|SAFETY FIRST: Dean Groff, regional marketing manager, commercial compressors, Danfoss, said alternate refrigerants pose increased flammability and safety concerns.|
|REGULATORY ROADBLOCKS: Bob Labbett, vice president of communications and channel marketing, Emerson Climate Technologies, said government initiatives are driving refrigerant changes.|
HVACR OEMs and contractors alike know that quality components are what make a quality piece of equipment. What goes inside the equipment is as important, or even more important, than the shiny exteriors and graphic user interfaces on the outside.
At Emerson Climate Technologies Inc., Bob Labbett, vice president of communications and channel marketing, said two dynamics are driving change in refrigeration equipment: U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) energy regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program.
The DOE has mandated significant energy reductions for walk-ins, reach-ins, and ice makers by 2017, and Emerson has invested heavily in the development of energy-efficient component technologies to help OEMs meet these aggressive goals.
“OEMs need to evaluate each system component as well as the overall system efficiency and architecture,” Labbett said. “For example, a compressor can be responsible for up to 60 percent of a system’s total energy use, while the evaporator and condenser fan motors account for the second-highest amount of energy consumption. Because of this, OEMs should consider variable-capacity scroll compressors and electronically commutated motors (ECMs) in their designs. The efficiency of this new equipment will ultimately benefit the end user with reduced energy costs.”
MEETING SNAP — OR WAITING IT OUT
Dean Groff, regional marketing manager, commercial compressors, Danfoss, said, generally speaking, the larger equipment manufacturers have already taken the necessary steps to meet — or begin to meet — SNAP program requirements. “Smaller manufacturers, on the other hand, seem to have delayed action, hoping the compliance timelines for the SNAP delisting will be adjusted,” he said.
To address SNAP delisting and DOE efficiency requirements, many self-contained refrigeration equipment manufacturers have begun switching to propane (R-290), added Groff.
Such new refrigerant alternatives pose significant challenges to the design of commercial refrigeration equipment, Labbett noted. OEMs need to consider the best option to transition from high-GWP (global warming potential) refrigerants to new and retrofit refrigeration solutions that utilize emerging low-GWP refrigerants, including new hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) and natural alternatives. Each of these options requires components that have been designed and tested with these new refrigerants, and, in some cases, extensive component design.
“The move to an A3 refrigerant such as propane requires changes to the system design — including changes to the equipment’s compressors and controls — in order to comply with safety guidelines and the overall system charge limit of 150 grams,” Groff said. “We also are seeing an increased adoption of electronic controls to meet the required efficiency gains.”
Contractors, meanwhile, will face a moderate challenge teaching technicians how to operate and service these new components.
“While moving to natural refrigerants such as propane makes sense when the primary driver is GWP reduction, it does require new service techniques by the contractor,” Labbett said. “Other options include refrigerants with high glide, which changes the way a system is serviced. The primary value to the end user is how this contributes to their company’s sustainability goals.”
Groff agreed: “Moving to new alternative refrigerants such as propane requires increased training for contractors and service technicians due to flammability and safety concerns,” he said.
THE INTERNET OF THINGS
An additional trend affecting the industry is the emergence of a technology referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT), which combines machine-to-machine connectivity with Internet and/or cloud services to store enterprise data and leverage it for analytics.
“This is a relatively new concept in food service, but in other industries, such as supermarkets, connected equipment and related technologies have been embraced for more than a decade as a means to optimize facility operations,” Labbett said. “Emerson utilizes electronics in components [such as compressors] and store/facility controllers that communicate to enable visibility to all aspects of business operations, eliminate equipment failures, and improve efficiencies across the board. As the ‘connected kitchen’ evolves, end users will have greater insights on and control of operational performance, energy savings, and food quality. In the short term, adoption of this technology will be a challenge to refrigeration contractors; in the future it will help them increase accuracy of their diagnoses as well as reduce callbacks.”
Publication date: 7/6/2015