New H-E-B Store Features Propane Refrigeration System

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New H-E-B Store Features Propane Refrigeration System


H-E-B has opened a new 83,000-square-foot store as part of the redevelopment of the old Austin, Texas airport site – with the focus of the entire redevelopment project on sustainability and energy efficiency from the retail stores to the family housing units. The grocer is working with refrigerated products and solutions provider Hussmann on the project.

“It is just the way we operate our business,” said Bill Triplett, VP planning, design and construction for the San Antonio-based grocer. “Our vision is to move faster, save energy and be sustainable. HC refrigerants have my attention and I want to move H-E-B in a different direction away from CFCs.”

H-E-B had four requirements from the refrigeration design: energy efficiency, simplicity (design and install), sustainability and reliability. “Our ultimate goal with this project is a 70 percent energy reduction from all the store systems,” said Charlie Wernette, director of engineering, H -E-B. “We believe that a R290 hydrocarbon (propane) system will achieve approximately 50 percent energy reduction compared to our typical store refrigeration load. Based on the tests and analysis we have conducted to date, we believe that the actual sustainability and energy reductions will far exceed any measurement used today by LEED and GreenChill. In addition, we wanted to find another natural refrigerant alternative as we are not convinced that CO2 is the long term solution for H-E-B.”

H-E-B and Hussmann started working together in October 2011 to identify the design criteria and specifications to use propane for a majority of the refrigerated display cases in the store. “Keeping in mind H-E-B’s four requirements, we have designed and engineered a propane system that will enable them to achieve their energy reduction goals while maintaining a safe, shopper friendly environment,” said Phil Evans, SVP engineering, Hussmann. “We look forward to getting the store operational so that we can closely monitor the performance and evaluate our proof of concept with this first store.”

Wernette added: “It is very important to H-E-B that our natural refrigerant solution meets our sustainability and lower GWP objectives, but we also want a simple design that is easy to install, similar to your home refrigerator where it is delivered, plugged in and works for 15-20 years without having to think about it. We think this system achieves our energy and sustainability objectives. In addition, we believe that because of the design, we may realize other cost saving benefits; such as, collapsed construction cycle time resulting in our ability to get new stores on board more quickly than ever before.”

According to Norm Street, Hussmann’s director of new technology development, Hussmann worked closely with H-E-B and several U.S. government and safety agencies in developing the regulations and approval processes to enable the safe use of propane in a supermarket application. This included optimizing equipment designs based on EPA limitations of 150 grams per system. “Hussmann’s unique and innovative methods secured timely design validation, risk assessment and approvals that met or exceeded H-E-B’s expectations,” said Street. “In view of the fact that we were using propane, safety was always our top priority -- from the store personnel, to the customers in the store, as well as the perishables in the refrigerated display merchandisers.”