Refrigeration systems are a vital part of the modern world, used everywhere from industrial manufacturing to food processing to residential and commercial air-conditioning. Today, the world of refrigeration systems is becoming more and more tightly regulated. Such regulations ultimately act to increase sustainability, while lowering energy consumption, and this has enormous impacts on those of us in the foodservice industry.
Facility owners must take a number of different factors into consideration when designing a custom refrigeration system to meet their needs. While these factors are weighted differently from project to project, they all form a core part of a refrigeration system's make-up.
In their recent Guide for Sustainable Refrigerated Facilities and Refrigerated Systems, the American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, or ASHRAE, developed a scorecard and a set of qualitative and quantitative metrics to help operations achieve their scores.
Here are six of the most important factors to consider:
First and foremost, a refrigeration system must meet basic safety standards in four areas. First, there is the safety of the particular refrigerant used, in terms of its flammability, toxicity, and other potential hazards. Next, the safety of the system itself must be considered in order to protect it against accidental damage.
Third, the safety risks of the equipment must be considered. For instance, ceiling-hung evaporators present a potential safety hazard, in the event that they come loose. Finally, the operating charge — in other words, the amount of refrigerant in the system — also influences overall safety. Simply put, the greater the operating charge, the more significant the risk.
Most of today's sustainable design philosophy is meant to decrease the environmental risks posed by a refrigeration system. Perhaps the most important factor here is the refrigerant you choose. Refrigerants are rated in terms of their global warming potential, or GWP. The higher the GWP of a refrigerant, the more of an environmental threat it poses.
Likewise, you must consider the overall refrigerant system's total equivalent warning impact, or TEWI. The TEWI rating expresses the system's carbon footprint, and encompasses such factors as the potential impact of refrigerant leakage and the energy consumption of the equipment. Water use must also be considered, as this can increase the environmental toll of systems that use large amounts of water for heat-rejection.
Refrigeration technology has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. Yet the newer the technology, the more risks it brings in terms of breakdowns and troubleshooting. Older, more well-developed technology, by contrast, tends to be much more predictable in terms of its long-term performance, as well as its potential issues.
You must also consider the expected life of the equipment used. Different types of refrigeration systems have drastically different lifespans. For instance, unitary systems tend to have much shorter life expectancies than built-up systems. The stability and customer support of the technology manufacturer should also be heavily weighted.
As when investing in any type of equipment, you must carefully account for all costs involved when designing a sustainable refrigeration system. Such costs include the capital costs associated with the equipment itself, as well as any structural or construction costs. You must also account for the cost of the refrigerant, as well as the costs of operating and maintaining the system.
Operations and Maintenance
A refrigeration system must also be tailored to meet your specific operations and maintenance needs. Key factors here include the complexity of the system, its potential for redundancy, its overall space footprint, its serviceability, and its ability to accommodate future expansion. This category aims to predict as accurately as possible any future costs and difficulties associated with the system.
Refrigeration systems are subject to a large number of regulations, which govern everything from their construction, their environmental effects, to their operating standards. If you fail to account for all such regulations, you may find yourself faced with stiff penalties down the line. For this reason, it is always best to let an experienced professional guide you through the planning process.