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Grocery Retail Industry: Energy efficiencies, preventative measures and securing the lifespan of your equipment

Author: Darren A. Cooper, P.Eng, LEED® AP, CBCP, President Renteknik Group Inc.

Commercial buildings offer many opportunities for companies
to reduce energy usage that can save them money while also decreasing
greenhouse gas (GHG) and other polluting emissions. Grocery Retail
refrigeration is one sector with various energy-efficiency and
emission-reducing investment options.

The total climate impact of grocery refrigeration is even
greater when refrigerant gases are considered. Current refrigeration equipment
relies on high global warming potential (GWP) hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) –
relative to other greenhouse gases (GHGs), they ultimately can trap more heat
in the atmosphere, as coolants.

Grocery refrigeration and freezer units are the heart of
every grocery retail business. Keeping these units cleaned on a regular basis
and in proper working order is imperative in ensuring efficiencies, equipment
failure and the safety, quality and well-being of the food and the store

Cleaning and taking care of all the components of a
refrigeration system can result in a much greater life span. It could potentially
mean an extra expense up front, however extending the lifespan of the equipment
and providing customers with a clean environment will ultimately save the
business money, cutting costs in the long run!

A Healthy Refrigeration Unit

Maintenance and keeping all mechanical parts clean on a regular, scheduled basis, is the primary step in a healthy unit. The sanitation of refrigeration units involves more than keeping the outside surfaces and appearance sparkling clean for all customers.

Cleaning the inner workings of the refrigeration unit is even more important. If proper sanitation and temperatures of the equipment are not regulated and maintained, microorganisms can grow, affecting the safety and quality of the food products sold in the cases. “Two main factors that can affect and lead to growth of harmful bacteria in refrigeration cases are: temperature and the cleanliness of the cases themselves,” says Darren Cooper, President and P. Eng. of Renteknik Group Inc. “Establishing an effective refrigeration case sanitation regime and program is imperative in mitigating these types of risk factors,” says Cooper.

There are some sensitive areas of the cases that can potentially be damaged during cleaning if certain precautions are not taken. These include electrical components, such as fans, lighting and the interior evaporator coils. The electrical components are generally not designed to be flooded with extreme amounts of water and other harsh cleaning solutions. The evaporator coils are typically made of copper or aluminum, and these soft metals are susceptible to corrosion if acidic and alkaline cleaners are applied to the units.

Existing and Emerging Technologies and Approaches

New refrigeration technologies and approaches are slowly being integrated into the grocery sector, knowing there is a correlation with savings and payback. Some of the most popular approaches are as follows: implementation of high efficiency fan motors, recommissioning, cleaning, maintenance and repair, and adjusting store temperature.

A company out of Burlington, Ontario, called Bioteknik Environmental, offers an innovative solution and service, involving a high pressure super saturated steam technology and chemical free and organically derived technology which provides an environmentally friendly way to deep clean and restore equipment to optimal performance, providing peace of mind, shorter down times and yielding better results than traditional cleaning methods.

Not only can this new technology and approach restore and clean the refrigeration cases, it can also extend to other areas of the store, such as the rooftop condensers.

With Engineering support, such as recommissioning, optimization and measurement and verification it will ensure peace of mind, equipment longevity, customer satisfaction and quality of food along with a long-term savings.

Breaking It Down

There are several parts on a unit that should be cleaned regularly:

The external parts of the unit: Outside surfaces, doors, and gasket seals

The internal parts: Shelving, walls, doors

Mechanical components: The condenser coils, fan blades and motor, honeycombs, and air return vents.

Condenser coils: This is the most sensitive piece found in the refrigeration unit. The location of the coils varies from store to store, however asking your maintenance technician will help you locate the coils. This part should be cleaned at least once a month to keep it free of dust, dirt, build-up and lint. 

Fan blades and motor: These parts should also be cleaned on a regular, scheduled basis, typically once a month.

Honeycombs and Air return vents: These parts of the unit provide airflow and cold air and should be cleaned at least quarterly depending on the type of environmental exposure. It is essential to keep the honeycombs cleaned. Many times, this part of the unit can appear clean, however upon closer observation it may reveal dirt, mold, and slime clogging airflow holes and providing the perfect medium for unwanted microbial growth.

In conclusion

Establishing a preventive maintenance program is paramount to spotting potential problems before they become a troublesome reality. Routine inspection and maintenance of each refrigeration unit and equipment can prevent paying much more to fix the damage that may be caused further down the road. This will provide your customers the peace of mind and reliability they are looking for in a grocery store as well as provide your business with the peace of mind and cost savings, with reassurance that a plan is in place with adequate measure to ensure the longevity of your equipment, a sustainable business as well as some money back in your pocket! 

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