Contractingbusiness 910 1210 Rst Rsi Wilson

Custom Racks, Customer Service Define RSI’s Mission

Dec. 1, 2010
For this edition of RST Contractor Insights, Contracting spoke with Sam Wilson, founder/president, Refrigeration Solutions, Inc., Sacramento, CA.

Some refrigeration contractors might leap before they look. Not Sam Wilson. He devoted 30 years to working for other employers before he started his own business, Refrigeration Solutions, Inc., Sacramento, CA. By that time, he knew in which direction he wanted to move, and he certainly knew the technology, inside and out.

Now, Wilson is living his dream, and doing it his way — which is to provide solutions to things his customers need most: energy savings, reliable equipment, and responsive customer service. And by living that dream, he's helping prevent customer nightmares.

Wilson's refrigeration career began in 1979, when he earned a degree in mechanical and electrical technology from Sacramento City College. From there, he worked at a Tyler Refrigeration factory in Sacramento, assembling two-stage, open-drive refrigeration systems. One year later, he took to the field as a Tyler apprentice.

From there, he went to Hill Refrigeration (now Hill Phoenix), where he completed his apprenticeship. Hussmann was the next stop. For 22 years, Wilson serviced and installed Hussmann cases, and eventually shouldered foreman and project manager responsibilities.

Then, he knew it was time to take that leap.

"There were areas I wanted to venture into, ideas I wanted to try," he explains. "I felt that if I wanted to put my ideas to work, the best way to do that would be in my own company. I wanted to be more focused on preventive maintenance through maintenance contracts, and build a user-friendly customer atmosphere, by being proactive to customer needs."

Wilson is meeting all of those goals in a big way, so much so that he had to hire eight employees in 2010. He now employs 15 field technicians and five office support staffers. Should he need one or two more technicians in a pinch, the local union provides them.

For the moment, RSI's growth plan is determined by the customers who come knocking at the door. "I've hired people as necessary, as we've brought in more customers and projects; that plan has dictated the workload," Wilson says. "During the first few years of the business, I was waiting for the phone to ring. Now that we're doing more manufacturing, I'm being more active about moving into new markets."

RSI is a refrigeration service and installation business that specializes in commercial and industrial Design/Build refrigeration projects, including compressor racks, cold and frozen storage, and meat, produce, and production facilities. Services include the manufacture of compressor racks for cold storage and food processing customers, as well as grocery stores. (We first wrote about RSI in our October issue: read "Variable Speed Drives are 'Slow' Good For You")

"Every rack and refrigeration system we build is custom-engineered. The programs are also customized for what the customer needs," Wilson explains. "Each control panel is built for a specific customer. The sky's the limit on what we can offer. The energy savings has been great. We try to control temperature with saturated suction temp as much as possible. But, you can't have everything in the same group exactly alike, so we also use sensor and solenoid. We started building racks just for our customers, but we've been getting requests from other contractors and store owners," Wilson says. "We analyze what we think will be the best system, control-wise. Everything we do is variable speed."

A Good Time to Specialize
Waiting all those years before venturing out on his own in 2005 gave Wilson all the time he needed to master technical concepts, and the project management experience he gained at Hussmann helped him organize, prioritize, and become adept at customer relations and project fulfillment.

Wilson's experience also prepared him to be able to sort through the wide variety of refrigeration systems that are all the rage: variable speed, secondary loop, carbon dioxide, distributed. It takes sharp focus to analyze each system’s benefits for each individual customer.

"Twenty years ago, we had basically the same equipment year after year, and contractors designed to fit the store space," he recalls. "Horsepower considerations and application engineering were all that were required. Now, we have to consider the refrigerant's global warming potential (GWP), and energy usage. We also look closely at cost of ownership; what will it cost the customer to own a refrigeration system over the lifecycle of the equipment? With that in mind, we proceed to find the best application."

Sam Wilson says his goal at RSI is to create value for the customer. That's a simple mission statement, with big implications.

"Whatever we do that costs more money, we want them to believe they received great value for it. That it was money well spent," he says.

Now, having entered the manufacturing realm, Wilson has become more proactive about exploring new markets.

"We're exhibiting at the AHR Expo in January, to let people outside of our regional market know we're here for custom variable speed drives," Wilson says. Refrigeration Solutions, Inc. can be found online at

Pressure Controls

Q: What purpose do pressure controls serve?

A: There are two main categories of pressure controls: high pressure and low pressure. These controls may be individual or combined into one control.

The low pressure control's primary function is to shut the compressor off when the suction pressure becomes too low. This is to protect the compressor from overheating, and /or to protect the product from freezing.

The high pressure control is a safety control to protect the compressor from operating at excessive discharge pressures. The high pressure control should be pre-set by the manufacturer and should never be adjusted higher than the factory setting. Most have a stop to prevent it from being set higher in the field, although they may be adjusted to a lower setting. The control setting is determined by the refrigerant used in the system and its operating range, even though the same compressor may be used.

While high pressure controls may be either manual or automatic resettable, low pressure controls are almost always automatic. Some controls, such as Emerson’s line of controls, may be converted from automatic to manual in the field if desired.

There are other applications for pressure controls in refrigeration systems. These include condensor fan cycling, oil pressure safeties, and heat reclaim lock-out.

Copyright 2008 Emerson Climate Technologies, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.