For refrigeration units to have a positive environmental impact, it is imperative to control the energy usage of the system. In other words, you need to ensure the system can be cooled to the temperatures you require with the minimum amount of energy. The general rule is that between 75 and 85% of a refrigeration system’s carbon footprint comes from its energy consumption, so keeping the system maintained and ensuring leakages and energy losses are kept to a minimum, is the key to making the system cost-effective.
In a similar way to how our homes become more expensive to heat if we have poor insulation, or window seals and doors in poor condition or left open unnecessarily, good control and operation of a refrigeration system can lead to ongoing savings in addition to diligent environmental management.
Under the EU’s F-Gas Regulations – the implementation of which is not affected by the recent BREXIT vote – it is important that we select refrigerants with a reduced global warming potential (GWP), and this applies also to air conditioning systems. These regulations have led to rapid developments in new refrigerants, with alternatives such as R407A, which is more energy efficient and is compatible with key system components such as compressors, lubricants, pipework, heat exchangers and valves. Managers should already be aware of the F-Gas Regulations and their responsibilities in phasing out high GWP refrigerants, but they should also be aware that new options need to be compatible and beneficial to the existing system.
Designing the right system
However, the key responsibility for managers is to ensure that a refrigeration system is designed, installed, commissioned and maintained to operate at maximum efficiency. It is very easy to ‘over-specify’ a system, which can lead to leakage, refrigerant loss and poor heat-load management. Taking the advice of industry experts can therefore save you a huge amount of investment costs, but will also lead to ongoing energy savings and prudent environmental management.
Some off-the-shelf systems may be suitable to your organisation, but taking good industry advice can lead to custom-designed systems that in the longer term will result in more significant benefits. There are so many variables to take into account – from refrigerant types and compressor technology to types of condensing and control system design – that only an expert looking at your individual circumstances and operations can properly design and propose a system perfectly tailored to your needs.
Robinsons have years of experience in this field and we have qualified personnel available to advise and work with you to design a system that suits your organisational requirements. But getting a refrigeration system installed is only half the battle when we are looking at its energy-saving potential. Controlling the system’s efficiency and guarding against breakdown can only be assured through a good maintenance programme.
We have trained and qualified technicians who can work with F-Gas equipment and materials and can set up and control an ongoing maintenance schedule, incorporating periodic checks, monitoring and preventive measures. Only by ensuring the general health of the system in this way can we reduce power consumption, extend equipment life and avoid costly downtime. Outsourcing this task to Robinsons not only gives you expert critical advice and support, but also provides a trained pair of eyes that can spot very simple solutions like an old door gasket leaking air or defective hinges meaning air is escaping, as well as proposing more significant system improvements where necessary.
For the future, Robinsons’ industry knowledge means we keep abreast of new technologies, and can maybe suggest new solutions to suit how your organisation is changing, for example, you may become busier so need a refrigeration system that adapts to having more people in the immediate environment, or there is a simple change in the ambient temperature.
We are also monitoring advancements in control measures such as heat recovery, which is becoming very popular in the UK. Heat exchanger technology and the use of heat pumps is being incorporated into more and more new refrigeration systems, in order to secure escaping heat from the condenser and re-use it to provide hot water or for heating the air.
Increasingly, reduced downtime and the energy efficiency of a refrigeration system is critical to an organisation, and this can only be achieved through appropriate design and commissioning, preventive maintenance and the use of new, smart technologies.