A Look Ahead: What's In Store For Cases

Energy Efficiency is the Hot Topic for Manufacturers of Freezer and Refigerated Cases

by Ron Rajecki, senior editor

Increased focus on energy efficiency, not surprisingly, leads the list of the technological changes that are in the works from manufacturers of refrigerated and freezer cases.

“The overwhelming technological trend is energy efficiency,” says Ralph Schmitt, president of Kysor//Warren, Columbus, GA. ”Secondly it’s microelectronics distributed down to the component level and linked together with Internet technology, and thirdly, the impact of new refrigerants, particularly for compressor design.”

“Remote monitoring of the entire store by the servicing contractor will also be increasingly important. It will offer the store owner lower energy costs by ensuring that the dynamic control is working correctly and that the equipment isn’t drifting out of calibration. In addition, remote monitoring will lower maintenance costs and will help reduce food spoilage.”

A difficulty faced by case manufacturers is varying energy efficiency criteria from state-to-state, and Kysor//Warren is working with the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) as it pushes for a federal standard that will be adopted by the states.

On the refrigerant front, Schmitt sees R-404A emerging as the likely replacement for R-22. Roughly 70% to 80% of Kysor//Warren’s new equipment uses R-404A. Field retrofits to convert R-22 systems to R-404A are possible and will represent an opportunity for contractors. Also, Schmitt sees the trend toward more scroll compressors, displacing reciprocating and screw compressors.

Finally, Schmitt is a proponent of certification for refrigeration technicians, a new specialty certification that’s in the works at North American Technician Excellence (NATE) . “Having certified technicians will line up nicely with the way the technology is going to unfold,” he says.

Industry giant Hussmann Corp., Bridgeton, MO, is also focusing on increasing energy efficiency. John Behr, P.E., vice president of global research and development and advanced engineering, reports that the company is making continuous improvements to its evaporator and air system designs. The new “E-Plus” family of produce, dairy, and meat cases achieve overall energy savings to 10 to 20% over its standard models. For reach-in cases, Hussmann has a new line of highly energy-efficient doors, as well as a no-fog coating for doors that maximizes product visibility and avoids extended glass clearing time.

Don Edmond, manager, market and product planning, Tyler Refrigeration, Niles, MI, reports that contractors can watch for a new line of merchandisers from Tyler that feature a patented coil design. The T/C Coil™ applies air conditioning coil design technology to medium temperature refrigerated merchandising cases. This coil operates at a higher suction temperature than that found in traditional merchandising cases, which minimizes frost accumulation while controlling coil surface temperature. The end result? Lower horsepower is required than is typical for a medium temperature compressor system, which means increased energy efficiency.

At Zero Zone, Inc., Milwaukee, WI, Engineering Manager Bruce Hierlmeier and Engineering Lab Manager Carl Roberts echoed some of the energy efficiency themes. They see energy-efficient doors and no-fog door coatings as important, and agree that R-404A is the likely replacement for R-22 for freezer cases and medium-temperature applications.

They also see a move toward more energy-efficient fan motors. “While the predominant motor is still the simple shaded pole, we think grocers will be moving toward the permanent split capacitors and brushless DC motors. Energy efficient motors cost more upfront, but their payback period in energy savings is short, and more sophisticated grocers are already requesting high efficiency fan motors,” says Roberts.

Finally, Hierlmeier see a physical design change in the works for display cases. He thinks the issue of undercase cleanability will lead to the changes in bases of cases. “It may seem mundane,” he says, “but grocers and owners, faced with stricter health department inspection criteria, will push for it, and manufacturers will have to adapt the undercase wiring and piping designs to accommodate it.”

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