The next time you pop into your favourite patisserie, coffee shop or sushi bar, and find yourself salivating at the mouthwatering display of food and drinks in the chilled-serve over counters, spare a thought for the maintenance engineers who are regularly called out to clean and repair these refrigerated displays.
One of the major causes of refrigerator inefficiency or failure is dirty or clogged condenser coils. This results in restricted airflow throughout the system and will require the refrigerators to work harder and consume more electricity in order to maintain the optimum temperatures necessary to avoid food spoilage.
Refrigeration unit with air intake at ground level
It’s not just the smaller sized high-street chains of coffee and sandwich shops that are affected by refrigeration inefficiencies. Research from the Journal of Applied Thermal Engineering suggests that the UK’s retail food outlets are responsible for approximately 3% of total electrical energy consumption. Refrigeration accounts for a major percentage of in-store electricity demand ranging from 25% – 30% for larger hypermarkets to over 60% for food-dominant convenience stores. The report concludes that if those stores with above average energy usage reduced their consumption to industry-wide average levels through implementing energy conservation measures, then an additional 10% electrical energy savings could be achieved. This represents around 840 GWh of electricity and a reduction of 355,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions if applied to all the stores of the major retail food chains in the UK.
One of the quickest and simplest ways to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption is to ensure a regular maintenance schedule for refrigerated display cabinets is carried out. It’s essential for condensers and evaporators to be kept clean and to ensure fans and defrost systems are working correctly.
The guidance also stresses the importance of avoiding any build up of dirt or debris on the air-intake components. Irregular cleaning schedules can potentially damage a refrigeration unit, resulting in downtime, loss of business and a hefty repair bill. In short, regularly cleaning condenser coils will maintain compressor efficiency, saving energy and money.
To avoid expensive maintenance schedules and prolong the life of sensitive refrigeration equipment, many retail outlets are recognising the benefits of using external air intake filters. This allows regular retail staff to remove and clean them as part of their daily cleaning schedule. Air intake screens, such as the type fitted by RAB Specialist Engineers, can be positioned on the outside of metal air intake louvres thanks to a unique magnetic fixing design.The filters then become easily accessible from the outside without having to pay engineers to have displays turned off and dismantled in order to retrieve them.
Having heard about the benefits, several food and drink outlets closer to home are now trialling the filters across their stores. SohoCoffee Co. is an independent, privately owned, Fairtrade business with 24 storesthroughout the UK. The company prides itself on its green credentials and is working on several initiatives with its partners to lower its carbon footprint.Reducing energy consumption is one of its goals and so the company is currently trialling air intake filter screens in Cheltenham and Bristol.
Commenting on the trials Pete Manuel, property director for Soho Coffee Co. said:
“We run large display cabinets in busy thoroughfaresin shopping centres, all of which take a real hammering from dust ingress. Weare trialling these filters in our Cheltenham and Bristol stores to prevent thechiller mechanisms being over loaded with dust, consequently causing highticket repairs and excessive energy use. Initial indicators show that these air intake filter screens are proving to be veryeffective in separating nearly all dust from whirling into the chillercomponents.An additional benefit is that team members are able to remove thesefilters completely, allowing the dust and dirt be easily cleaned off away fromselling areas and customer traffic.”
With energy prices rising and businesses forced to make savings, retail managers from smaller high-street outlets through to major UK supermarket chains are looking at innovative ways to make cuts and reduce energy consumption. While regular maintenance schedules are essential for keeping equipment running efficiently, steps can be taken to reduce these costly regimes that may involve shutting down refrigeration equipment or carrying out expensive repairs during trading hours.
Fitting external air intake filter screens will allow essential cleaning to take place without incurring the costs of specialist refrigeration firms. Clogging of air intake vents caused by outside debris can be avoided and help extend the life of sensitive refrigeration equipment.
The next time you are in your favourite supermarket look at the air intake on the bottom of the refrigeration unit and you will see how dirty it is.