Supermarket HVAC — heating, ventilation, air conditioning — is making significant strides in efficiency and sustainability.
Shoppers and employees alike rarely notice the literal atmosphere in today's supermarkets as they go about their various missions, which is as it should be, notwithstanding the vital role a store's temperature and humidity levels play in a successful retail operation.
This mostly unnoticed environment is due largely to HVAC systems and their increasingly sophisticated and efficient operations, on duty around the clock to provide a pleasant and healthy shopping and working ambiance.
Today's supermarket HVAC systems are the result of extensive ongoing research and development by manufacturers, and Progressive Grocer recently queried several leading suppliers about the changes in supermarket HVAC over the years, the latest technological advances, the impact of the green movement on the HVAC industry, the popularity of particular systems, and the future of supermarket HVAC.
Trane solutions have been incorporated into supermarket applications for over 50 years, according to Dennis Lane of Trane national accounts in Dallas, who says that the company, a business of Ingersoll Rand, works with many major grocers, including Whole Foods, Sprouts, Albertsons and Hy-Vee.
“The growing trend of including foodservice departments within supermarkets has added to the complexity of HVAC design and its integration with refrigeration systems within a store,” Lane points out. “For instance, many supermarkets now have increased full-service dining and food preparation facilities on site. These facilities can be challenging to maintain, as they require balancing temperature and humidity requirements between the foodservice and refrigerated perishable departments. The HVAC and refrigeration systems must work in unison to provide a comfortable shopping environment, while optimizing space conditions to allow for efficient operation of the HVAC system and the refrigerated merchandisers.”
Recent technological advances developed by Trane focus on the stringent needs of the supermarket environment via CDQ (Cool, Dry, Quiet) desiccant technology that can be used in a rooftop air-handling unit coupled with reheat from the refrigeration system. “This solution can allow the store to maintain appropriate temperature and humidity to optimize the refrigerated merchandisers,” Lane says. “This can result in fewer defrost cycles and allows doors to stay clear rather than gather frost.”
He notes that commercial kitchens have become a mainstay in the modern supermarket, and that the use of the dedicated outdoor air unit from Trane can eliminate the need for unconditioned makeup air units, and combine both the makeup air system and kitchen HVAC system into a single packaged unit. The resulting solution can deliver an improved employee working environment and substantial energy savings.
“The new Trane Dedicated Outdoor Air Unit (TOAU) has really had an impact on the design of the high-performance grocery environment by allowing each food preparation and dining area to operate separately without negatively impacting the overall HVAC system,” affirms Lane, adding that the TOAU operates by digitally throttling neutral air based on individual exhaust hoods. “This allows primary systems to maintain comfort and proper humidity set points to maintain refrigerated merchandiser case humidity,” he notes.
In the future, Trane expects to see advanced systems on the integrated building controls side. “Integration of refrigeration controls into HVAC building controls can provide numerous comfort and energy advantages,” Lane says, noting that incorporating these “integrated systems across the enterprise platforms will pay big dividends in optimizing store fleet performance in real time.”
Greg Alcorn, VP of commercial sales and marketing, residential and commercial systems at Carrier Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Farmington, Conn.-based United Technology Corp., says that a challenge for the supermarket industry is maintaining indoor comfort for shoppers while ensuring ideal temperatures for food stability, and that Carrier has developed the Humidi-MiZer adapative dehumidification system to address this issue. “In addition,” he continues, “Carrier large rooftops offer a variable capacity compressor option that allows the Carrier air conditioning system to precisely match the cooling needs of the space to the refrigerating effect of the equipment. This allows the system to operate efficiently and produce a constant supply of conditioned air to the space.”
The Humidi-MiZer system is available on select Carrier Weather Series packaged rooftops from 3 to 100 tons as an all-inclusive factory-installed and certified option, Alcorn says. It provides up to 35 percent more moisture removal than conventional hot-gas reheat systems. “Supermarkets in particular can benefit from this technology, as high humidity levels can cause inefficient operation of heating and cooling systems,” he notes. “In addition, high humidity levels can result in frost on cases and product, which impacts sales.”
“All Weather Series units can be utilized with Carrier's i-Vu Open controller that provides Internet communication links between locations and allows operations to be monitored,” Alcorn points out. “With this capability, service can be called even before the store has detected a problem. This feature allows integration with other building systems, including things like lighting.”
He says that they're popular in the supermarket industry because they're cost-effective and energy-efficient, as well as easy to install, operate and maintain.
Addressing green issues, Alcorn observes that Carrier set energy reduction goals in its factories two decades ago and was the first in the HVAC industry toral refrigerant,” he says. “Further, Carrier is the only company in the world to be a founding member of the U.S., India, Argentina, China and Singapore Green Building Councils.”
Lennox Extends ‘Value Chain’ With Kysor/Warren Acquisition
Lennox International, a global leader in the heating, air conditioning and refrigeration markets, recently signed a definitive agreement with The Manitowoc Co. Inc. to acquire its Kysor/Warren business.
Based in Columbus, Ga., Kysor/Warren is a leading manufacturer of refrigerated systems and display cases for supermarkets throughout North America. Total consideration for the acquisition was $138 million.
“Refrigeration is a core business for us, with solid long-term performance,” said Todd Bluedom, CEO of Richardson, Texas-based Lennox International, noting that the acquisition of the Kysor/Warren business supports its growth strategy in the refrigeration market and extends the value chain to supermarket customers.
Lennox International's international refrigeration business, Heatcraft Worldwide Refrigeration, manufactures commercial refrigeration products under the Kysor/Warren, Bohn, Larkin, Climate Control, Chandler and InterLink brands.
In the future, according to Alcorn, Carrier “will continue to look for ways to expand our service scope from traditional air conditioning equipment and building automation systems to comprehensive sustainable building and energy management for both new and existing buildings.”
Lee Churchill, VP of sales for Douglasville, Ga.-based Seasons-4 — which manufactures packaged HVAC systems for food retailers like Safeway, Harris Teeter, Stop & Shop and Whole Foods — says that supermarket HVAC systems are now using new HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) refrigerants, achieving higher energy efficiency ratios, higher rates of ventilation, and more efficient variable frequency drives on motors.
He notes that, using Copeland's digital compressors, Seasons-4 is implementing its Dual Path design to an increasing number of retailers. The Dual Path system treats the ventilation air with a separate cooling system that's optimized for varying weather conditions. The heating is supplemented by employing waste heat from the supermarket's refrigeration system and packaged into one unit, according to Churchill.
Looking ahead, Churchill sees smarter HVAC operation that will vary mechanical equipment to optimize performance as weather conditions change.