Economic Climate and Condensers

June 7, 2010
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Changes in condenser design are in response to efforts to reduce energy and use of refrigerants with high global warming potential.

The operators of refrigeration systems in supermarkets, convenience stores, and restaurants of all types - as well as the contractors who support them - are facing tough new challenges in a business climate that demands ever greater commitments to reduce both energy use and refrigerants with high global warming potential. As a result, manufacturers of condensing units are responding with changes in design that help deliver the:

• High efficiency performance essential to meet changing standards and regulations;

• Range of standard to full-featured units necessary to address specific operator needs;

• Flexibility required to address store design trends;

• New features and electronic tools needed to drive more accurate and efficient service.

“We’re targeting innovative solutions that tackle our customers’ business imperatives,” said Jim Mozer, vice president, refrigeration marketing and general manager, Integrated Products Division for Emerson Climate Technologies, Inc. “Stores and restaurants are looking for ways to reduce both their energy and operational costs, while contractors are seeking the measures to provide faster and more accurate service. That means our focus today is on energy efficiency, technology improvements, and environmental responsibility.”

In fact, energy efficiency has grown so important over the past two years that it has become a key differentiator for many condensing unit manufacturers, as well as an ongoing challenge in the reach-in market.

While federal minimum efficiency standards took effect this past January, Energy Star 2.0 qualifications have brought even more stringent standards, resulting in the “delisting” of over 70 percent of formerly rated reach-in models. To remain competitive, reach-in OEMs are pushing efficiency levels beyond the federal mandate in order to maintain their Energy Star rating, which is key to operators gaining even greater energy savings along with valuable utility rebate incentives frequently linked to new equipment purchases.

“This new dynamic means that manufacturers must look at every aspect of condensing unit design, and concentrate resources on eliminating any and all waste, particularly in the key components impacting energy performance,” said Jon Lazarow, director of foodservice marketing, Emerson Climate Technologies Inc. This requires a strong engineering focus on:

• High efficiency reciprocating or scroll compressor technology - as the compressor is not only the heart of the system but can have the greatest system impact on efficiency, consuming typically 40-60 percent of the total refrigeration system’s energy, depending on the type and location of the application.

• Type of fan motor, PSC or ECM;

• Control schemes that adjust speed relative to ambient conditions;

• Expansion of the coil area surface while finding new design approaches that reduce the condensing unit footprint.

As an example, Emerson is currently developing the next generation of a high-efficiency line for reach-in applications, using fractional horsepower reciprocating technology that will cost-effectively deliver even higher efficiency gains through design changes involving compressor design, coil and controls.

THE CUSTOMER FACTOR

While saving energy is also important in the walk-in segment, given the larger size of the equipment and higher levels of power consumption, operators are also interested in optimizing the customer experience, and increasingly concerned about appearance, noise and the use of floor space. Condensing unit manufacturers are responding with new designs that deliver as much installation and service flexibility as possible, whether that means moving the equipment outside or on rooftops or creating units with a slim profile to save space and improve aesthetics. Of course, reliability remains a major concern, so the development of integrated electronics - creating units with the capability to identify, diagnose and alert operators to potential problems before a failure occurs - is a growing priority for manufacturers.

Emerson identified these customer priorities when developing the Copeland Scroll® outdoor condensing unit, which was introduced in North America in 2009. Developed for walk-in cooler and freezer applications, this new unit is an example of what customers can expect from full-featured units including 20 percent higher energy efficiency that saves operators $350 per year in annual energy costs on average, reduced installation and maintenance costs, and quieter operation.

In addition to the benefits of scroll compressor technology - now used by more than a third of the condensing unit market because of the design’s inherently greater efficiency and reliability - the unit integrates a variable-speed PSC fan motor and proprietary compressor electronics, Copeland Performance Alert™. These electronics, which use the compressor as a sensor, provide protection against a variety of conditions that cause unexpected performance losses or worse, unplanned equipment failure. The diagnostics also give field service personnel a history of potential alerts that can simplify system troubleshooting, and lower maintenance costs.

PHASEOUT CHALLENGES

With the mandated phaseout of HCFCs that began January 2010, condensing unit manufacturers must consider the challenges for wholesalers, contractors and end-users alike in dealing with refrigerant change. “Flexibility is a key driver,” said Bob Labbett, vice president of marketing, Distribution Services Division for Emerson Climate Technologies Inc. “We have put a lot of effort during the past two years into developing products that are rated for multiple refrigerants, so we can maintain product availability while reducing the number of SKUs.”

With all the changes happening in the industry, manufacturers recognize it’s more important than ever to provide the tools and other support services which help distributors and contractors get the job done right. “It’s not just about developing products,” Labbett noted. “We’re also devoting more resources to help our customers select, promote, and sell the right product for every application, with tools like our box load calculator and Copeland Condensing Unit Quick Select Guide that matches units to refrigeration components. It’s all about making it easier for the wholesalers and contractors to do their job.”

Publication date: 06/07/2010

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