Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Retail Solutions’

GreenChill Hosts Emerson-led Webinar on Natural Refrigerant Architectures

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

My colleague John Wallace, director of innovation, retail solutions, and I recently partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) GreenChill program to present a webinar about making the transition to an effective refrigerant architecture. In it, we discussed leading natural refrigerant systems, centralized and distributed options, and the controls schemes that support them. What follows are the key takeaways from that discussion, which you can view here in its entirety — last bullet under ‘Webinar Archives’.

Over the past decade, the transition toward natural refrigerants has been driven by a combination of dynamic market trends, which include: global refrigerant and food safety regulations, rapidly changing consumer expectations and corporate sustainability goals. This historic transition has helped accelerate the adoption and investigation of “future-proof” natural refrigerant architectures.

Regulatory drivers of transition to naturals

In the U.S., the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has not only fully implemented the now defunct EPA rules designed to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP), it is also actively working to enact more aggressive measures that would greatly impact future refrigeration system architectures. One current proposal under review would take effect in 2022 and mandate the following:

  • Systems charged with more than 50 pounds of refrigerant must use an option that is less than 150 GWP
  • New refrigerant sales with less than 50 pounds of refrigerant must use an option that is less than 1,500 GWP

But California is not alone in these initiatives; there are currently 25 states in the U.S. Climate Alliance which have vowed to follow its lead.

Since natural refrigerants are among a very small list of viable options capable of meeting the above criteria, the commercial refrigeration industry is likely to see an increase in system architectures designed to utilize natural options. These include centralized architectures for larger-charge systems and distributed (or micro-distributed) options for smaller-charged system types.

Leading natural refrigerants

When we think of natural refrigerants in commercial refrigeration, we are typically referring to R-744 (CO2 aka carbon dioxide), R-290 (refrigerant-grade propane) and R-744 (ammonia). Let’s look at their unique characteristics and how they can be effectively utilized.

CO2 has proved very effective in both low- and medium-temperature applications and is typically found in centralized systems such as secondary, cascade and transcritical booster. Having been successfully deployed in commercial and industrial applications in Europe for nearly two decades, it has made significant inroads in North America in recent years.

CO2 is not a retrofit refrigerant and is intended for use only in new systems. System designers, operators and technicians need to be aware of CO2’s unique characteristics, particularly its low critical point, high operating pressures and standing pressure (power outage) considerations. It has a GWP of 1, which puts it in an elite class of environmentally friendly options.

Propane continues to experience a global resurgence as a viable, efficient and very low-GWP refrigerant choice. Its high flammability has traditionally limited system charges to 150g, which is why today it’s found primarily in stand-alone systems that operate efficiently with a low refrigerant charge — such as integrated display cases often utilized in micro-distributed applications. In Europe and abroad, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) recently raised its charge limit to 500g; the U.S. conservatively remains at 150g. Also, propane is not a retrofit option and is intended for new systems designed specifically for its use.

With its superior thermodynamic properties, ammonia was a logical first choice for early refrigeration systems. However, its toxicity requires careful adherence to safe application procedures to ensure operator safety and customer well-being. Traditionally, it has been used in industrial, process cooling, cold storage and ice rink applications. Most recently, ammonia has been introduced into commercial applications via cascade systems that utilize lower refrigerant charges and isolate the ammonia circuit away from occupied spaces.

System controls to support natural refrigerant architectures

Because of the unique properties in these emerging natural refrigerant architectures, system controls are even more essential to ensuring efficient operation, troubleshooting and servicing. Generally, the controls are loosely coupled to the refrigeration architecture, often following either a centralized or distributed approach.

However, the expanding variety of natural refrigeration systems can also pose new challenges for operators trying to maintain controls consistency or access a unified view across different systems. Here, a supervisory system — with its ability to integrate different devices into a common user interface — ensures that all stakeholders can quickly and easily evaluate each refrigeration system. 

As regulations continue to evolve and natural refrigerant systems gain more acceptance, Emerson is prepared to help equipment manufacturers, system designers and end users utilize these very low-GWP alternatives in the development of efficient, user-friendly and economically viable refrigeration systems.

 

The Path From IIoT to Predictive Maintenance for Commercial Refrigeration

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Emerson is writing a series of articles about the implications of new and transformative technologies for the commercial refrigeration industry. In our first article, I described the challenges and methodologies related to transforming a newfound wealth of data into true predictive maintenance capabilities. You can read the full article here.

 

One trend driving the commercial refrigeration industry’s rapid adoption of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies is the promise of predictive maintenance. Collecting massive amounts of real-time data comes with the potential to develop data-driven algorithms that can accurately predict looming problems and failures in refrigeration systems and equipment.

In the commercial refrigeration space, operators’ goals related to predictive maintenance are to reduce energy savings, lower maintenance and service costs, improve food quality and safety (and indirectly, customer experiences), increase comfort, and reduce downtime. So as IIoT technologies become more affordable, widely deployed and interconnected, a question naturally arises: “When will we see the results of these predictive maintenance capabilities?”

It’s a fair question. After all, some industries, such as industrial automation, are seeing rapid advances in their predictive maintenance capabilities. But many of these industries also have an inherent advantage: they’re often monitoring identical devices with well-defined historical performance models, making early problem detection relatively easy.

However, commercial refrigeration is a different ballgame. Commercial refrigeration applications are diverse and complex, making the development of their predictive maintenance capabilities far more challenging. Commercial refrigeration systems consist of many diverse and interdependent components, which often originate from multiple vendors. They encompass a wide range from traditional centralized direct expansion systems to an ever-expanding array of emerging architectures designed to achieve very specific operational (and more often, sustainability) objectives. Industry trends further complicate the issue, such as the adoption of new refrigerants and the migration from centralized to distributed, self-contained and integrated systems.

These complex systems differ in the amount, type and quality of the data they can provide — making data modeling and writing algorithms for different equipment even more difficult. Add more variables into the mix, such as weather, humidity and climate — not to mention widely varying operator goals, processes and workflows — and you can start to comprehend the depth of the challenge.

Developing predictive maintenance capabilities for commercial refrigeration is not a matter of simply pouring more data into the cloud via the IIoT. That data is as diverse as the equipment and systems which produce it. Determining the predictive potential of all that data requires fundamentally changing how we understand and approach the needs of the commercial refrigeration industry.

At Emerson, we’re tackling this challenge head on, taking a methodical, deliberate approach to predictive maintenance. Our goal is not to simply throw more IIoT technologies at the challenge. We’re working to help deliver on the promise of predictive maintenance by applying our deep knowledge of the commercial refrigeration space to help operators uncover the predictive value of data gathered from many different applications. By doing so, we’re simplifying the complexities and uncovering insights into the industry’s most common refrigeration scenarios.

We’re deriving predictive maintenance solutions from IIoT data via a three-pronged methodology: 1) understand the complexity of the domain and its individual systems; 2) define what data is relevant to which situations; and 3) determine how application sensors should be used to generate the necessary data. Then we can take the crucial step of developing tools to extrapolate true predictive maintenance answers from real-time and historical data.

In upcoming articles, Emerson will expand on these learnings and provide examples of how new technology is already being used for successful predictive maintenance programs in commercial refrigeration.

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.

Smaller Supermarket Formats Dictate Fresh Refrigeration Approaches

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Meeting the demands of emergent small-format supermarkets requires a new approach to — or adaption of existing — refrigeration architectures. This blog is based on a recent article that discusses available options. Read the full article here.

One of the biggest trends shaping the food retail industry is the shrinking store footprint. Instead of building large mega centers that once dominated the landscape, today’s retailers are opting to extend their brands into smaller stores, typically in densely populated areas. The small-format trend is part of a larger evolution — one that emphasizes high-quality, fresh, perishable offerings while appealing to consumer desire for more convenience.

Food retailers that are embracing these changes must also evaluate how their approaches to refrigeration architectures and controls will also need to adapt. Fortunately, there is no shortage of available options to help operators make this transition.

Scale down for “centralized” familiarity
A traditional big-box supermarket has more than 100 cases (a mix of medium- and low-temperature cases) supported by centralized refrigeration racks and controls designed to optimize large systems of this type. If you shrink these systems down for smaller formats with less merchandise, it stands to reason that you may not need as many racks. With stores shrinking from more than 100,000 to less than 20,000 square feet, they simply won’t need the same refrigeration horsepower.

In many cases, operators may still want to use centralized architectures for both medium- and low-temperature cases, but appropriately scaled down to suit the small format. Often, we’re able to design a system with one rack to manage medium- and low-temperature needs. Since it’s a much smaller centralized system to support fewer case lineups, it has much shorter refrigeration lines running out to the cases.

From a system controls standpoint, this smaller centralized architecture isn’t drastically different, so retailers can achieve relatively the same look and feel in both large and small store formats — while also providing the flexibility to scale across the full spectrum of store sizes.

Explore “distributed” efficiencies

While distributed refrigeration systems have been preferred in large supermarkets in Europe and other global regions, they are also well-suited for the small-format emergence in the U.S. Distributed architectures come in different formats and offer a cost-effective refrigeration strategy for smaller stores. Preferred distributed architectures include:

  • “Self-contained” cases (i.e., a completely integrated refrigeration system within the case); also provide spot-merchandizing flexibility
  • Modular refrigeration systems capable of supporting small lines of cases sharing similar characteristics

Distributed architectures also have a greater impact on the way controls are set up and utilized. In a distributed scenario, electronic controllers are installed at the refrigeration cases. Additional sensors are typically required to capture data, allow for better control, and support remote troubleshooting activities.

Standardize your footprint

When adding smaller-format stores to an enterprise network, it may not be in your best interest to introduce a completely new refrigeration and controls platform. For retailers with multi-site networks of large- and small-format stores, it’s especially important to select refrigeration architectures and control platforms that provide a standardized view.

When evaluating refrigeration options, look for platforms that support the evolution of internet of things (IoT) in refrigeration and facility management. These systems represent the next generation of operational efficiencies by offering cloud connectivity, predictive maintenance and advanced multi-site management software.

 

Refrigerant Management: How Changes to Section 608 Impact Our Industry

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I was recently interviewed for an article in ACHR’s The News magazine, “EPA’s Proposed Changes to Section 608 Cause Concern in the Industry,” where I provided my perspective on the current state of leak detection, repair and other provisions.

Refrigerant leak response and repair regulations have placed our industry in uncertain waters. As you may know, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a new rule that rescinds some provisions of its Section 608 mandate, affecting equipment with 50 lbs. or more of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) or other substitute refrigerants. These best practices were developed in consultation with the HVACR industry to ensure safety, establish proper reclaim and recycling processes, and of course, reduce carbon emissions.

In November 2016, the EPA extended the scope of Section 608 — from refrigerants containing ozone-depleting substances (ODS) to nonexempt substitute refrigerants such as HFCs. Because the Court of Appeals ruled in 2017 that the EPA could not ban HFCs, the agency has decided that it also did not have the authority to regulate these refrigerants under Section 608.

Establishing best practices

Awareness of the importance of leak detection has grown exponentially in recent years. Today, most companies understand that implementing a leak response and repair program is simply a best practice. And for those companies that have already taken steps to comply with Section 608, the vacating of this rule will have little impact.

I stated in the article: “These procedures not only benefit the environment but also help ensure HVACR equipment operates at peak efficiency, including at the lowest overall cost. One of the benefits of the existing regulations has been to raise the awareness of best practices related to HVACR maintenance. Increased awareness generally leads to broader adoption by those in the industry, regardless of whether regulations are in place.”

Simply put, leak detection and repair programs make good sense, regardless of the regulations in place or the type of refrigerant being used. However, with the reversal of Section 608, equipment operators will no longer be under federal mandate to follow these widely adopted refrigerant management best practices:

  • Conducting leak rate calculations when refrigerant is added to an appliance
  • Repairing an appliance that leaks above a threshold leak rate
  • Conducting verification tests on repairs
  • Conducting periodic leak inspections on appliances that exceed the threshold leak rate
  • Reporting to the EPA about chronically leaking appliances
  • Retrofitting or retiring appliances that are not repaired
  • Maintaining related records
  • Overseeing technicians’ use of certified equipment and the reclamation process

These procedures are already considered to be the optimal standard practice, and end users who are focused on operational excellence are likely doing many (or most) of them today.

Maintaining other key program elements

The absence of a federal mandate for responsible HFC management creates a quandary for our industry. Currently, the EPA is seeking comments about the remaining provisions of Section 608, raising concerns about the potential for overturning other benefits of programs — specifically, guidelines for refrigerant reclaim procedures and technician certification and training programs.

Proper refrigerant reclamation reduces the likelihood of introducing impurities, which could lead to premature failures and increased maintenance costs for owners of HVACR equipment. What’s more, the certification program provides the vital information on how to deal with the ever-growing number of refrigerants. As I stated in the article: “One benefit of certification is that wholesalers are able to sell refrigerants to technicians who have a sufficient background and understanding of their liability under the Clean Air Act.”

Path forward

Already, several states are adopting standards for leak detection and control. Again, as I noted in the article, “We are already seeing some states such as California enact regulations that adopt many of the requirements in Section 608. Other states will likely step in, which may create more headaches for the industry. This could create problems for the industry and lead to a patchwork of inconsistent regulations that would be challenging for manufacturers and service providers to navigate.”

As always, Emerson will help you stay informed about further changes to Section 608. Regardless of the regulatory decisions, we’ll continue to provide guidance and expertise on how to design and implement refrigerant management programs.

%d bloggers like this: