to maintain their current fleet of stores, but what are they going to do for future stores so that they don’t add to the problems? And then how do they do that under a cost-effective and compliant refrigerant management program?

Thrasher: The bottom line is that there’s simply no one solution for everyone. Every retailer has a different set of objectives and challenges, influenced by regulations, technology and costs, but ultimately driven by the evolving needs of the markets they serve.

To take a deeper dive into our discussion, be sure to watch the full E360 Forum session.

 

Refrigeration Strategies for Enabling Flexible Merchandising

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

The practice of rotating inventory in customer-facing product displays is often referred to as “flexible merchandising”. In a recent E360 article, I explained how refrigeration equipment is becoming more mobile to help food retailers implement this strategy. Read the full article here.

In today’s competitive food retail markets, flexible merchandising strategies provide opportunities to give customers the sense that there’s always something new to discover. Whether to highlight seasonal offerings, promote flash sales or maintain a vibrant store appearance, it’s a proven method of keeping customers engaged and coming back. To implement this strategy, grocers need flexibility in their display cases with the ability to move and rotate offerings as needed. The challenge comes when these products need to be refrigerated, because many traditional refrigeration systems don’t support that desired flexibility.

Refrigeration fixtures will need at least some degree of mobility to be viable in a flexible merchandising strategy. But in many cases, refrigeration architectures are often inherently incompatible with a flexible approach. Many have fixed-case layouts where fixtures and piping are literally affixed into the store’s floorplan with pre-determined insets. Traditional centralized direct expansion (DX) refrigeration systems also don’t lend themselves to refrigerated display case flexibility.

What are your refrigeration options for flexible merchandising?

With changing retailer preferences and market trends in mind, there are several viable refrigeration architectures available today. Let’s look at a few.

Distributed — this strategy is based on installing outdoor condensing units (“OCUs”) that allow them to be strategically located outside of a facility to support the addition of spot merchandising cases. Often utilized by smaller-format stores, this approach makes it easier for operators to scale their refrigeration system to the needs of the store. Modern OCUs are quiet, energy-efficient and offer installation flexibility while leaving small physical footprints outside the store. Keep in mind that OCUs are typically installed to support refrigerated fixtures in different zones, so their flexibility is limited to a particular zone.

Micro-distributed — featuring display cases that have the compressors integrated within the case, this emerging system type is becoming more common, especially in smaller-format stores. To remove the exhaust heat, cases are connected to a shared water-cooled loop that’s directed to the roof of the facility. These systems utilize a variety of low-GWP refrigerants at low charges, including hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) and hydrocarbons such as R-290. The integrated case with water loop design enables a greater degree of merchandising flexibility, but does not quite achieve true mobility.

Self-contained — for maximum merchandising flexibility, these display cases incorporate the entire refrigeration system within the case — essentially serving as plug-and-play refrigerated units on wheels. These smaller refrigeration systems typically do not require large refrigerant charges, and are designed to use a variety of low-GWP HFC, HFO and R-290 refrigerant options. For a large-format store with a centralized DX system, incorporating self-contained display cases is a logical means of achieving refrigerated case flexibility.

As refrigeration technologies evolve to address changing industry dynamics, look for emerging system architectures that will help retailers meet the needs for flexible merchandising and smaller store footprints.

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