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10 Takeaways From 10 Years of GreenChill Data

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration Partnership recently completed a 10-year study examining supermarket data trends. In our latest E360 Webinar, Tom Land, manager of the program, presented these findings from GreenChill’s unique perceptive. View the webinar in its entirety or read the summary below.

Latest E360 Webinar on Demand

For more than a decade, the GreenChill program has worked with supermarket retailers across the country to promote the use of “greener” refrigeration systems in their stores. While our industry is in the early phases of transitioning to more sustainable refrigeration, GreenChill partner companies are at the forefront of this movement. The number of retailers participating has increased significantly since the program’s inception, and the data Tom discussed at the webinar provides a road map for other companies as they formalize their own sustainability initiatives.

Let’s look at 10 takeaways from the recent webinar.

  1. GreenChill partnership on the rise — in 2007, just more than 4,000 stores were GreenChill partners; today, that number exceeds 11,000 stores.

 

  1. Partner refrigerant emissions remain low — among the growing number of participating GreenChill partner stores, emissions have been held to a minimum. This is in large part due to the program’s emphasis on reducing refrigerant leaks and system charges.

 

  1. Refrigerant charges are declining — the average amount of refrigerants used in participating stores has declined steadily since 2007, even as the number of stores increases.

 

  1. Pounds per store leaks are dropping — in 2007, partner stores emitted more than 390 pounds per store every year; today, 290 pounds is average.

 

  1. Leak rates well below industry averages — on average, GreenChill partners have a leak rate of 13.9 percent, well below the industry average of 25 percent. Twelve of the partners have achieved a leak rate below 10 percent.

 

  1. One-fifth still use R-22 — although R-22 use is on the decline overall, 20 percent of commercial refrigeration systems continue to use it.

 

  1. Low-GWP refrigerants on the uptake — R-407A accounts for 20 percent of partner-installed refrigerants; installations with refrigerants less than 1,420 GWP now account for nearly 3 percent of all partner-installed refrigerants, with R-448A accounting for much of this growth.

 

  1. CO2 installations increase — installations of CO2 secondary loop, cascade and transcritical booster systems among partners continue to rise, with more than 12 partners exceeding a combined total of 160,000 pounds of installed R-744.

 

  1. Growth of GreenChill certifications — in 2009, fewer than 25 stores achieved GreenChill Gold and Silver certifications; today more than 360 stores have achieved Platinum, Gold and Silver certifications and re-certifications.

 

  1. California leads certification — among those states with GreenChill-certified stores, California leads the country with 151 stores. The next closest state is Florida with 45 stores.

Over the past decade, Emerson has worked with a variety of GreenChill partners to meet their sustainability objectives, utilizing leading low-GWP refrigerant alternatives and energy-efficiency strategies. If you’re interested in transitioning to a greener refrigeration system, we’re here to help you develop a strategy that meets your long-term goals.

HVACR Contractors Offer Practical Perspectives on Refrigerant Regulations

BobLabbett_Blog Bob Labbett | V.P. – Aftermarket Distribution, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

At a recent E360 Breakfast, Emerson hosted a panel of three Atlanta-area HVACR contractors to glean their firsthand insights into the biggest challenges and emerging trends impacting their businesses and customers. A recent article covers a wide range of topics and issues, including this discussion about the impacts of refrigerant regulations on contractors and their customers. You can read the full article here.

The service impacts of refrigerant regulations

Imagine showing up to a job site and not knowing which refrigerant is being used in the refrigeration or AC system. According to Martin Hoover, owner of Empire Heating & Air Conditioning in Atlanta, this has become an all too common scenario. “When pressures aren’t reading true, we have to start from scratch with a total refrigerant evacuation, recovery and recharge before even attempting a diagnosis,” he said. Hoover noted that the transition from legacy refrigerants to today’s lower-GWP options comes at a cost, even for those refrigerants that are considered “drop-in” replacements.

Michael Duffee, owner of Restaurant Equipment Services, Inc. of Tucker, Ga., added that customers are not happy to see recovery and disposal fees tacked onto their bill, and this is putting competitive pressures to use shortcuts on small contracting businesses. “Many companies may not be following proper recovery protocols to win business, which can put companies like ours at a disadvantage,” noted Duffee. “It is obviously counterproductive from an environmental standpoint.”

When asked if customers were even interested in the trend toward using lower-GWP refrigerants, Duffee said that in his experience, cost considerations are his customers’ first priority. Even if their legacy systems are leaking, customers are reluctant to invest in replacement equipment. They may be more open to discussing new refrigerants when that investment eventually becomes inevitable.

Presenting new refrigerants as an opportunity to add value

Jim Wharton, area vice president of Link Network, ABM in Atlanta, serves a much larger enterprise customer base. He said his customers have demonstrated more interest in making these investments, and his company is trying to frame the transition as an opportunity. “It’s challenging to align customers’ goals with the available equipment options, but there are some cases where federal and regional regulations are forcing a change.” Wharton added that change isn’t always good news for customers, but he helps them understand the real values of their investment, including total lifecycle costs, energy efficiency and performance advantages.

Too many options result in too much complexity

All three of the contractors said that refrigerant uncertainty is also adding complexity to the equipment decision-making process. Hoover noted his customers are concerned about the long-term viability of the changes. “The last thing they want after investing in a new system is for it to be phased out in four to five years due to a refrigerant change.” All three contractors agree that the industry would benefit by standardizing. Hoover added, “Preferably, we’d like to see one refrigerant, not five or six different options, to replace the old ones.” He pointed out that many contractors simply aren’t able to carry multiple varieties of refrigerants in their trucks at all times. And since these different refrigerants often have unique performance characteristics, variety only adds complexity to service calls.

At Emerson, we’ve seen the wide range of new refrigerant options as a technical challenge, developing equipment and retrofits to accommodate and optimize their performances. But it’s our interactions with contractors and customers that give us insights into how options ultimately impact end users. Their answers shed much-needed light on potential solutions — such as a press toward a single, standard and regulatory-compliant refrigerant.

HVACR Contractors Discuss the Potential of New Technologies

BobLabbett_Blog Bob Labbett | V.P. – Aftermarket Distribution, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

At a recent E360 Breakfast, Emerson hosted a panel discussion among HVACR contractors to glean their insights and opinions on the biggest challenges and emerging trends impacting their businesses. It was a valuable opportunity to get a working perspective on issues more often discussed by industry analysts. A recent article covers a wide range of topics, including talks of new, high-end technologies at a practical level. You can read the whole article here.

The new technologies, IoT and analytics in the field

In recent years, the HVACR industry has experienced an influx of new electronic controls, connected technologies and data analytics enabled by the internet of things (IoT). As these technologies have come online, each of the three contractors on the E360 panel, with companies and customer bases of different sizes, has had different degrees of experience and interaction with these technologies in the field — from working with component-level information to gathering insights on facility management.

Making better use of data and analytics in the enterprise

Jim Wharton, area vice president of Link Network, ABM in Atlanta, works with an enterprise-level customer base. He explained that while data collection capabilities have been available for decades in different forms of energy management systems (EMS), many operators don’t use them to their full potential. Many may glance at their facility dashboards, see multiple areas running in the red (out-of-tolerance conditions), and may simply ignore the potential problems. “Most operators know the way their building behaves, and if they see an alarm in a certain area, they also know whether it will go away or if they need to act on it,” he said. He added that advanced data analytics now offer more insights and the potential to add tangible operational value by helping to drive informed decision making, detecting performance trends and providing equipment diagnostics and troubleshooting.

Embracing new technologies at home

Residential consumers are also embracing whole-home automation, said Martin Hoover, owner of Empire Heating & Air Conditioning in Atlanta. He said that his customers love getting notified of routine maintenance items, such as when to change filters or fix a water clog or leak. But most importantly, homeowners are using these systems to diagnose problems. “They like the fact that their home automation systems can let us know if something’s broken, so we can fix it before it affects their comfort levels,” said Hoover. But from a contractor’s perspective, he stressed that a home system also helps properly trained and educated technicians perform their own diagnostics. “This doesn’t allow us to take someone straight out of high school and put them in the field, but it certainly makes it easier,” he added.

On-board compressor controls are also helping service contractors gain deeper insights into overall refrigeration system performance. Michael Duffee, owner of Restaurant Equipment Services, Inc. of Tucker, Ga., cautions that these advanced controls require trained technicians. “If they’re not familiar with the technology, then you have to train them to avoid misdiagnosis, as there’s still the potential for things to go wrong,” he said.

Developing new technology for the real world of refrigeration

Designing new sensor technologies to be resistant to the impacts of weather, water and humid conditions are also very important considerations for Duffee. For example, he said, “In walk-in cooler environments, where it’s wet and sometimes caustic with the food and so forth, we’ve seen issues with consistency and where sensors and microprocessors can cause problems.”

With our broad knowledge of the full range of commercial refrigeration applications, Emerson keeps these environmental considerations upfront as we develop and introduce next-generation sensors and controls. For applications as simple as automated residential controls or as the source of real-time data for enterprise and IoT analytics, Emerson continuously consults with end users on the real-world issues raised by new technology.

How HVACR Contractors Are Responding to the Labor Shortage

BobLabbett_Blog Bob Labbett | V.P. – Aftermarket Distribution, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

At a recent E360 Breakfast, Emerson hosted a panel discussion among HVACR contractors to glean their insights and opinions on the biggest challenges and emerging trends impacting their businesses. In an article written about the discussion, a wide range of topics was covered, from the impact of new regulated refrigerants to the potential of today’s emerging high-end technologies, and more. One issue dominated the discussion: the impact of the labor shortage in contracting businesses. You can read the entire article here.

“We all would agree that labor is our number one issue.”

This statement by Martin Hoover, owner of Empire Heating & Air Conditioning in Atlanta, phrases American HVAC contractors’ key concern in a nutshell. Throughout the panel discussion, the technician shortage was a recurring theme — regardless of the topic discussed. When the conversation zeroed in on their labor challenges, each contractor was eager to detail how it was impacting his business and what steps the industry could take to help improve the situation.

The recruiting is non-stop

Finding qualified candidates starts at the company level, and each panelist has different approaches to the recruitment, onboarding and training processes. Hoover said his recruitment never stops. “We’re a small company and we recruit 24/seven/365,” he said. His company has developed an accelerated career progression plan for promising candidates, one specially designed to appeal to younger people new to the trade. “We’ve divided career steps into 30-day increments, which engages the younger generation from the entry level and allows them to progress very quickly,” he said. The goal is to accelerate their path to senior technician level and provide ample avenues for advancement.

Changing the perceptions of a valuable skill

Michael Duffee, owner of Restaurant Equipment Services, Inc. of Tucker, Ga., said one of his biggest recruitment hurdles continues to be the negative public perception of the trade. “Let’s face it, the trades sometimes have a less than positive image, and our trade is very demanding,” he said. “We get our hands dirty, we work with heavy equipment, on rooftops in the pouring rain, in snow and 100-degree temps.” Because of these factors, Duffee’s company places a premium on candidates who are enthusiastic and possess positive personality traits.

According to Duffee, the industry needs a renewed focus at the high school level to promote the trades. As experienced technicians retire from the industry, Duffee sees the labor shortage only getting worse in the coming years. “We all should be aware and take whatever steps necessary to change this trend,” he concluded.

Putting HVACR careers on the radar

Adding to Duffee’s point, Jim Wharton, area vice president of Link Network, ABM in Atlanta, noted that HVACR has fallen off the radar of many high schools with trade programs. “When you talk to high schools about trades, no one is talking about HVACR, so most don’t know it is an option.” Instead, Wharton’s company relies on alternative sources for recruitment, reaching out to former members of the U.S. military, vocational schools and technical colleges, and career and technical organizations.

Wherever recruits are found, Hoover stresses that on-the-job experience is the final step toward developing a well-rounded technician. “Tech schools don’t really teach someone how to present yourself to a customer and have the proper communication skills,” he said.

New challenges in HVACR bring new opportunities to technicians

With the introduction of new refrigerants and technologies, there’s no question that the HVACR service technician trade is more challenging than ever. But within this growing knowledge base lie growing career opportunities. As Hoover pointed out, “The technician shortage will drive up pay rates.” And the influx of connected technologies, software and analytics transforming the industry may help make the job more attractive to younger, tech-savvy candidates.

At Emerson, we believe that creating awareness of HVACR technologies and career opportunities at high schools and technical colleges is one of the keys to attracting the next generation of candidates. Even as technologies advance to provide more proactive and predictive capabilities, the industry will still need highly skilled individuals in the field to apply their own experiential know-how to system diagnosis and repair.

 

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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