CHICAGO — At the KeepRite Refrigeration booth, the focus was squarely on energy, the environment, and the regulations related to both.  

“If you’re in the refrigeration field and you’re not talking about energy and the environment, you’re not having the right conversations,” said John Murray, executive vice president, KeepRite. “That’s why all the products on display here have some highlights related to those topics.”

KeepRite’s SmartSuite — or Smart3, for systems, savings, and solutions — encompasses the company’s dedication to energy-saving and low-global warming potential (GWP) technologies to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Significant New Alternative Policy (SNAP) program regulations and the new energy efficiency requirements from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Murray noted that as of June 2017, the DOE’s annual walk-in-energy factor (AWEF) regulations apply to medium-temperature condensing units in walk-in coolers and freezers of less than 3,000 square feet. The AWEF regs will apply to low-temperature condensing units in those same applications in 2020.

“By 2020, all of our medium-and low-temp refrigeration equipment will be held to a higher standard, and we will have to certify and document that we meet those AWEFs,” Murray said. “For commercial refrigeration, it’s quite similar to what DOE did with the old SEER 13 requirements for residential air conditioning.”

To help ensure its equipment meets the new energy efficiency standards, KeepRite has applied electronically commutated (EC) motors to all of is evaporators, condensing units, and air-cooled condensers while introducing patented technologies to further boost energy efficiency.

“We offer SmartSpeed, which is a two-speed EC fan motor applied to the unit cooler evaporators that drops to a lower speed when the thermostat is satisfied (i.e., not in the refrigeration mode),” said Murray. “The motor watt consumption drops by roughly 75 percent yet still moves the air to prevent temperature stratification in the off cycle. Then, when the thermostat calls for refrigeration again, there are further savings realized at the compressor, since there is less motor heat in the box to remove in order to reach steady state (holding) conditions.

“We also have LIMITROL+, which is really just applying the SmartSpeed technology on the condensing unit by dropping to a second, slower speed in low ambient conditions, thereby floating the head pressure to save compressor energy/watt consumption,” he added. “The LIMITROL+ was an AHR award winner in 2015, and we can apply this technology across all of our condensing unit line.”

KeepRite also offers the LINK & LINK+ distributed systems for supermarkets and convenience stores that help reduce the system refrigerant charge by 70-75 percent compared to centralized multiplex rack systems. This also simplifies the installation by eliminating much of the refrigerant piping.

On larger equipment, KeepRite offers shafted EC motors, which, according to the company, allows for both air-side head pressure control and brings 70-plus percent energy savings as compared to standard condenser fan motors.

“While not yet nationally legislated, applying those motors on the high side of bigger systems makes very good energy conservation sense,” Murray said.

KeepRite also rolled out its new line of KEP extended profile evaporators, which are designed to fill a gap in the company’s lineup between its medium- and high-profile evaporators. The KEP line will also be available with the same SmartSuite of energy saving technologies used on the smaller evaporator product families.

Murray noted commercial refrigeration manufacturers have worked in a challenging environment for the past decade. Now, when it appeared there might be smoother sailing ahead, the recent legislative activity has created a whole new wave of uncertainty.

“Much of the legislation coming into effect today, and in 2020, had its beginnings in 2007 to 2009, and it took a lot of effort to arrive at where we have arrived today,” he said. “For example, some of the original AWEFs that were proposed were just not possible to achieve with existing technology. So, we — along with our competitors — had to work with the federal government to arrive at regulations that were doable. But, with the uncertainty of the current status of the SNAP delistings for which we have planned, re-engineered, prepared our labs, and prepared to certify our equipment, many customers are waiting to proceed with major projects without knowing whether their refrigerant decisions are good for the life of the equipment.”

Murray said although the current administration’s desire to ease the regulatory burden is appreciated, KeepRite is planning and proceeding as if all the EPA and DOE dates and timelines are current.

“Just because some regulations are on hold doesn’t mean they’re not eventually going to stick,” he said. “So we’re proceeding as if every SNAP delisting and timeline is still happening, and the same goes for the DOE and the AWEFs. We are abiding by what we know, and all we can do is plan for that.”

Murry added, however, that the higher efficiency equipment resulting from the regulations will come at a price — literally, a higher price.

“There will certainly be a financial impact of all of this activity,” he said. “All of this new technology used to be value-added technology — you could pay to get the higher energy performance levels that are going to become standard,” he said. “And although the costs may come down because of economies of scale, it’s likely that the standard condensing unit in five years is going to cost a fair amount more than the standard condensing unit today. That may be difficult for end users and customers because the cost of their refrigeration is going to increase.”  

Publication date: 2/26/2018