In a world in which glitzy new technology gets headlines, simply removing bits and pieces of everyday debris from condenser coils seems trivial. However, the savings such a step can lead to certainly isn’t.
Richard Fennelly, the Director of Product Development for CoilPod LLC says that there is not a lot of research on how much money can be saved, but all signs point to a significant amount. It also is a distasteful job that often gets pushed aside.
The condensers coils that are at the heart of cooling equipment need to be cooled. This cooling is provided by a fan that draws in air. That air carriers minute pieces of debris along for the ride.
The vents get clogged and the fan must work harder to do its job. This causes three problems: The fans use more electricity and therefore are costlier to run, they require more service calls and, ultimately, many fail. Often, these failures result in ruined inventory.
Addressing this problem leads relatively easy gains. The greatest are “grab and go” type refrigerator units common in delicatessens and convenience stores since they are in high trafficked public areas. Fennelly, whose company offers a new approach to condenser coil cleaning, pointed to statistics compiled by the Food Service Technology Center (FSTC) and presented at the Restaurant Facility Managers Association and Commercial Food Equipment Service Association conferences last year.
The estimates, which presumably are based on refrigeration devices the FSTC found in the field, are predicated on an electric rate of $0.11 per kWh. A six-year-old double door merchandiser costs $1,325 per year when dirty. Operating expense is cut to $625 – a reduction of 47 percent – when the coils are cleaned. A large double door fridge (age unspecified) cost $950 per year to run. That cost is shaved by 46 percent, to $433, when the coils are cleaned. The other examples are in the same range.
Fennelly said that food service technicians often say that the most common cause of service calls are problems that arise from clogged condenser coil housings. Typically, the approach to cleaning debris is to use a brush, vacuum or wetvac. These steps are a good start but, ultimately ineffective because the problems often are deeper in the apparatus and can’t be dislodged in this way.
The most effective approach is to dislodge blockages with compressed air. It is quick and effective, but creates a toxic cloud that is unpleasant and unhealthy. Energy managers, store owners or technicians who use this approach generally attempt to capture the dislodged debris by placing a damp towel on the other side of the housing.
The common sense step that CoilPod has taken is to enclose apparatus in a plastic bag. There are two ports. One enables the compressed air source or wetvac to blast or draw debris from deep in the housing. The other port can be closed or used for a vacuum that sucks up the debris. The big advantage is that the debris is does not contaminate the surroundings.
The numbers are scarce, but they suggest that focusing on condenser housing cleaning is a big deal. Fennelly said that the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says that there are approximately 27 million condenser coil cases in the United States. A study by Foster Refrigerator, a company in the United Kingdom, estimated that it is possible that the openings of these housings – which are sometimes referred to as heat fins – can close by 95 percent in a year. Clearly, a great deal of energy savings (and inconvenience) can be realized by paying attention to the issue.