Retrofits of refrigeration display cases with glass doors will lead to substantial energy savings, as it is anticipated that when carried out properly there will be a reduction in the overall case heat load by between 50-80% - when compared with open case performance.
Other system improvements such as upgrading to EC fan motors, installing LED energy-efficiency lighting, and raising case evaporating temperatures, can also reduce the heat load from the refrigerated display cases. it is important that the refrigeration system configuration is re-evaluated to match system operation to the load profile.
Improper reconfiguration of refrigeration systems is the predominant cause of case retrofit projects not delivering the expected results. Here, we take a look at some guidelines on how to properly reconfigure and re-commission refrigeration systems after retrofitting open cases with doors.
Let’s take a look…
The first step in properly reconfiguring the refrigeration system should consist of a thorough analysis of the load profile for the cases. Ideally, such system analysis would have been performed as part of the initial engineering assessment in the preplanning phase of the retrofit.
Perform a detailed analysis that accounts for periods of maximum customer traffic and adverse ambient conditions. Maximum heat load estimates will be necessary to ensure that the reconfigured refrigeration system is still capable of delivering the needed cooling capacity under the most extreme conditions that it will encounter so as to ensure product freshness and food safety.
When working with refrigeration systems, it is imperative that refrigerant leaks are prevented. Before any work requiring opening of the refrigeration system, refrigerant should be evacuated from the affected portions of the system. Refrigerant evacuated from the system should be reclaimed and/or recycled as per the appropriate refrigerant handling guidelines and f-gas regulations.
Proper modification of the compressor packs and adjustment of refrigeration system controls constitutes one of the most significant and important aspects of the retrofit process. Installation of doors on open cases, which are traditionally the largest contributors to the refrigeration system heat load, will result in markedly different operating conditions for the compressor packs. Failure to properly re-commission the packs to best match the case loads will result in a mismatch between the load steps of the pack and the actual loads from the cases, resulting in excessive compressor cycling. This mode of operation is much less efficient than the higher-duty cycle operation typically observed when the refrigeration system is matched to the load. Moreover, the added stress of starting and stopping (short-cycling) can lead to excessive wear and tear on compressors, resulting in shortened operational life and additional repair costs.
In addition to performing any necessary modifications to the compressor packs and controls to accommodate the new refrigeration load, the refrigeration contractor should take this opportunity to thoroughly inspect the pack and related equipment for any existing damage or wear and perform the necessary maintenance or repairs to ensure optimum performance. Standard maintenance checks of the compressors, in accordance with the recommendations of the compressor manufacturer, should be performed.
The contractor coordinating the retrofit operation should examine the following areas related to the compressor packs and refrigeration system controls.
In many cases, the decreased load on the compressor pack due to the addition of display doors to open cases will necessitate physical changes to the packs in order to accommodate the modified refrigeration characteristics. Results of calculations of the case heat load under various sets of operating conditions, performed prior to case retrofit operations, should be the key driver for changes to the pack configurations.
In many cases, the reduction in peak heat load seen by the pack will be significant enough to warrant the disabling of one or more compressors on the pack. In this instance, care should be taken to ensure that the pack remains configured in a manner so as to provide appropriate capacity regulation in order to mitigate excessive compressor cycling and product temperature fluctuations. For example, on a pack with differently sized parallel compressors, it may be desirable to disable stages of the larger compressors first, while leaving the smaller ones in place to allow for more load control. Load steps should be compared against anticipated heat load increments, and further compressor changes may be required if the disparity is significant.
In addition to potential reconfiguration of the compressors themselves, additional modifications may need to be made to the following pack components to ensure optimal performance:
• Oil return: Attention should be paid to the suction risers in ensuring proper oil return. If the risers are not properly sized, the rate of lubricant return may be insufficient and damage to the compressors could occur. In many cases, the existing risers will be sufficient. However, the design engineer overseeing the project should verify that this is the case in order to maintain proper performance. If warranted, changes to the risers should be made based on the type of system, depending on whether it has a double riser configuration, or uses an oil separation system. After the retrofit, the contractor should observe oil levels in the separator, reservoir, and/or crankcase to ensure that proper oil return is occurring.
• Refrigerant charge: Charge level should be checked at the receiver and adjusted to ensure agreement between the level of charge and the system’s needs after the retrofit.
• Receivers: Standard maintenance checks should be performed.
After the necessary physical alterations to the compressor packs are made, existing control systems should be recalibrated to ensure proper performance. Controls that should be examined by the commissioning engineer include:
• Variable-frequency drive (VFD) systems;
• Cylinder unloading;
• Building energy management systems (EMS);
• Defrost control systems; and
• Other control systems and schemes.
If the pack is equipped with the capacity to accommodate saturated gas defrosting of coils, the solenoid valve on the main liquid line or the discharge differential valves should be evaluated for compatibility with the new system operating parameters and adjusted or replaced if necessary.
If the pack contains the capacity to perform heat reclaim, calculations should be performed to evaluate the new heat output of the pack when operating in conjunction with the newly retrofitted cases. With reduced heat output, the existing heat reclaim coil could potentially prove to be oversized. If changes to the compressors have been made, this is likely.
The significant decrease in refrigeration load due to the addition of doors on cases has the potential to affect many components of the refrigeration system, including the refrigerant line runs and the case expansion valves. Generally, the existing liquid and suction lines will remain appropriate in size to serve the retrofitted cases. However, attention should be paid to the suction riser in order to ensure adequate refrigerant velocity, and thus proper oil return. The design engineer coordinating the case retrofit should conduct sufficiently detailed system evaluation and flow calculations to ensure that the line sizes utilized will be capable of properly returning a sufficient capacity of refrigerant and lubricant while maintaining the desired properties.
Expansion valves attached to each individual coil in the display cases serve the critical function of controlling coil superheat, and will require changes to accommodate the markedly different refrigerant flow properties precipitated by the change in the case configuration during the retrofit. For expansion valves with removable orifices, a compatible orifice properly sized for the new refrigerant flow level may be available. In other instances, expansion valves will need to be replaced altogether. During system analysis and modelling, the design engineer should analyse the anticipated heat loads and refrigerant flow conditions, and choose properly sized valves for each display case accordingly. It is anticipated that expansion valves will likely need to be reduced one or two sizes to ensure correct superheat control at reduced refrigerant flow rates and increased evaporator temperatures.
If electronic expansion valves are in place, generally the valves will not need to be altered. However, the valve manufacturer’s literature should be reviewed in order to ensure the valves’ compatibility with the new system configuration.
Additionally, each case line-up contains a solenoid valve or evaporator pressure regulator (EPR if fitted) used to control case temperature. Solenoid valves used in either the liquid or suction lines can generally be retained, provided that the sizing of the lines is evaluated as described above to ensure a proper operating pressure across the valve. However, due to the fact that the reduction in load created by the retrofit allows for higher case suction temperatures, an EPR is preferred for optimal performance. Existing EPRs should be checked for proper performance at the new case loads. If possible, the common suction temperature downstream of the EPR should be raised in order to further reduce the power input requirement at the compressor rack.
Supermarket refrigeration systems generally use separate air-cooled condensers, most often located on the rooftop of the building, to reject heat to the ambient environment. In many cases, excess condenser capacity will already be accounted for by existing control and operation schemes. However, in some instances, removal of excess condenser capacity may be warranted. Additionally, operators in climates experiencing extreme winter cold or high summer temperatures should consider climatic factors when making modifications to their condensers.
The discharge riser (the piping from the compressor rack outlet to the condenser) should be evaluated for proper sizing based upon the new system operating parameters. In many cases, the existing sizing will be adequate. However, if the retrofits were significant enough to create a sufficient impact on the given system, the line may need to be resized in order to ensure sufficient lubricant return to the compressor pack.
Condensers equipped with a head pressure control device, which regulates the head pressure to prevent it from falling below optimal condensing pressure during low ambient temperature conditions should be checked and resized if necessary.
If the condenser features subcooling and the drop in case heat load is sufficient, the subcooler and the associated expansion valves may need to be resized.
In systems featuring condensing units, with a single display case being served by a dedicated remote condensing unit, the issue of load reduction is likely to have a more pronounced impact than in multiplex pack systems. This is due to the fact that the single condensing unit operates on demand based solely on the conditions in the case served, and is originally sized to the anticipated load of the case. Whereas a pack system often can be modified in a fairly straightforward manner to accommodate lower case loads (such as through disconnecting a compressor or adjusting existing controls), this may not be possible using the existing equipment in a dedicated remote-condensing unit. If the unit is left to run as is with a case load that is 50 percent or more below that for which it was originally designed, the condensing unit will be grossly oversized, and the result will be frequent compressor cycling. This will result in highly inefficient operation due to the high number of compressor and condenser fan starts and stops, as well as possible shortening of refrigerated product lifetime due to rapid warming and cooling cycles.
In light of the resulting discrepancy between case heat load and condensing unit capacity after a retrofit, one of two measures could be employed in order to bring the two values closer together. The first of these would be the employment of a suction line crankcase regulator or similar control device to hold the refrigerant flow so that the condensing unit experiences a reduced impact due to the decrease in load. However, since this step enables the condensing unit to operate in a manner similar to which it did with an open case, this means that the full energy savings will not be realized. Another measure, if feasible based on the physical size and location of the cases, is the consolidation of multiple cases onto single condensing units. In this instance, a condensing unit that was originally sized to operate a single display case could be reconfigured to serve two cases through rerouting of refrigerant piping and other adjustments. Proper calculations should be carried out in order to ensure that the existing condensing unit is capable of accommodating the peak loads of multiple cases.
Retrofit operations, by design, have the intended result of significantly changing the electrical demand profiles of the display cases and refrigeration systems. Case electrical consumption may be reduced due to changes in lighting and fan power, while a compressor pack reconfigured for retrofitted cases may use, even in peak operation, far less electricity than it previously needed. While this is desirable from an energy-efficiency and cost-reduction standpoint, care must be taken to ensure that the building electrical system is still correctly sized for the refrigeration equipment per the relevant building regulations and safety codes. For example, existing circuit breakers may be grossly oversized and may not trip even in the case of an overload situation, which could present a serious safety hazard. A qualified engineer should be consulted to ensure that all building codes and electrical safety requirements are met, and that the building electricity supply and connections are properly sized for the new operating profile of the system. Display cases and refrigeration systems are generally labelled in a manner that reflects the necessary certification of the equipment. Changes to the physical composition of the cases by way of component swaps and additions, as well as changes to the case electrical system, would likely require recertification with these bodies. Similarly, any changes to the components of the pack may require recertification.
Any work to the sealed portion of the refrigeration system will have required evacuation of the refrigerant in the system previous to the modifications being performed. Prior to restarting the system, the commissioning engineer should ensure that the areas of the system that have been evacuated are properly recharged to the necessary levels using the appropriate refrigerant. Particular attention should be paid to any system modifications that could result in a change in the required refrigerant charge. For example, due to the load reductions on the system, each case’s evaporator coil may require an increased charge, resulting in a need to add more refrigerant to the entirety of the system before it is returned to service.
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BSRIA (owned by The Building Services Research and Information Association) has published a new guide to commissioning air systems.
The new Commissioning Air Systems guide explains how to commission ducted air distribution systems in buildings. The commissioning process mainly comprises the setting to work of the system fans and the regulation (or proportional balancing) of system flow rates.
This new guide (BG49/2013) now replaces Commissioning Air Systems (AG 3/89.3) and Commissioning of VAV systems in buildings (AG 1/91). It explains how to commission ducted air distribution systems in buildings. The commissioning process mainly comprises the setting to work of the system fans and the regulation (or proportional balancing) of system flow rates.
A new edition of Commissioning Air Systems has been published for several reasons. Amendments to Part F and Part L of the Building Regulations require newly installed ventilation systems to comply with new standards and that reasonable provision for commissioning be made in order that systems don’t use too much fuel or power. Environmental assessment methods such as BREEAM, LEED and DREAM have focused the minds of building owners, operators, developers and designers on the benefits of a proficient, professional commissioning process. Technological advances in plant and equipment have also resulted in increasing importance being placed on commissioning.
This guide explains how to carry out procedures in order to comply with the standards outlined in CIBSE Commissioning Code A Air Distribution Systems (which sets out the normal standards of good practice accepted by the building services industry).
Hard copies of the guide are now available for purchase at http://www.bsria.co.uk/
This blog article is brought to you by Fridgehub – a major new industry website for manufacturers, distributers, service providers, operators and consumers of refrigeration, air conditioning and heat-pump (RACHP) products and services.
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