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How to Create the Perfect Climate in Supermarkets

ronchapek_2 Ron Chapek | Director of Product Management/Enterprise Software

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I recently participated in an article for Winsight Grocery Business, which discussed the importance of keeping refrigeration and HVAC systems in harmony. Click here to read the full article.

How to Create the Perfect Climate in Supermarkets

Refrigeration and HVAC costs are among the biggest operational expenses a supermarket faces. The reasons? People create warmth. Refrigeration creates cold. Humidity creates wetness. And in supermarkets, HVAC systems constantly struggle to maintain the right temperature and humidity for people, equipment and products. With proper management and planning, supermarket operators can balance these factors and even optimize HVAC and refrigeration systems to work in coordination with each other.

 The battle between HVAC and refrigeration

In most buildings, the job of an HVAC system is to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature for customers and staff. But HVAC systems face unique challenges in supermarkets. Coolers, refrigerated display cases, freezers and other units (particularly those without doors), pour cool, dry air into stores. This isolated cold air stresses HVAC systems year-round, as they have to increase heating during winter — burning a lot of energy — while leaving uncomfortably cold spots, even in summer. Your refrigeration equipment alters an HVAC load in ways most systems aren’t designed to handle.

Adding doors or replacing open units can reduce both the load and energy costs. But adding doors creates a different problem: they often fog up — which forces shoppers to open the doors to see what’s inside — defeating the whole purpose of having a door. Fog and frost occur when humid weather, steamy shoppers and chilly air collide.

A foggy situation

Door fogging is a symptom of a very tricky problem: keeping in-store relative humidity (RH) at the proper percentage. If humidity is too high, doors fog over and cooling coils frost up, forcing units to overwork. If the humidity gets even higher, water can condense on floors, walls and even dry-goods packaging. But if the RH is too low, the overly dry air can shorten the shelf life of fresh produce or wilt it.

Moisture, relatively

Almost all the humidity inside a store comes from moister outside air, and it’s up to HVAC systems to lower that humidity to a slightly dry 45 percent RH — and that’s not easy.

The simplest way to do this is to super-chill incoming outside air, because as air cools, its humidity drops. But this wastes energy in two ways: it increases the refrigeration load on the HVAC and can chill the entire store. So, the air first has to be reheated before entering the store, producing yet another energy expense.

Another option to use a desiccant system in the HVAC unit to remove moisture. These systems are effective and reliable, but they require a lot of energy, especially for large spaces like supermarkets.

Harvest-free heat

The article describes a simpler, cheaper solution. The compressors on your refrigeration equipment generate a lot of heat as they compress refrigerants. This excessive heat is usually vented outside the building, wasting a source of free heat. Today, systems can recycle, treat and mix this hot air to create ideal store temperatures and RH — at much lower overall costs.

Advanced systems harvest excess hot air in various ways. Some use the hot vented air instead of the HVAC heater to reheat super-cooled, dehumidified air and reduce reheating costs. Some systems use heat exchangers to recycle the vented hot air to heat a supermarket during cold weather. “Single-path” systems super-chill a limited volume of humid outside air to dry it, then mix it with uncooled air to produce just the right temperature/RH mix. Another system uses two cooling coils, one to cool the hot air as it’s being vented outside, so it can mix with outside air to reach optimal temperature and RH. The incoming air needs little heating or cooling as it reaches the second coil, which greatly reduces the workload on the HVAC system.

Instead of adding to your HVAC system’s workload, your refrigeration equipment can actually help reduce the load, lower your costs, and create the ideal climate for shoppers, employees and facility managers.

 

New Research: The Six S’s of Supermarket Refrigeration System Selection Criteria

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Emerson recently completed a research study of leading food retailers to better understand their refrigeration system selection criteria. This blog is a synopsis of those findings.

Copeland

For several years, we’ve seen an evolution of the traditional supermarket concept, driven by a convergence of multiple market influences which include:

  • The migration to urban areas
  • Smaller store footprints
  • Renewed focuses on safety and freshness
  • Greater need for merchandising flexibility
  • The proliferation of omnichannel fulfillment models
  • The lack of qualified service technicians
  • Energy-efficiency goals and sustainability initiatives
  • The internet of things (IoT)
  • Ongoing regulatory uncertainty

Amidst these many changes, refrigeration systems have also evolved to align with modern supermarket operator preferences. To better understand how these preferences are impacting selection criteria, we recently completed a research study of several leading food retailers. We asked them which factors they feel are the most important when considering the implementation of new refrigeration systems.

We compiled results into six key categories, which we refer to as the six S’s of selection criteria. The following is a summary of those findings:

  1. Simple — Operators are seeking to minimize complexities by using systems that are easy to understand and diagnose. Many associate system simplicity with reliability and believe it can be achieved with fewer moving parts, traditional system architectures and proven refrigeration strategies.
  2. Serviceable — Technician familiarity is important to facilitate ease of service and maintenance activities, and to ensure the availability of parts and refrigerants. Engine rooms should be located away from customers and be relatively easy to access.
  3. Secure — Maintaining customer, employee and technician safety while preserving food quality and safety are always top priorities. With many operators now integrating IoT technologies for more effective facility and enterprise management, securing proprietary operational data is also critically important. Operators seek system architectures that can address these multifaceted safety and security concerns.
  4. Stable — Grocers consistently cite system stability and reliability as primary selection criteria. Systems should be capable of maintaining consistent temperatures, delivering predictable performance, and working according to design specifications.
  5. Smart Electronic controls, system connectivity and integration with facility management services via IoT are becoming more important to modern supermarket operators. They’re evaluating self-monitoring systems that give store managers immediate access to issues, allowing them to take prompt actions to protect shoppers, preserve their brands and prevent unnecessary service calls.
  6. Sustainable — For those supermarket operators driven by corporate sustainability objectives or regional regulatory requirements, the push toward lower-GWP refrigeration strategies is continuing in earnest. Sustainability also speaks to the long-term economic viability of the refrigeration selection, as operators must factor in the total cost of ownership throughout the lifecycle. Reducing energy consumption to minimize operating costs is a concern shared by all.

As refrigeration technologies evolve in response to changing market dynamics, look for emerging system architectures that align with these selection criteria. Emerson is addressing the six S’s of supermarket operator concerns by innovating new systems that blend pieces of proven architectures — borrowing from what has worked in the past and improving upon existing technologies. Stay tuned for more information on these new system strategies in the months to come.

Nine Reasons to Switch to a Variable-Capacity, Digitally Modulated Compressor

In the foodservice, supermarket and transport industries, operators have varying options to attempt to overcome the hundreds of start/stop cycles a compressor can go through to produce the necessary refrigeration load on a typical day. Uneven rack systems still result in high cycling rates and do not offer the desired temperature precision. Hot gas-bypass systems are not energy efficient and are often unreliable. Even variable-speed technology, while an effective form of capacity modulation, is cost prohibitive, especially when replacement costs are considered.

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A Fine-tuned System and Digital Compressors Bring Cool Chunk of Change to One Supermarket

When Renteknik Group — experts in energy optimization and management — was tapped to help a southwestern Ontario grocery store take advantage of the Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) saveONenergy incentive program, they engaged Emerson Climate Technologies for real-world ways to improve efficiencies in the store’s legacy refrigeration system. The store utilized low- and medium-temperature parallel rack systems running on 10 Copeland™ semi-hermetic compressors.

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Five Trends That Will Impact Retailers In 2015

RetailersRetailers are utilizing data-driven approaches to offset a moderate economy, varying consumer behavior and the continued rise of online competitors.

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