Author Archives: Tim Sands

Commercial Refrigeration Safety Guidelines

When you have a commercial refrigeration unit installed, you typically focus on things like the interior capacity, overall size to ensure it fits in your store, restaurant, or supermarket, as well as the efficiency of the unit and how much it costs to operate. However, one thing that you really need to consider is how to keep your unit safely operating.

There are a few safety guidelines that should be followed when you have any type of commercial refrigerator installed in your business. Not only does following these guidelines increase the longevity and optimize performance, but it also keeps your business safe from potential damage that could be caused by a faulty installation or poor maintenance.

Refrigerant within the system is required in order to be able to reach lower temperatures needed to preserve food and prevent it from spoiling. If your refrigerant is low, this indicates that there is a leak somewhere within your system. Instead of simply refilling the system, the leak must be detected and repaired. Failure to do so results in the refrigerant being released into the atmosphere, which is a violation of the Clean Air Act’s regulations and can result in heavy fines.

Another important guideline to note is that you should always make sure that fans are unobstructed. Since these fans work to push out hot air to keep the interior of a cooler cold, blocking them can not only run up your utility bill, but it can be dangerous for the components in your unit. Your unit should never be pulled out from the wall a bit, particularly where there are fans or vents to prevent overheating. Read more in our previous post on maintaining proper commercial refrigerator temperatures.

The thermometer and all parts should be kept in working order to maintain the proper temperatures. Temperatures that are too low can result in food that is frozen and spoiled, while higher temperatures can help bacteria breed and spoil everything contained within your unit.

If a leak is detected in your drain line or around any other part in your unit, you should have it immediately inspected and repaired, as this can result in standing water that can lead to slips and falls by your employees or customers.

Regular maintenance is a must to ensure complete safety of your product. Faulty wiring can result in failure at best, or at worst, a fire that can damage your property. All electrical components should be checked at least semi-annually or quarterly. Other important components including the condenser coils, evaporator coils, and drain lines. If any of these components fail, your refrigerator will not maintain its temperature, your energy bills may rise significantly, and you put your whole unit at risk for damage.

Several times a year, a licensed commercial refrigeration professional should fully inspect your unit and should make repairs as needed. While you can certainly take a look at certain components yourself, the more extensive maintenance and repairs should out be performed by a licensed and experienced professional.

The History of Commercial Refrigeration

Whether you own a convenience store or manage a grocery store or the kitchen of a restaurant, you probably rely a lot on refrigeration units. Whether you’re storing cold drinks for your customers on the go or you’re keeping your meats, cheeses, and other vegetables cold before you cook a delicious meal, you need a commercial refrigerator. Modern refrigeration systems for commercial use have come a long way since their early beginnings.

Hundreds of years ago, the first buildings made for storing snow and ice were built. Straw and sawdust were used to insulate these buildings. Later in the 1700s, William Cullen made a breakthrough with a very impractical cooling box. At this time, there was no use for such a box. Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley later experimented with ways to cool using volatile liquids. While this wasn’t the direct invention of commercial refrigeration equipment, these breakthroughs did help lead to later development.

In the mid-1800s, Ferdinand Carre developed the ice machine Three of these machines were brought to New Orleans when the city could no longer get ice from New England. Throughout the 1800s, more people continued to advance upon these discoveries. In the 1840s, refrigerated boxcars were used to transport dairy products. In the late 1800s, ships were equipped with units that allowed food to be transported longer distances.

In the 1900s, commercial refrigerators became very important for many industries, particularly the meat-packing industry. Big companies like Armour and Wilson purchased units to be used on box cars and in storage facilities to keep meat cold and fresh. These early units were very large, many weighing between five and two hundred tons, and they relied on toxic gases for cooling power, making them quite a hazard.

Throughout the 20th century, advances were made to make commercial refrigeration systems more lightweight, less expensive, and more readily available for a variety of businesses, including supermarkets and restaurants. Improvements were also made in safety, and volatile gases or very harmful chemicals were no longer used for cooling. Not only are today’s systems smaller, more lightweight, and affordable, but they even come equipped with modern features like digital thermostats, clear glass display doors, unique designs, and LED lights.

The history of commercial refrigeration goes back for centuries, and the advances and innovations made to these systems have made them a staple in many industries. The years of research, development, innovation, and improvements have led to the modern systems found in convenience stores, restaurants, hotel gift shops, grocery stores, and many of the establishments that we frequent daily.

Energy Optimization

In Commercial Refrigeration and HVAC

It has been stated that 30% of the energy used to heat or cool a building or a commercial refrigeration unit is wasted.  This is caused byenergy optimization old commercial refrigeration equipment, inefficient HVAC equipment, leaks in the system, over-sized compressors, out of date refrigerants, and commercial refrigeration units that were not designed correctly from the start.  All of these issues can have drastic impact on a company’s bottom line due to the ever increasing cost of energy.

How Does Energy Optimization Work?

There are many ways to improve the efficiency of a commercial refrigeration or HVAC system.  Some of them are expensive and some of them are not.  The first step in improving the efficiency of your system and thereby reducing your energy costs would be an Energy Optimization Audit.

A technician certified in energy optimization can provide you with an audit that will clearly specify how to improve your heating and cooling efficiency.  Ways to improve your energy optimization could include the following:

  • Refrigerant Retrofits
  • Eliminating Leaks In Your HVAC, Ventilation & Commercial Refrigeration Systems
  • Installing Energy Efficient Lighting In Your Commercial Refrigeration Equipment
  • Installing Modern Control Units
  • Installing Variable Speed Motors On Heating and Cooling Equipment
  • Upgrading To More Efficient Compressors For Your Commercial Refrigeration & HVAC Equipment
  • Scheduling Regular Maintenance On Existing Refrigeration & HVAC Equipment

The recommendations from your Energy Optimization Audit can be simple and inexpensive ways to lower your energy costs or they could be more expensive.  Simple, inexpensive ways to improve the efficiency of your commercial refrigeration or HVAC system could include regularly scheduled maintenance and eliminating leaks.  More expensive recommendations to improve your energy efficiency could include replacing the compressors in your refrigeration equipment or HVAC system or possibly complete system upgrades.

The Results Of An Energy Optimization Audit

The bottom line is that energy savings means better business.  If you’re wasting energy, and therefore money, needlessly it will continue to be a drag on your company’s profitability.  An efficient business is a successful business.  An Energy Optimization Audit will give you the tools, resources, and possibly even rebates necessary to improve the energy efficiency of your business.

Finding a qualified technician to provide you an Energy Optimization Audit on your commercial refrigeration and HVAC system could be as easy as calling your energy supplier or contacting the company that provides your maintenance and service.

A Commitment To Natural Refrigerants

In Commercial Refrigeration Equipment

commercial refrigeration equipmentNatural refrigerants are non-synthetic substances which can be used as cooling agents in commercial refrigeration equipment and air conditioners.  These include naturally occurring substances like water, air, CO2, ammonia, and hydrocarbons like propane, butane, and cyclopentane.  While they have been used for years as refrigerants they are only just now beginning to replace synthetic refrigerants in commercial refrigeration equipment.

Why Natural Refrigerants For  Commercial Refrigeration Equipment?

While the Montreal Protocol addressed ozone depleting refrigerants like HCFCs and CFCs, it failed to address global warming potential of the proposed substitutes like HFCs.  Increased scientific evidence has also shown that HFCs had huge potential to contribute to the greenhouse gas problem.  So replacing HCFCs and CFCs with HFCs only displaced the problem.  The only real solution to address both the ozone damaging and greenhouse gas problem created by refrigerants is to use natural refrigerants, including in commercial refrigeration equipment which is one of the largest consumers of refrigerant chemicals in the world.

The Economics Of Natural Refrigerants

Natural refrigerants are inexpensive to produce, in most cases even less expensive than HFCs; natural refrigerants are extremely energy efficient when used in large scale systems; and the disposal cost of natural refrigerants is negligible when compared to HFCs as well as older refrigerants like HCFCs.  The major issue for commercial refrigeration equipment is the increase in capital expenditure required for small and medium businesses to convert to a natural refrigerant system.  This is the major issue preventing wide spread adoption for natural refrigerants in commercial refrigeration equipment.  Unlike retrofitting commercial refrigeration equipment with non-ozone depleting refrigerants, all natural refrigerant systems require a complete overhaul of the commercial refrigeration equipment.

In spite of the economics of this issue, there is a worldwide push to switch to natural refrigerants in commercial refrigeration equipment.  As of 2005, more than half of all synthetic refrigerants ever produced were in the atmosphere (AFEAcommercial refrigeration equipmentS Alternative Fluorocarbons Acceptability Study, 2007).  To reduce the Global Warming Potential and provide zero ozone depleting potential as required by the Montreal and Kyoto Protocols, commercial refrigeration equipment will eventually have to be cooled by natural refrigerants.  It is estimated that if commercial refrigeration equipment in the United States alone was converted to natural refrigerants, the industry would be able to reduce emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases by 22 million metric tons annually.

When considering replacing your commercial refrigeration equipment, choosing to go with a natural refrigerant system will be environmentally friendly, meet current or future EPA requirements, and in the long term be a the right choice economically.

GreenChill Partnership And Commercial Refrigeration Service

Commercial Refrigeration Service And GreenChill Compliance

commercial refrigeration serviceGreenChill is a partnership between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and food retailers who use refrigerated equipment to reduce refrigerant emissions and thereby decrease the damage they can cause to the ozone layer.  As part of this process, retailers are also encouraged to update their refrigerants during commercial refrigeration service to non-ozone depleting substitutes in their refrigerated equipment.

Commercial Refrigeration Service And Refrigerant Conversion

Conversion from older refrigerants in refrigerated equipment like HCFC-22 and other HCFCs is a major part of GreenChill Compliance.  HCFC-22 is known to cause significant damage to the ozone layer when it is inadvertently released during commercial refrigeration service.  To prevent this in the future the GreenChill Partnership as well as the Montreal Protocol, a treaty signed by the United States, has called for the phase out of HCFC-22 and other damaging HCFCs.  This will force the transition to newer, non-ozone depleting refrigerants during commercial refrigeration service.

As of 2015, there will be no import or production of ozone damaging HCFCs except for refrigerated equipment manufactured before 2010.  While retailers who own older equipment will still be able to get their refrigerant recharged during commercial refrigeration service, by 2020 two of the most widely used HCFCs (142b and 22) will no longer be imported or produced.  By 2030 it is expected that all damaging refrigerants are eliminated in refrigerated equipment in the United States because there will be no import or production of any HCFCs by 2030.  At that time, almost all commercial refrigeration service will be done on equipment using non-ozone depleting refrigerants.

Two Main Approaches For Retrofitting Refrigerated Equipment During Commercial Refrigeration Service

commercial refrigeration serviceThe first approach to retrofitting retail refrigerated equipment during commercial refrigeration service involves replacing the refrigerant only.  This approach is more cost effective and results in minimal changes to the refrigerated equipment.  The second approach involves installing new mechanical systems during commercial refrigeration service which is obviously more costly.  In addition to migrating to a non-ozone depleting refrigerant, the commercial refrigeration service could include installing new compressors, condensers, and cases.

Regardless of which approach is undertaken any retrofit should include improving the leak tightness of the refrigerated equipment during the commercial refrigeration service.  Emissions of the refrigerant whether old or new is still a large issue because even if they are non-ozone damaging refrigerants newer refrigerants like HFCs are still considered greenhouse gases.  So to prevent exchanging one environmental problem for another refrigerated equipment owners need to use the retrofit conversion process during commercial refrigeration service as a way to reduce refrigerant leaks and prevent refrigerant emissions.

Proper commercial refrigeration service of your refrigerated equipment has never been more important.  Not only are there reliability issues that need to be considered, but preventing damage to the environment during commercial refrigeration service needs to be addressed as well.