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Long-awaited R-290 Charge Increase Opens New Refrigeration Opportunities

Katrina Krites | Director of Strategic Marketing, Cold Chain

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

For many years, the use of flammable refrigerants — such as A3 hydrocarbon R-290 (or propane) — has been a keen area of collective focus among the regulatory bodies governing refrigerant safety standards in commercial refrigeration. Offering excellent energy efficiencies and very low global warming potential (GWP), this natural refrigerant has long been approved for use in applications with a maximum charge limit of 150 grams. Recently, the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) has approved the second edition of its UL 60335-2-89 standard, which includes higher R-290 charge limits that would expand its potential uses in commercial refrigeration.

To date, R-290’s 150-gram charge limit has hindered its wider adoption, narrowing its use to self-contained refrigeration cases or requiring the use of multiple condensing units to achieve higher capacities. The updated UL standard raises the charge limits on these commercial stand-alone displays based on whether they have an open or closed design:

  • 500-gram maximum charge limit in open appliances (without doors)
  • 300-gram maximum charge limit in closed appliances (with doors or drawers)

The 500-gram charge in open appliances raises the limit to 13 times the lower flammability limit (LFL) of R-290, while the 300-gram charge limit in closed appliances is eight times that of R-290’s LFL.

From an application design perspective, these higher charge limits will help original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to increase system capacities while capitalizing on R-290’s high efficiency and low-GWP rating (GWP=3). For contractors, consultants and end-users seeking to meet sustainability objectives or comply with refrigerant regulations, self-contained R-290 cases have become integral to their overall refrigeration strategies.

The first step toward wider adoption

The approved update to the UL 60335-2-89 standard is a key first step in the path toward wider R-290 adoption in commercial refrigeration. Although OEMs should begin planning their design cycles to enable these charge increases, other regulatory approvals will need to take place before higher-charge R-290 systems can be implemented throughout the U.S. and Canada. Pending approvals by other governing bodies include:

  • Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) 15 safety standards for refrigeration systems
  • Model Code updates in the upcoming code revision cycle
  • State and local building code updates

 

For many U.S. industry insiders, the R-290 charge limit increase represents a logical next step in the progression of this natural refrigerant. Even prior to the UL approval, some sustainably-minded operators have worked with their local building code administrators to implement systems with higher charges of R-290. In addition, a 500-gram R-290 charge limit has been in place in Europe since 2019, when the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) approved the increase under its IEC 60335-2-89 standard for self-contained commercial display cases.

R-290 ready compressors and condensing units

For years, Emerson has been producing compressors and condensing units, designed to deliver additional merchandising space for OEMs that develop self-contained R-290 refrigeration equipment. Our current R-290 compression portfolio includes:

  • Copeland™ fixed speed hermetic reciprocating compressors
  • Copeland variable speed hermetic reciprocating compressors and variable frequency drives (VFDs)
  • Copeland fixed speed scroll compressors
  • Copeland variable speed scroll compressors and variable frequency drives (VFDs)
  • Copeland M-Line condensing units
  • Controllers and system components approved for use with R-290

In addition, we’re currently expanding upon our R-290 qualified products to include the following compressors and condensing units, which will be available in 2022:

  • Copeland horizontal fixed speed scroll compressors
  • Copeland horizontal variable speed scroll compressor
  • Corresponding condensing units utilizing new horizontal scrolls

Our R-290 product portfolio will be updated to accommodate the larger R-290 charges that will be adopted in the future.

Preparing for the future of R-290

After years of speculation, the commercial refrigeration industry in the U.S. can begin planning for the use of systems with larger charges of R-290 — enabling higher-capacity refrigeration while benefiting from R-290’s proven efficiencies and lower-GWP rating. Emerson is prepared to support this transition by developing partnering with OEMs and stakeholders to design in higher R-290 charge limit solutions to achieve regulatory compliance, fulfill their sustainability objectives, and reduce energy consumption.

While there are challenges to the implementation of propane, for environmentally forward-leaning companies, it is an increasingly attractive option. While new clarity in the regulatory environment should help to clear the way for wider R-290 adoption, the implementation of industry-wide safety practices will be necessary for propane to gain full adoption.

Propane is more combustible than some HFCs and there are a number of special-use considerations for using it in refrigeration applications. Some examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Sealed/gas-tight or fire-/explosion-proof electrical components (UL471/EN 60079-15)
  • Spark-free fan motors (brushless)
  • Ventilation and leak sensor safety measures
  • Special charge and leak detection processes during manufacturing

It’s also important to note that while propane has tremendous potential in commercial refrigeration, it is not a “drop-in” refrigerant. Equipment and components must be specifically designed for use with propane, as it requires a different compressor that will not always directly match the capacity or cost of existing HFC models.

Please reference any applicable product and application safety standards for the detailed list of considerations.

[Webinar Recap] Global Panel Explores the Essential Role of HVACR Careers

RajanRajendran2 Rajan Rajendran | V.P., System Innovation Center and Sustainability

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

Throughout the world, HVACR technicians play essential roles in society — providing comfort cooling and maintaining the integrity of the cold chain responsible for preserving food and life-saving medicines. While this career path offers lifelong learning opportunities and salaries often exceeding those of many college graduates, our industry is experiencing a global shortage of qualified technicians. In a recent E360 Webinar, we assembled an international panel of expert technicians, practitioners and apprentices to reflect on their personal career journeys, explore the importance of technician professions, and discuss strategies for attracting the next generation of candidates.

In the U.S., we refer to this career path as HVACR technicians. In other parts of the world, they are known as different titles, such as: engineers in the UK; workers in Asia-Pacific; and experts in the Middle East. As I moderated this engaging discussion, each of the panelists provided interesting anecdotes that spoke to different aspects of the global importance of this role and the expanding opportunities that exist. Here is a brief sample of those perspectives.

Don Gillis, technical training specialist at Emerson
As a 30-year journeyman technician and current educator, Don spoke about a typical technician career trajectory for those starting out in the industry that mirrored his own life experiences. A technician often begins their career as an installer, carrying tools, cutting, cleaning and fitting copper together for new applications. A next logical step would be to shadow a more experienced professional, helping them with preventative maintenance and seeing firsthand how rewarding this career can be. Learning more about servicing, troubleshooting and diagnosis exposed him to a variety of issues that can impact system performance, capacity and efficiency. Don shared that his son has followed in his footsteps and started his own HVACR contracting business.

Joe Healy, director of application engineering, MEA, at Emerson
Currently based in Hong Kong, Joe’s experience serving the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions provided a unique perspective regarding the variety of HVACR approaches within different countries and continents — from the cutting-edge sustainability initiatives of Australia and New Zealand to advanced HVACR technologies in Japan to the manufacturing-focused China to the challenges of underdeveloped infrastructures in India. Joe explained that this broad diversity makes HVACR-related professions both interesting and exciting endeavors in these regions. He also shared how technicians make it possible to not only live, work and thrive in extreme climates and densely populated environments, but also serve as the wheels on which these diverse cultures run.

Alonso Amor, director of engineering services, Mexico, at Emerson
Alonso explained that the ambient temperatures in the Latin American region place high demands on refrigeration and AC loads. Perhaps these conditions have led to what he observed as an eagerness and commitment to learn the technician trade in this region. He explained that HVACR-related seminars are always very well attended, indicating a high level of interest in these skilled trades throughout the region. From his experience, candidates take the initiative to receive training, achieve certifications, and make their contributions felt, despite the hot climate and difficult working conditions.

Carlos Obella, vice president of engineering services and product management, Latin America, at Emerson

Carlos shared how his distinguished career started 35 years ago as an HVAC field technician. As an engineer with a college degree, he quickly gained expertise in installing and servicing parallel rack compressor systems for large supermarkets, which has served as a foundation for understanding the proliferation of today’s refrigeration architectures. He offered an anecdote about how the most competent refrigeration technician he ever met was not a degreed engineer. This individual went on to start his own refrigeration contracting business and became the primary refrigeration consultant for one of the biggest supermarket chains in Argentina.

Trevor Matthews, HVACR training and development specialist at Emerson
As a first-generation refrigeration technician, Trevor explained how this rewarding career checked other boxes on his job criteria checklist. First, he knew he wanted a career that would be universally in demand and allow him to travel the world. Second, like many job seekers, he was interested in earning potential. Not only did his job as a refrigeration technician allow him to travel, but he was making a six-figure salary after five years. He said his passion for refrigeration is fueled by the opportunity for continuous learning. Even though it can be a demanding career, Trevor loves the fact that it proportionately rewards the level of commitment you put into it.

Becky Hoelscher, director, aftermarket sales at Emerson

Becky discussed the growing urgency for our industry to replace a retiring generation of baby boomer technicians with the next generation of technicians. She explained that there will be an estimated 15% deficit of qualified technicians by 2026, and the industry needs to start recruitment efforts in high school and entice students to consider this career. Becky reiterated the importance of apprenticeships and discussed federal, state and local efforts to support these initiatives. She believes that a combination of classwork learning and on-the-job training can ultimately lead to certification — where students can even start getting paid while working toward a certification.

Nicholas Didier, mechanical technician (HVACR student)

As a high school senior enrolled in an HVACR program, Nicholas shared his experience participating in a pre-apprenticeship opportunity at Emerson’s The Helix Innovation Center. His goals were to understand the basics of refrigeration and get hands-on HVACR field experience. But in the process, he gained insights into the technician profession and uncovered a desire to further explore system design. Nicholas’ passion and accomplishments earned him a $1,000 scholarship from the Today’s Opportunities Offering Lifetime Skills (TOOLS) program and a new Ford Ranger truck. He plans on using the money to purchase tools for the HVACR technician trade and further his education.

All these anecdotes and individual perspectives speak to the opportunities that await those who enter this rewarding career path. To learn more about the importance of HVACR technician careers and how to attract the next generation of candidates, view this webinar.

 

 

Become a “Cooling Champion” for World Refrigeration Day 2021

RajanRajendran2 Rajan Rajendran | V.P., System Innovation Center and Sustainability

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

Emerson is pleased to announce our sponsorship of the third annual World Refrigeration Day (WRD), which is celebrated globally today, June 26. The theme of this year’s WRD event, Cooling Champions: Cool Careers for a Better World, coincides with Emerson’s commitment to raise awareness of the expanding career opportunities throughout the heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) industry. For our part, we will commemorate WRD by promoting the importance of education and recruitment of HVACR technicians via an E360 Webinar, as well as on our social channels and website.

As the world’s only international event designed to increase visibility and raise awareness of the significant roles that refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump (RACP) technologies play in modern life and society, WRD has become a special day here at Emerson. This year’s focus on career opportunities aligns with a key initiative that we have been championing for more than a decade: the growing shortage of skilled, qualified and certified HVACR technicians.

According to recent industry statistics, 80,000 HVACR technician jobs are currently unfilled — representing 39% of the total industry workforce of 260,000 professionals. At the same time, the industry is losing an estimated 20,000 technician jobs per year due to the retirement of an aging workforce or basic career attrition rates. If we continue along this pace, our industry could potentially face a deficit of 100,000 technicians within the next five years.

Solving this problem is an industry-wide obligation that will require the participation of all stakeholders — from contracting companies, manufacturers, end users, wholesalers and trade associations to educators, adjacent industries and government agencies. Addressing this challenge and proposing potential solutions will be the collective focus of our WRD-themed E360 Webinar on Wednesday, July 7 at 9 a.m. EDT (6 a.m. PDT) titled, Exploring Cool Careers and Emerging Opportunities in HVACR. This webinar will assemble a global panel of experts to discuss recruitment strategies and highlight the many positive aspects of an HVACR technician career, including:

  • Leveraging advanced technologies and modern tools
  • Equipping technicians with skills that enable a high earning potential
  • Co-op and apprenticeship opportunities to learn the trade while also earning a paycheck
  • Learning skills that support our infrastructure and make the world a better place
  • Inspiring passion in HVACR professions

Today, Emerson’s social media channels will feature a series of videos and related content from many of our global regions. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube to see information highlighting:

  • The importance of recruiting the next generation of HVACR technicians
  • Key individuals and success stories in the field
  • The value of this evergreen, in-demand career path

For Emerson, becoming a “cooling champion” for World Refrigeration Day is all part of our commitment to helping the industry address the growing HVACR technician shortage and ensure a more sustainable future for our planet. To learn more about these efforts, please register for our upcoming E360 Webinar and read our latest E360 Article.

For more information on World Refrigeration Day, visit www.worldrefrigerationday.org.

 

Leveraging Predictive Maintenance in Commercial Refrigeration

JimMitchell_Blog_Image Jim Mitchell | Technical Manager of Customer Success

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Predictive maintenance is showing big promise in the HVACR market. I recently provided input for an article for ACHR The News that discusses how predictive maintenance technology is being used in the commercial and residential markets. You can read the full article, “Predictive Maintenance Brings New Potential to HVACR Service Market,” here.

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HVACR systems are becoming smarter and more connected using internet protocol (IP) networks and the industrial internet of things (IIoT). These allow the real-time monitoring of equipment, or predictive maintenance, which gathers data points from equipment to keep tabs on system performance in order to help reduce the likelihood of failure.

For HVACR contractors, this means identifying a problem before it causes a larger issue, so that maintenance can be done to prevent equipment negatively impacting food quality and safety or other operational imperatives. For instance, a refrigeration rack alarm may indicate an issue that can be addressed, preventing operational issues that could have a negative impact on multiple cases of perishable product or thousands of dollars in-store merchandise.

How it works

Drawing from a combination of equipment sensors and control system data, performance analytics can provide store operators and enterprise managers deeper insights for:

  • Real-time and historic operating conditions in their facilities and systems
  • Pressure, temperature and energy data to compare to established benchmarks for a single store, stores within a region or enterprise-wide
  • Enterprise-level and store-level dashboards and prioritized notifications

 

For an example of how this differs from a rack alarm scenario, let’s look at a display case analysis based on temperature sensor data. Performance analytics may detect an anomaly in case temperature deviations which, while still within safe ranges, could suggest the presence of a larger performance issue. Instead of being notified with an urgent alarm, operators can be alerted on their operational dashboards. This insight gives them an opportunity to investigate the issue at their discretion, and even potentially pre-empt a potentially larger issue. It’s important to keep in mind that timing is key.

This is also an example of how operational dashboards can help retailers to align maintenance and operational activities around performance. Today’s facility management dashboards typically break down the urgency levels of maintenance issues, as previously noted. By extending these dashboards also to include performance analytics, end users can gain a much deeper understanding of how their systems are performing and operators can take pre-emptive actions where they deem appropriate — not just respond only to systems where urgent problems are already present.

Equipped with this information, operators can receive advance notice of certain performance issues that may soon impact them — on which systems or pieces of equipment, and in which stores. Enterprise views quickly provide managers with visual snapshots of urgent and important issues across their store networks, while enabling investigation into specific assets in their respective facilities. Whether you’re a maintenance technician or an enterprise manager, operational dashboards help allow you to focus on those specific maintenance activities which may potentially impact performance in the near future.

A change in approach

Commercial refrigeration systems consist of many connected components — often originating from multiple vendors — designed to meet a wide variety of applications, ranging from coffin-style display cases to walk-in freezers. Industry macro trends further increase this complexity, including the adoption of new refrigerants and the migration from centralized to decentralized and stand-alone systems. Commercial contractors will need to do more than simply install connected sensors and devices; they will need to change their approach toward commercial refrigeration, including the ability to combine new technologies with deep experience within the context of widely varying system requirements.

Rather than focusing only on what is happening at any given moment in a location — whether that’s a low- or high-priority alarm — analytics can help operators gain deeper insights into issues that could have future operational impacts. Access to these insights helps operators transition to a condition-based, analytics-driven approach — one where they can take proactive steps, perform preventive maintenance, use resources more efficiently, and stop smaller issues from becoming larger problems — instead of a more reactive approach.

What to watch for

IIoT features new technologies that will likely result in operators being able to deploy interconnected devices more widely, potentially at a lower initial cost. These offerings may drive value for operators by causing significant energy savings, lower maintenance and service costs, and improved operator experiences.

At Emerson’s innovation centers and in customer field trials, we are working with our customers to tackle the challenges related to predictive maintenance head on. By modeling refrigeration applications, we have helped our partners take a more methodical, deliberate approach to predictive maintenance. Our goal is not simply to throw more IIoT at the problem, but to help provide true insights from the data while leveraging our deep intellectual capital and experience in the commercial refrigeration space. We believe this helps us deliver the transformative value that predictive maintenance represents. By doing so, we can be a part of simplifying the complex and uncover insights that are representative of the industry’s most common refrigeration scenarios.

For example, a typical refrigeration system or rack has alarms that identify current issues only, and slow leaks often can be difficult to discern from normal fluctuations. But with a machine-learning supervisory app, multiple models can account for variable operating envelopes with up to ~90% accuracy and identify leaks as many as 30 days before physical detection devices.

While it is difficult to predict five years in the future accurately, it is safe to assume that with the adoption of 5G technology and other advances in component miniaturization and cost reduction, solutions will continue to get smarter. With a flood of data occurring at both the enterprise level (reporting) and the device level (gathering data), we will need more intelligence in interpreting this information in order to help deliver better, more accurate results.

In the meantime, one thing that contractors can do is avoid the rush to recommend IIoT implementation that can result in applications which can create more “noise” — i.e., a barrage of events to monitor and triage — and trigger false errors or events that identify issues too early (or too late).

 

 

Information in this article was first published in ACHR The News, March 16, 2020.

Three Trends Shaping the Commercial Refrigeration Sector

DaveBersaglini Dave Bersaglini | Vice President & General Manager, Refrigeration

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

HVACR Business recently invited me to participate in an executive roundtable on the evolution of the commercial refrigeration sector. You can read the full article here and more on our perspective below.

Three Trends Shaping the Commercial Refrigeration Sector

Three Trends Shaping the Commercial Refrigeration Sector

The commercial refrigeration sector is experiencing a period of innovation unlike any other in its history. Regulatory pressures, changing consumer habits and the growing demands for more efficient and sustainable technologies are transforming the market. Business owners and supermarket operators have a tremendous range of environmentally friendly, operationally efficient and — perhaps most importantly — regulatory-compliant solutions from which to choose.

But in order to do this, operators must navigate an ever-growing pool of refrigeration solutions, strategies and technologies. Keeping current on emerging technologies and consumer trends while anticipating future regulatory requirements are the keys to getting the best return on this long-term investment.

More choices

Without a doubt, the greatest challenge for original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and operators alike is transitioning to the future of refrigeration systems. New refrigeration equipment, components and technologies are coming online in response to global demands for lower-GWP (global warming potential) refrigerants. In addition, more flexible refrigeration architectures are being launched to satisfy the move toward smaller retail footprints.

As a result, operators are facing a proliferation of refrigeration scenarios, each posing its own set of advantages and drawbacks. Decisions must be weighed against a host of factors, such as environmental impact, total cost of ownership, long-term viability and the ability to adapt to evolving consumer behaviors and potential future regulations. Education is key here; contractors and manufacturers will need to step up and help retailers explore and identify the options that will best satisfy their needs.

More connected

Automation and internet of things (IoT) technologies will increasingly play roles in this sector. System electronics are helping to manage refrigeration cycles and system operations, while compressor protection and diagnostic capabilities are simplifying service and maintenance processes. These connected components will provide operators with unprecedented visibility into critical facility systems that extend beyond refrigeration to include air quality, lighting and energy management. Supported by user-friendly platforms that integrate these key systems, operators will be able to more efficiently manage and optimize facility and energy performance.

More complex

The shift to lower-GWP refrigerants and the growth of new technologies pose a unique set of challenges to contractors. Extensive training on the proper procedures for recovering and servicing new and natural refrigeration systems, such as CO2-based systems, will be imperative. Contractors will also need to increase their knowledge of the landscape so they can align their customers’ goals with the available equipment options. This may require higher upfront costs, but they will pay off in the long term as today’s innovations become the norm.

Ready for the future

At Emerson, we are at the forefront of environmentally friendly and financially viable refrigeration systems and supporting technologies. Moreover, we’ve taken a proactive approach to contractor education, providing a wealth of options to help technicians increase their skills and expand their knowledge base to better serve customers.

At every step, we strive to help operators make informed decisions to maximize their investments. After all, commercial refrigeration systems can — and should — be in service for decades. And with no end in sight to the dramatic changes that are shaping the industry, operators need solutions that can adapt to and grow with the next generation of technologies and system architectures. Our approach to total refrigeration system sustainability is designed to deliver solutions that satisfy operational and sustainability objectives today, while anticipating the needs of tomorrow.

 

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