Everything is Cool: Refrigeration Sector Reduces Energy Use


refrigerationIt’s not surprising that refrigeration, a huge user of energy, is front and center in an era in which efficiency is the name of the game. “Energy consumption, and thus the lack of efficiency in central refrigeration systems, is increasingly becoming a focus for policy-making bodies, both in industry and at the state regulatory level, and by utilities,” Amrit Robbins, the president of Axiom Energy, told Energy Manager Today. “Given that these systems run 24x7x365, are highly energy-intensive, and pretty standard in terms of design and implementation, they present a huge target for energy-efficiency gains.”

There will be no shortage of energy efficient equipment. The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) estimates that new standards will lead during the next 30 years for commercial refrigerators and freezers to reduce energy consumption by about 340 kilowatt-hours and save businesses $12 billion. These standards will reduce carbon emissions by 142 million metric tons, which is the equivalent of 30 million cars. The numbers were cited by Erich Munzner, a Principal for Evolution Mechanical, Co-Founder and President of Ecotech Refrigeration & HVAC and Co-Founder and vice president of Business Development for EcoTrack Asset Management Systems.

The key, therefore, is to find a path to realizing those savings. Earlier this month, The Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM) released a white paper written by Munzner that focuses on how to select, operate and maintain refrigeration units. The press release points out that the first responsibility of those charged with refrigeration is to ensure that food borne illnesses are prevented. A second priority is achieving the first with as little cost as possible.

The market overall is expanding, not just the portion dedicated to energy efficient equipment. In August, P&S Research released a study that said that the worldwide commercial refrigeration market will grow from $29.56 billion last year to $40.9 billion in 2020. That represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.7 percent.

In developing countries, the current dynamic is to find the most efficient way of doing something that will be done in any case. In developing economies, however, refrigeration is a matter of life and death. P&S cites numbers from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers: In developing economies – including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (the BRIC countries) – one quarter of overall food production was wasted last year due in large part to inappropriate refrigeration. In Africa, about half of food and vegetables were wasted due to scarcity of equipment.

Therefore, increasing the efficiency of refrigeration is an important element of both the cost structure of buildings and, in the bigger picture, keeping people from starving. Munzner outlined several elements of a strategy aimed at finding the most energy efficient refrigeration equipment that fits the user’s needs for Energy Manager Today.

The first step is to establish a baseline including elements such as usage, current efficiency metrics and actions. The ensuing game plan includes finding utility incentives and ensuring that DoE, ASHARE 90.1, International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and state and local efficiency standards are being followed. Munzner added that in January 2014 ASHRAE published “Refrigeration Commissioning Guide for Commercial and Industrial Systems.” The document, he wrote, “is proving to be a pretty valuable tool for new systems, expansions, remodels, and existing systems in need of efficiency upgrades,”

Clearly, refrigeration is a big target for efficiency efforts. A trip through a neighborhood grocery store illustrates to even the uninitiated how much energy is wasted. The only things that are needed are attention and, perhaps, a bit of money. “Manufacturers are now required to meet minimum energy efficiency standards,” Munzner wrote. “Therefore, any discrepancies could be borne from improper design and application or possibly cost barriers to purchase higher efficiency equipment. For instance, open display cases account for about 10% of supermarket refrigeration systems. Retro-fitting these systems or purchasing systems with high-efficiency glass door cases could potentially cut energy consumption by more than 50% per unit in some instances.”

Vendors rush in where there is significant opportunity, and increasing efficiency in commercial refrigeration is a very promising area. Two examples: Axiom markets the Refrigeration Battery, which it says can reduce a supermarket’s peak power usage by 40 percent and provide cooling during power outages. QM Power’s Q-Sync Smart Synchronous Motor is said by the company to reduce energy consumption by 80 percent compared legacy motors. The company chose refrigeration as the first market for the motor.

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