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Industrial Refrigeration

BEST PRACTICES GUIDE


Industrial Refrigeration
Best Practices Guide
December 2007 (2nd revision)

Prepared by
Cascade Energy Engineering, Inc.
6½ N. Second Ave, Suite 310
Walla Walla, Washington 99362
www.cascadeenergy.com

With support from

529 SW Third Avenue, Suite 600


Portland, Oregon 97204
(800) 411-0834
The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance’s (NEEA) mission is to make the Northwest more energy efficient for the
benefit of electric ratepayers. NEEA works in alliance with utilities to catalyze the marketplace to adopt energy-
efficient products and services. NEEA’s industrial initiative works with food-processing and pulp-and-paper
companies to support them in permanently integrating strategic energy management into their business operations.

Distribution support from


For ordering information, please call
1-800-720-6823
Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide

Primary Authors
Marcus Wilcox, Rob Morton, Josh Bachman, Dan Brown: Cascade Energy Engineering

Document Design and Editing


Jeff Jansen: Modest Systems
Ecos

Technical Illustration
Elaine Giraud: SeeFigureOne

Document Concept, Contributing Author, and Project Management


Steven Scott: Strategic Energy Group
Heidi Sickert: Ecos

Technical Reviewers
Greg Jourdan: Wenatchee Valley College
Anthony Radspieler and Steve Greenberg: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Doug Reindl: Industrial Refrigeration Consortium
Michael Steur: Hixson, Inc.

Manufacturer Photographs and Graphics


Advanced Freezer, APV, Baltimore Air Coil, Cherry-Burrell, Colmac, Evapco, FES, Frick, Hansen,
Honeywell, Imeco, Mercoid, Mueller, Mycom, Northstar, Sporlan, Vilter, Vogt, York

Copyright
© 2007 Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Inc. All rights reserved. Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance grants permission to
reproduce this material in whole or in part only for information or education purposes.

ISBN: 0-9721077-9-7

Disclaimer
This Guide was prepared by Cascade Energy Engineering for the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. Neither the Northwest
Energy Efficiency Alliance nor any of its contractors, subcontractors, or employees, makes any warranty, expressed or implied, or
assumes any legal liability of responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or
process disclosed within this Guide. This Guide and any examples described herein are intended to be general information and
guidelines concerning the subject matter, and are not recommendations with respect to any specific project or application.

ii Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide


Table of Contents
Table of Contents
List of Figures .....................................................................................................vi
List of Tables ....................................................................................................viii
CHAPTER 1
Introduction ........................................................................................................1
Background .......................................................................................................................................1
Goals .................................................................................................................................................1
Focus on Industrial Refrigeration ......................................................................................................2
Road Map to this Best Practices Guide ............................................................................................. 3
CHAPTER 2
Best Practices Overview.....................................................................................5
The Scope of Refrigeration Best Practices ........................................................................................ 5
Life-Cycle Costs................................................................................................................................5
Energy Efficiency—“The Big Picture” ...............................................................................................6
How to Implement Best Practices .................................................................................................... 7
Benefits Beyond Energy ....................................................................................................................8
CHAPTER 3
Refrigeration System Basics.............................................................................10
Introduction ....................................................................................................................................10
Purpose of Refrigeration ..........................................................................................................10
Refrigerants..............................................................................................................................10
Basic Refrigeration Cycle ................................................................................................................ 11
Evaporation..............................................................................................................................11
Compression............................................................................................................................11
Condensing .............................................................................................................................. 11
Expansion.................................................................................................................................12
Two-Stage Cycle.............................................................................................................................12
Refrigeration Equipment ................................................................................................................. 13
Evaporators..............................................................................................................................13
Compressors ...........................................................................................................................21
Condensers..............................................................................................................................31
Vessels, Valves, Purgers, and Underfloor Heating ...................................................................34
Controls ...................................................................................................................................38
Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs)...........................................................................................42
CHAPTER 4
Best Practices for Equipment, Systems, and Controls ...................................46
Introduction ....................................................................................................................................46
Reducing Lift....................................................................................................................................46
Introduction .............................................................................................................................46
Increasing Suction Pressure ..................................................................................................... 46
Reducing Discharge Pressure...................................................................................................49
Barriers to Reducing Minimum Condensing Pressure .............................................................52
Improving Part-Load Performance ................................................................................................. 55
Introduction .............................................................................................................................55
Improving Evaporator Part-Load Performance .......................................................................55
Improving Compressor Part-Load Performance .....................................................................59

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide iii


Table of Contents
Improving Condenser Part-Load Performance........................................................................62
Upgrading Equipment .....................................................................................................................65
Introduction .............................................................................................................................65
Evaporator Coil Efficiency........................................................................................................ 65
Compressor Efficiency ............................................................................................................. 67
Condenser Efficiency ............................................................................................................... 68
Premium-Efficiency Motors .....................................................................................................70
Motor Sizing............................................................................................................................. 71
Improving System Design................................................................................................................ 71
Introduction .............................................................................................................................71
Multistage Compression .......................................................................................................... 71
Liquid Subcooling ..................................................................................................................... 72
Gas-Pressure Recirculation Systems ........................................................................................73
Hot-Gas Defrost ......................................................................................................................73
Heat Recovery .........................................................................................................................74
Purgers.....................................................................................................................................75
Reducing Refrigeration Loads.......................................................................................................... 75
Introduction .............................................................................................................................75
Building Upgrades ....................................................................................................................75
Process Upgrades ....................................................................................................................78
Computer Control—The Backbone of Efficiency...........................................................................79
Efficiency Checklist .........................................................................................................................79
What Makes a Compressor Efficient? ......................................................................................80
What Makes an Evaporator Efficient? ......................................................................................81
What Makes a Condenser Efficient?.........................................................................................82
CHAPTER 5
Best Practices for O&M and Commissioning ..................................................83
Introduction ....................................................................................................................................83
Operation and Maintenance............................................................................................................ 83
Introduction .............................................................................................................................83
Evaporators..............................................................................................................................84
Compressors ...........................................................................................................................84
Condensers..............................................................................................................................85
Commissioning................................................................................................................................86
Introduction .............................................................................................................................86
Relationship Between Refrigeration Commissioning, Energy Commissioning, and
O&M ........................................................................................................................................86
Evaporators..............................................................................................................................87
Compressors ...........................................................................................................................87
Condensers..............................................................................................................................88
System and Vessels ..................................................................................................................88
Refrigeration Loads .................................................................................................................. 88
Controls ...................................................................................................................................88
CHAPTER 6
Tools for Implementing Best Practices and Energy Management .................91
Introduction ....................................................................................................................................91
Why Improve How You Manage Energy? .......................................................................................91
Industrial Energy Management Strategies .......................................................................................92
Elements of a Successful Energy Management Program.................................................................92
Industrial Refrigeration Key Performance Indicators ......................................................................93
System Assessment Questionnaire ................................................................................................. 95
An Overview of Life-Cycle Costing ..............................................................................................106

iv Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide


Table of Contents
Estimating the Annual Energy Cost of Your Refrigeration System................................................107
Using an Energy Study as a Management Tool .............................................................................109
Energy Accounting ........................................................................................................................ 111
Information Sources for Industrial Refrigeration ...........................................................................113
CHAPTER 7
Case Studies....................................................................................................114

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide v


Table of Contents
List of Figures
Figure 1: Suggested road map to this Guide for various audiences..........................................................3
Figure 2: Refrigeration transfers heat from a medium to the ambient environment .............................10
Figure 3: The basic refrigeration cycle ...................................................................................................11
Figure 4: Thermodynamic process associated with two-stage compression.........................................12
Figure 5: Refrigerant-to-air coil (left) and evaporator tube bundle (right) .............................................13
Figure 6: Spiral freezer (left) and freeze tunnel (right)...........................................................................14
Figure 7: Evaporator coil with four fans .................................................................................................14
Figure 8: Evaporator coils in a penthouse ..............................................................................................14
Figure 9: Evaporator coil with centrifugal fans .......................................................................................15
Figure 10: Recirculated (overfeed) refrigerant transport.......................................................................16
Figure 11: Flooded evaporator...............................................................................................................16
Figure 12: Direct expansion refrigerant transport .................................................................................16
Figure 13: Frosted evaporator coil.........................................................................................................17
Figure 14: Defrost controller .................................................................................................................18
Figure 15: Heat exchangers: Shell-and-tube, inside (left top) and outside (left bottom); Plate-
and-frame (center); Falling-film (right).....................................................................................20
Figure 16: Scraped-surface heat exchanger (left) and plate freezer (right)............................................20
Figure 17: Flake ice maker and cutaway view........................................................................................21
Figure 18: Cube ice maker.....................................................................................................................21
Figure 19: Twelve-cylinder reciprocating compressor ..........................................................................22
Figure 20: Cut-away view of compressor ..............................................................................................22
Figure 21: Reciprocating compressor part-load curves .........................................................................22
Figure 22: Twin screw compressor .......................................................................................................23
Figure 23: Screw compressor package ..................................................................................................24
Figure 24: Single-screw compressor ......................................................................................................24
Figure 25: Screw compressor and slide valve mechanism .....................................................................24
Figure 26: Diagram of slide valve unloading (left) and Photograph of slide valve (right)........................25
Figure 27: Screw compressor part-load performance curves for various capacity-control
methods ...................................................................................................................................25
Figure 28: Diagram and photo of liquid-injection cooling system ..........................................................26
Figure 29: Discharge injection system showing pump (arrow) ..............................................................27
Figure 30: Diagram and photo of thermosiphon cooling system ...........................................................27
Figure 31: Direct-contact cooling system ..............................................................................................28
Figure 32: Diagram of overcompression and undercompression ..........................................................28
Figure 33: Compressor control panel ....................................................................................................29
Figure 34: Rotary vane compressor .......................................................................................................29
Figure 35: Rotary vane compressor—internal view...............................................................................30
Figure 36: Evaporative condenser..........................................................................................................32
Figure 37: Forced-draft, axial fan condenser (left); Induced-draft, axial fan condenser (center);
Forced-draft, centrifugal fan condenser (right)........................................................................32
Figure 38: Low-pressure receiver (LPR) with insulation and liquid pump .............................................34
Figure 39: Diagram of an intercooler .....................................................................................................35
Figure 40: High-pressure receiver (HPR)...............................................................................................35
Figure 41: Liquid solenoid (left); Metered liquid solenoid (right) ...........................................................36
Figure 42: Hand expansion valve (left); Thermal expansion valve (center); Electronic
expansion valve (right) .............................................................................................................36
Figure 43: Pressure regulators ...............................................................................................................37
Figure 44: Automatic purger ..................................................................................................................37
Figure 45: Spring-loaded (left) and Mercury (right) pressure switches ..................................................39
Figure 46: Thermostat ...........................................................................................................................39
Figure 47: Electro-mechanical control system .......................................................................................40

vi Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide


List of Figures
Figure 48: Simple digital controller.........................................................................................................40
Figure 49: Computer-control system interface......................................................................................41
Figure 50: I/O communications panel ....................................................................................................41
Figure 51: VFD output voltage and current waveform ..........................................................................43
Figure 52: Variable-frequency drives (VFDs) .........................................................................................43
Figure 53: Graph of torque and power versus speed for a constant torque load..................................43
Figure 54: Graph of torque and power versus speed for a variable torque load ...................................44
Figure 55: Ice cream room within a refrigerated warehouse.................................................................48
Figure 56: VFD installation in a food distribution center........................................................................57
Figure 57: VFD with input reactor and output dV/dt filter ....................................................................59
Figure 58: Typical part-load power for a constant-speed screw compressor .......................................59
Figure 59: VFD application to screw compressor..................................................................................61
Figure 60: Comparison of constant speed and variable speed part load power ....................................62
Figure 61: Graph of coil efficiency versus face velocity..........................................................................66
Figure 62: Newer efficient fan-blade design (left) and older less efficient design (right) .......................66
Figure 63: Graph of efficiency versus pressure ratio..............................................................................68
Figure 64: Variation of condenser efficiency within frame sizes.............................................................69
Figure 65: Comparison of the efficiencies of various condenser types ..................................................69
Figure 66: High-performance spray nozzles ..........................................................................................70
Figure 67: Motor efficiencies – 1800 rpm ..............................................................................................71
Figure 68: Thermodynamic process associated with two-stage compression.......................................72
Figure 69: Two-stage system with multiple temperature levels ............................................................72
Figure 70: Strip curtain (left), fast-folding door (center), and vestibule-style door (right) for
infiltration control ....................................................................................................................76
Figure 71: Infrared door heaters for frost control .................................................................................77
Figure 72: Dirty evaporator coil.............................................................................................................84
Figure 73: Slide valve potentiometer .....................................................................................................85
Figure 74: Plugged condenser spray nozzles..........................................................................................85
Figure 75: Examples of tracking energy use normalized to production (left) and temperature
(right) .....................................................................................................................................111

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide vii


List of Figures
List of Tables
Table 1: Qualifying attributes of industrial refrigeration systems.............................................................2
Table 2: Examples of benefits beyond energy..........................................................................................8
Table 3: Advantages and disadvantages of reciprocating compressors..................................................23
Table 4: Advantages and disadvantages of screw compressors .............................................................29
Table 5: Advantages and disadvantages of rotary vane compressors.....................................................30
Table 6: Sample compressor ratings ......................................................................................................30
Table 7: Relationship between pressure and temperature for ammonia at sea level ............................47
Table 8: Weather data for Seattle, WA and Miami, FL ..........................................................................52
Table 9: Mix-and-match compressor staging .........................................................................................60
Table 10: List of coils with a capacity of about 50 TR at 10°F temperature difference .........................65
Table 11: Compressor capacity and power ratings at a condensing temperature of 85°F and
various suction temperatures for ammonia .............................................................................68
Table 12: Example summary of savings and cost from an energy study ..............................................110

viii Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide


List of Tables
CHAPTER 1

Introduction

Courtesy of Frick

Background
This Guide identifies and discusses best practices for making industrial refrigeration systems both energy-
efficient and productive. The highest levels of efficiency in these systems are achieved through a
combination of design, construction, commissioning, operation, and maintenance coupled with a robust
energy management program. This Guide provides insights into approaches to industrial refrigeration
systems that cost less to operate, are reliable, can maintain accurate and consistent temperatures in
refrigerated spaces, help ensure that processing equipment operates consistently, and can meet varying
production needs.
This Guide was developed with the support of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA). NEEA
is funded by, and works in alliance with, local utilities to encourage the development and adoption of
energy-efficient products and services. NEEA’s mission is to make the Northwest more energy efficient
for the benefit of electric ratepayers.
NEEA’s industrial initiative focuses on helping Northwest industry gain a competitive advantage via the
adoption of energy efficient business practices. The industrial initiative works alongside local utilities and
with regional industry associations to provide expert support, resources and services to give companies
tools and training to make energy efficiency a core business value.

Goals
Ultimately, market transformation for energy efficiency in industrial refrigeration is achieved by changing
the business practices of food processing companies, cold-storage and refrigerated warehouses, and the
trade allies that support and serve them. Design standards and operation-and-maintenance practices that
increase and maintain energy efficiency can also be adopted by users of industrial refrigeration and their
engineering consultants and contractors.
In this context, the goals of this Best Practices Guide are:
! To identify opportunities to increase electrical energy efficiency in industrial refrigeration
systems The Guide specifically focuses on energy savings measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). It is

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide 1


Chapter 1: Introduction
written primarily for audiences in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, where energy
costs are the largest portion (usually over 80%) of typical electric bills. The Guide does not specifically
address reducing peak monthly power demand, measured in kilowatts (kW). However, in most cases,
a system that saves energy will also reduce peak demand. This Guide also does not address load-
shifting strategies, where refrigeration load is shifted from a high-cost time period to a low-cost time
period, nor does it address reactive power (power factor, or kVAR) or power-quality issues such as
harmonics.
! To better understand industrial refrigeration as a system Energy efficiency in industrial
refrigeration includes both selecting efficient components and integrating those components into an
efficient system. The goal is to minimize the energy consumption of the entire system. Frequently,
one or more small constraints in a system can limit the efficiency of the overall system. In other
instances, reducing the energy use of one type of component may increase the energy use of another.
Understanding the way the system behaves as a whole lets us avoid building in “weak links” and
allows us to strike an efficient balance between components.
! To motivate system designers, contractors, plant engineers, and owners to consider life-cycle
costs when installing or upgrading industrial refrigeration systems The equipment-supply and
design-build businesses are very cost-competitive, and facility owners have limited capital budgets.
Therefore, system design often emphasizes low initial cost rather than low life-cycle cost. Energy
costs are the most significant ongoing life-cycle cost, and are a major component of the total present-
value cost of a refrigeration system.
! To highlight non-energy benefits of energy-efficient practices In most situations, investments
in energy efficiency can also reduce labor costs, increase productivity, increase product quality, and
increase system reliability.
! To emphasize that best practices include more than just system design Commissioning and
well considered operation-and-maintenance practices contribute importantly to the long-term energy
performance of the system.
! Encourage facilities to implement a robust energy management program A successful energy
management program allows a facility to sustain and improve upon the efficiency benefits that have
been achieved. Key elements of a successful energy management program include establishing an
“Energy Champion” that is accountable for system energy use, tracking Key Performance Indicators
(KPIs) of system efficiency, ensuring that key personnel receive appropriate training, and creating a
culture that embraces a continuous improvement philosophy towards energy efficiency.

Focus on Industrial Refrigeration


This Guide focuses solely on industrial refrigeration systems, which we define in the following broad
terms.

Table 1: Qualifying attributes of industrial refrigeration systems

Attribute Criteria
Size: 100 tons or larger
Refrigerant: Ammonia (R-717) in the vast majority of cases, with some R-22 applications
System Type: Centralized and built-up, as opposed to commercial refrigeration equipment, which is
simpler, more modular, and distributed
Load Temperatures: -60°F to 55°F with normally at least one load below 40°F
Function: Primarily storage and processing of food products

2 Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide


Chapter 1: Introduction
Attribute Criteria
Industries: ! Refrigerated warehouses, including controlled atmosphere
! Fruit and vegetable processors, ranging from fresh product storage to highly
processed pre-prepared meals
! Breweries and wineries
! Dairy and ice cream processors
! Meat, poultry, and fish processors

Industrial refrigeration systems are distinct from two related system types, which are not covered in this
Guide:
! Commercial refrigeration systems (such as those in grocery stores) which tend to be smaller, simpler,
and more modular.
! Large HVAC systems that cool spaces occupied by people and equipment, and that maintain space
temperatures higher than 55°F.

Road Map to this Best Practices Guide


This Best Practices Guide is written for a wide audience. Readers (and users, for it is intended that this
document be used) will certainly include:
! Owners, officers, and regional managers of food processing companies
! Plant managers, production and operation managers, and maintenance managers
! Corporate engineering staff at food processing companies
! Operators of refrigeration systems
! Personnel in utility efficiency programs
! Design engineers and energy analysts
! Contractors and vendors who serve the industrial refrigeration market

Although most of this Best Practices Guide will be of interest to all readers, some sections will be of
particular interest to specific audiences. The chapters of the Guide and how each audience may find them
valuable are outlined below. We hope that you will find useful information on best practices for your
refrigeration system for energy efficiency, to control operating costs, and to realize productivity benefits—
fundamentally, to improve your bottom line.
Chapter 2: Best Practices
Overview, beginning on
page 5, includes an overview of
design, operation, and
maintenance best practices, an
outline of the major categories
of improvement, and a guide on
how to obtain best practices in
industrial refrigeration systems.
Chapter 3: Refrigeration
System Basics, beginning on
page 10, reviews refrigeration
basics and, if needed, will help
familiarize you with industrial Figure 1: Suggested road map to this Guide for various audiences
refrigeration concepts and
equipment. Regardless of your level of familiarity with refrigeration systems and related components, this
chapter will be a very useful reference.

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide 3


Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 4: Best Practices for Equipment, Systems, and Controls, beginning on page 46, describes
energy-efficient concepts, equipment, controls, and system types, along with recommended best practices.
If you are an owner, plant engineer, or operator, we recommend that you understand these best practices
and consider them, if feasible, for your facility. This chapter also highlights the benefits beyond energy cost
savings that are often associated with increased energy efficiency. This chapter is not an engineering
manual and should be accessible to all potential readers described above.
Chapter 5: Best Practices for O&M and Commissioning, beginning on page 83, addresses how
operation, maintenance, and commissioning affect the energy performance of the system. This chapter is
not a training manual for operation and maintenance, but addresses these points on a higher level that is
suitable for most readers.
Chapter 6: Tools for Implementing Best Practices, beginning on page 91, explains the role of an energy
management program and provides tools and concepts to help you address your system and work toward
best practices. This chapter is geared more toward management personnel (owners, corporate engineers,
and operators) at food processing plants. It includes a self-assessment survey that covers many of the
concepts featured in this Guide, along with other energy management tools, concepts, and engineering
references.
Chapter 7: Case Studies, beginning on page 114, includes three short case studies that were selected to
show how some of these best practices have been implemented in the Pacific Northwest.
You will find another useful resource at the end of Chapter 4. Beginning on page 79, under Efficiency
Checklist, are three tables—one each for compressors, evaporators, and condensers—that summarize the
key best practices from Chapter 4.and Chapter 5.

4 Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide


Chapter 1: Introduction
CHAPTER 2

Best Practices Overview

The Scope of Refrigeration Best Practices


This chapter addresses best practices for energy efficiency from a management level. We introduce four
interrelated concepts that contribute to good business decisions. Best practices should encompass design,
operation, maintenance, and commissioning. Attention to all of these activities will optimize overall system
performance.

Design
! Designing the facility to reduce loads
! Selecting energy-efficient equipment and controls
! Integrating that equipment into a system that is optimized for efficiency at both peak and typical loads

Operation
! Trained and certified operators with a conceptual knowledge of energy-efficient practices and an
understanding of refrigeration cycles
! Scheduled or regular review and documentation of key set points and operational strategies required
for energy-efficient operation
! Using a control system to review operations to confirm efficient operation and to automate complex
control strategies
! Observing equipment and gauge readings to confirm efficient operation

Maintenance
! Trained and certified maintenance staff and contractors
! Preventive maintenance practices
! Routine calibration of sensors, controls, and actuators that indicate system performance
! Routine cleaning and maintenance of evaporators, condensers and heat exchangers

Commissioning
! Implementing commissioning for new construction, for major retrofits, or periodically for all systems
to ensure that the system, equipment, and controls meet process and energy-efficiency objectives

Life-Cycle Costs
Best practices encompass much more than just energy performance. In the broadest sense, best practices
could be defined as follows:
Design, operational, and maintenance practices that help minimize life-cycle costs to the system
owner are based upon factors that include:
! Initial capital investment
! The expected life of the equipment
! The reliability of the equipment
! Life-cycle cost of energy
! Life-cycle cost of equipment maintenance

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide 5


Chapter 2: Best Practices Overview
! Life-cycle cost of operation labor
! Life-cycle cost of labor and equipment for maintenance
! Life-cycle costs associated with marginal improvements in product quality
! Life-cycle cost effects on employee and process productivity
! Capital and discount rate for the owner

Ideally, all of these costs and their interactions would be well understood, and selecting the “best
practices” for a given situation would be straightforward. Real situations, however, are more complicated
and have more unknowns, but we contend that in most cases, a system that is designed, operated, and
maintained in an energy-efficient manner will typically have low life-cycle costs.
There is no single set of best practices that is ideal for every situation. We do not suggest that every
conceivable energy-efficient option should be integrated into every system. The optimum design for a
system that operates continuously at a relatively high load will be different than the design for a system
with a short season with highly variable loads. Instead, we believe that it is warranted to consider a range
of energy-efficiency choices when designing a new refrigeration system or modifying an existing system.
Existing system constraints, energy rates, and utility or government incentives can all significantly influence
which best practices are economically viable for a specific system.

Energy Efficiency—“The Big Picture”


Strategies for increasing the energy efficiency of industrial refrigeration systems fall into seven major
categories:
! Reducing System Lift
Refrigeration system “lift” is the difference between suction pressure and discharge pressure.
Reducing lift by raising suction or lowering discharge pressure increases compressor efficiency.
! Improving Part-Load Performance
In most systems, evaporators, compressors, and condensers often operate at less than their full
capacity. There are many ways to control capacity, some more efficient than others.
! Upgrading Equipment
Refrigeration equipment—from motors to condensers—can be upgraded or replaced with efficient
design and configuration in mind.
! Improving System Design
Designing a refrigeration system to address such issues as multistage compression, liquid subcooling,
defrost configuration, and heat recovery can increase energy efficiency.
! Reducing Refrigeration Loads
There are many ways to reduce the load that the refrigeration system must meet. Envelope upgrades
such as increasing insulation, selecting better doors, and installing an efficient lighting system all
reduce the amount of heat within the refrigerated space that the refrigeration system must remove.
! Commissioning
Commissioning is the inspection, review, and adjustment of set points, control strategies, and
equipment features, so as to achieve the design intent and meet original specifications, in a way that
maximizes performance and efficiency. It ensures that you get what you pay for in your refrigeration
system.
! Operation and Maintenance (O&M)
O&M can be defined as maintaining originally specified equipment performance through proper
service at specified intervals, and with the proper application of system-operation set points for
optimal efficiency.

6 Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide


Chapter 2: Best Practices Overview
How to Implement Best Practices
Fully optimizing refrigeration energy use and thus controlling operating costs requires thoughtful planning.
The checklist below includes steps that we have found helpful in maximizing system performance.

Efficient System Design and Equipment Selection


" In the planning phase for a new-construction or expansion project, conduct or contract an energy
study like the one described in Using an Energy Study as a Management Tool on page 109.
" Even if an expansion is not being considered, conduct or contract an energy study to identify
opportunities to improve the existing system and to document potential energy-cost savings and
upgrade costs.
" Define alternates for energy-efficient features when soliciting bids from contractors.
" Consider assembling an integrated design team that can account for and take advantage of system
interactions. For instance, more efficient warehouse lighting, doors, and insulation may allow for a
smaller, less expensive refrigeration system.
" Investigate incentives or tax credits that allow you to leverage your efficiency investment.
" Select options that meet your requirements for return on investment. If you think electrical costs
will escalate, try to “stretch” your economic criteria so that you won’t miss lost opportunities.
" Often individual efficiency investments won’t meet economic criteria, but a package of measures
will. A comprehensive package of measures usually will have synergistic effects and result in a better
overall system as well.
" Rely on skilled designers, contractors, and energy analysts with proven track records of designing
and building energy-efficient systems.
" Make the energy-efficiency requirements of the project very clear. These requirements should be as
stringent and explicit as any other requirements for the project. Performance requirements should
be defined both for peak design and for typical periods of partial loads and cooler weather.
" Budget for and include a computer-control system and high degree of instrumentation. The control
system will serve as a platform for energy-efficient control features and provide an invaluable
“window” into system operation for the life of the refrigeration system. Ensure that the control
system includes optimizing algorithms, and does not simply replicate the function of manual or
basic electro-mechanical controls.

System Commissioning
" Develop and execute a commissioning plan to assure that the system, equipment, and controls meet
their process and energy-efficiency objectives.
" Think of commissioning as a way to ensure that you are getting what you are paying for in your
refrigeration system project, not as an additional cost without benefit.

Operation and Maintenance


" Make sure that your operators understand energy-efficiency goals and concepts and the reasoning
behind key set points and control sequences. Include system operators and maintenance staff in
energy management efforts, and provide them with opportunities to interface with your Energy
Champion or participate in the energy team.
" Invest in training for, and support certification of, your system operators and maintenance staff. It
will result in lower operating costs and improved reliability, process performance, and product
quality.
" Encourage a spirit of optimization. A refrigeration control system is most valuable when it is
actively used as a tool to understand and optimize system operation, not as a static control loop that
is set up once and then left alone.

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide 7


Chapter 2: Best Practices Overview
" In the performance evaluations of system operators and maintenance staff, consider recognizing
operation-and-maintenance activities that contribute to efficiency.
" Diligently perform maintenance tasks including:
" Clean heat-exchange surfaces
" Follow water-treatment recommendations
" Eliminate non-condensable gas
" Regularly calibrate pressure and temperature sensors and slide-valve position indicators
" Perform all preventive maintenance on compressors
" Track system performance through engine-room logs and control-system histories. Use this data to
identify and address problems and to evaluate future upgrades with high-quality information.
" Track the performance of the plant or system relative to normalized production (for example, kWh
vs. pound of product) or weather (for example, kWh vs. average ambient temperature). Review
performance regularly to identify concerns or progress towards cost-reduction goals.

Benefits Beyond Energy


Energy-efficiency measures frequently also provide other benefits beyond energy cost savings (also
described as non-energy benefits). Throughout this Guide, we address the relationship between energy and
non-energy benefits. For many industrial energy efficiency projects the value of non-energy benefits often
are on a par with energy cost savings. Table 2 lists a few examples of energy and associated non-energy
benefits for a variety of best practices.

Table 2: Examples of benefits beyond energy

Best Practice Energy Benefit Benefits Beyond Energy


Refrigeration computer- The control system uses energy-saving ! Remote access lets operator
control system strategies for compressor sequencing, observe system remotely, resulting
evaporator and condenser control, in lower labor costs associated with
while meeting production troubleshooting
requirements ! More consistent levels of service
and, typically, more closely held
temperatures
! Improved insight into system
operation allows earlier recognition
of problems
! Control system history shows how
much system capacity has been
used, which in turn lets owner
make better capital-investment
decisions
Oversized condenser Energy savings resulting from lower ! Provides flexibility for future
condensing pressures expansion
Condenser fan VFDs Lower and more uniform condensing ! Longer belt life
pressures result in compressor and ! More stable operation
condenser fan energy savings
Condenser maintenance Energy savings resulting from lower ! Longer condenser life
practices pertaining to scale, condensing pressure and lower fan ! Avoid production limitations
non-condensable gas, and and pump energy during peak loads
nozzle conditions

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Chapter 2: Best Practices Overview
Best Practice Energy Benefit Benefits Beyond Energy
Evaporator fan VFDs Evaporator fan and compressor ! Less product loss due to
energy savings during low load dehydration (for exposed fruits and
periods vegetables)
! More comfortable and productive
working environment for cold-
storage employees

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide 9


Chapter 2: Best Practices Overview
CHAPTER 3

Refrigeration System Basics

Introduction
In this chapter, we explain the basic vapor refrigeration cycle and describe the equipment typically used in
industrial refrigeration systems. We discuss the various features and characteristics of this energy-using
equipment and review system-control and variable-frequency drive (VFD) technology.
If you are already familiar with industrial refrigeration, this chapter can serve as a refresher or as
background reference information. If you are unfamiliar with refrigeration, this chapter will introduce and
explain critical basic concepts and terms that underlie best practices for energy efficiency. In any case, this
chapter can serve as the basis of a common understanding of industrial refrigeration among the parties of
various duties, responsibilities, and expertise—managers, maintenance staff, system operators, vendors,
contractors, and so on.

Purpose of Refrigeration
The purpose of refrigeration is to remove heat from some medium—
a fluid or solid—and transfer or reject that heat elsewhere. In most
systems, heat is removed from the air (for example, a refrigerated
warehouse), water or glycol (for example, a water chiller), or a food
product (for example, ice cream), and transferred outdoors to the
ambient environment. Although industrial refrigeration is also used in
the chemical industry and in unique applications such as cooling the
concrete during dam construction, the fundamental purpose and
operation is the same.

Refrigerants
Figure 2: Refrigeration transfers
A refrigerant is a chemical compound that undergoes a phase change heat from a medium to the
from liquid to gas and back as part of the refrigeration cycle. ambient environment
Refrigerant selection is a complicated topic that goes beyond the
scope of this guide. Three refrigerants are noteworthy for industrial
refrigeration.
! Ammonia is by far the most common refrigerant in industrial For food processing and
refrigeration systems. It is inexpensive, energy-efficient, and has storage, ammonia is the most
no ozone depletion potential.
! R-22 (also known as Hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22 or HCFC-22)
efficient refrigerant.
is the next most common choice. It is occasionally used in
industrial refrigerant systems and is used commonly in smaller
packaged refrigeration system. R-22 is slated for gradual phase-out in the United States under an
international treaty called the Montreal Protocol due to its ozone depletion potential.
! Carbon dioxide (CO2) has been used in a few prototype low temperature hybrid refrigeration systems
in recent years. These system use CO2 as the low temperature refrigerant in conjunction with
ammonia on the high temperature side of the system.

All of these refrigerants work in the same general way. When a liquid refrigerant is heated (absorbs heat), it
boils and turns into gas. When a gas refrigerant (vapor) is cooled, it condenses into a liquid and releases
heat. The engineering terms for these processes are “evaporation” and “condensation.” A refrigerant

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evaporating is no more complex a process than water boiling on a stove. Where water boils at 212°F at
atmospheric pressure, ammonia boils at -28°F.
Many more issues and refrigerant traits affect the refrigeration cycle. Though there is certainly value in
understanding the constant pressure-temperature relationship of a refrigerant—and issues such as
enthalpy, entropy, and latent heat—for now, understanding that a refrigerant boils and condenses,
absorbing and releasing heat in the process, is sufficient for a basic understanding of the refrigeration
cycle.

Basic Refrigeration Cycle


In a refrigeration system, refrigerant is constantly looping through the
same equipment and physical states. Though there is not really a start
or an end to the process, it is convenient to start an explanation of
the cycle at the point of cold, low-pressure liquid refrigerant (# in
Figure 3) and follow it through a typical cycle.

Evaporation
Imagine we have a cold liquid refrigerant, such as ammonia, at 0 psig
(atmospheric pressure) and -28°F. The liquid ammonia is located in
an evaporator coil. Air that is warmer than the refrigerant, at say
-10°F, is blown across the evaporator by fans. When that air passes
over the fins on the evaporator, it is cooled by the -28°F ammonia
inside the evaporator. As the ammonia absorbs heat from the air
stream, it boils (at a constant pressure and temperature) and the air
exits the evaporator at a colder temperature than it entered, say
-20°F.
The processes within the evaporator in any particular application are
essentially the same. Instead of air blowing over a coil, water could be Figure 3: The basic refrigeration
flowing through the tubes of a heat exchanger, or a food product cycle
such as ice cream could be opposite a heat-exchange surface from the
ammonia. In any case, the result is refrigerant that has absorbed heat, boiled, and made something else
colder, thus achieving the refrigeration effect the system was designed for.
We now have a volume of ammonia that is still at -28°F and 0 psig, but is now a vapor. So that it can do
more refrigeration, we must return it to a cold, low-pressure condition. To do this, we first need to raise
the temperature of the refrigerant so we can get rid of the heat outside, where the temperature is likely
much higher than -28°F.

Compression
This is where compression comes in. A compressor is a piece of equipment that simply compresses the
refrigerant vapor, raising its pressure and therefore its temperature. In our example, the compressor would
receive the boiled ammonia vapor at -28°F, 0 psig ($ in Figure 3), and compress it to an elevated pressure
and temperature, say 85°F and 150 psig (% in Figure 3). (In reality, the discharge temperature is
superheated, but we have used saturated conditions for the sake of simplicity.) This achieves our goal of a
high-temperature refrigerant that can now reject heat to the cooler ambient environment. We now need a
piece of equipment that can reject that heat from the refrigeration system.

Condensing
The high-pressure, high-temperature refrigerant vapor now enters a piece of equipment called a condenser,
which, like an evaporator, is a bundle of tubes that looks like a car radiator. The refrigerant vapor at 85°F
and 150 psig enters the condenser (%in Figure 3). Fans blow cooler ambient air at, say 70°F, across the
condenser. Within the condenser, the warm refrigerant vapor heats the air. The air leaves the condenser at

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
a higher temperature, say 80°F, while the refrigerant cools down and condenses from a vapor to a liquid
(& in Figure 3).
We now have a volume of ammonia that is still at 85°F and 150 psig, but is now a liquid. But we still need
to turn this into a low-temperature, low-pressure liquid. For this, we turn to expansion.

Expansion
When a liquid refrigerant at high pressure passes through a restriction such as a narrowed tube or a barely
open valve, the liquid loses pressure. That loss of pressure causes a small portion of the liquid to vaporize.
That vaporization absorbs energy from the remaining liquid refrigerant, causing it to cool down. This
process is called expansion, and in industrial refrigeration systems it is
achieved using an expansion valve.
In our example, our 85°F, 150 psig liquid enters an expansion valve, Two-stage refrigeration is more
and its pressure drops to 0 psig. The liquid refrigerant temperature
drops to -28°F, and we find ourselves back where we started. Our
efficient than single-stage in
cold liquid refrigerant is again ready to do more refrigeration (# in low-temperature applications.
Figure 3).

Two-Stage Cycle
In applications where a very low temperature (for example, less than -25°F for ammonia) is required, two-
stage refrigeration systems are often used. A two-stage system (Figure 4) is essentially two standard cycles
stacked on top of each other (with an “intercooler” in between). The first stage of compression is
performed by a “first-stage,” “low-stage,” or “booster” compressor, and the second stage is performed by
a “second-stage” or “high-stage” compressor.
The booster compressor discharges “superheated”
refrigerant vapor—that is, vapor that is above the
saturation temperature (the threshold boiling
temperature) of the refrigerant. To improve
efficiency (and to utilize a slightly smaller high
stage compressor), most two-stage systems cool
this superheated vapor back down to saturation
prior to the vapor prior to entering the high stage
compressor. This is where the intercooler comes
in. The booster compressor discharges its
superheated vapor at the bottom of a vessel—the
intercooler—filled with liquid ammonia. The gas
bubbles up through this liquid, is cooled back to
saturation, and is then drawn into the high-stage
compressor. Figure 4: Thermodynamic process associated with
The intercooler often has a second thermodynamic two-stage compression
purpose. Two stage compression often
incorporates “subcooling” of the liquid refrigerant that is destined for serving low temperature
refrigeration loads. One simple type of liquid subcooler in a two-stage system consists of a piping coil
within the intercooler vessel. High pressure liquid refrigerant flows through this coil on its way to low
temperature loads flows. This coil is essentially bathed in the colder refrigerant of the intercooler. As the
high pressure liquid refrigerant cools off while flowing through coil, it transfers heat to the liquid
refrigerant in the intercooler. This heat transfer causes some refrigerant to boil off in the intercooler. The
subcooling improves energy efficiency, as a fraction of the gas compression load is shifted from two-stage
compression to high stage compression.
Expansion can also be performed in two stages.

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Refrigeration Equipment
Four typical pieces of equipment are associated with the four major processes in the industrial refrigeration
cycle:
! Evaporation: Evaporator coils (including fluid coolers and product coolers)
! Compression: Compressors (reciprocating, screw, and rotary vane)
! Condensing: Condensing coils (evaporative and shell-and-tube)
! Expansion: Various expansion valves and devices

The following sections discuss these in greater detail and address issues of performance ratings, capacity
control, and design and selection.

Evaporators

Introduction
All cooling within the refrigeration cycle occurs in a piece of equipment called an evaporator. There are
two primary types of evaporators:
! Refrigerant-to-air coils
! Heat exchangers Refrigerant-to-air coils are the
most common type used in
There are two main types of heat exchangers:
evaporators.
! Refrigerant-to-secondary fluid
! Direct-contact

This section describes the configuration, operation, and control of each.

Courtesy of Frigid Coil (left) and Colmac (right)

Figure 5: Refrigerant-to-air coil (left) and evaporator tube bundle (right)

Refrigerant-to-Air Coils
Overview
The most common evaporator configuration is the refrigerant-to-air coil (also called an evaporator fan
coil), in which the cooled refrigerant is passed through tubes, and air is drawn over the tubes to refrigerate
it. The tubes typically have attached fins to improve heat transfer. Figure 5 shows an example.
Evaporator coils are used to cool air within a closed space. Examples include a freezer or cooler, a blast
freezer, a spiral freezer (Figure 6, left), a freeze tunnel (Figure 6, right), or an industrial air-conditioning
system.

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Courtesy of Advanced Freezer

Figure 6: Spiral freezer (left) and freeze tunnel (right)

Evaporator coils can have from one to eight fans


(Figure 7), ranging from less than one horsepower
(hp) (“fractional”) to 20 hp or more. In most
cases, evaporator coils are suspended from the
ceiling. In some cases, the coil may be located on
the floor or in a remote location, and ductwork
transfers air to and from the coil. In other cases,
the coils can be located in a penthouse (Figure 8).
The following sections explain how the refrigerant
and air sides of the evaporator work and how
evaporator coils are rated for capacity and Courtesy of Colmac
efficiency.
Figure 7: Evaporator coil with four fans
Air Transport and Control
Evaporator coils use either axial or centrifugal fans to move air through the coil.

Axial Fans
Most evaporator coils use axial fans that either
push or pull air through the coil. In larger
evaporator coil applications, the fan motors are
standard NEMA frame units and are normally
mounted to a rigid mounting plate with four bolts
in the motor base. In smaller applications with
fractional horsepower motors, there is often a
belly-band mount, in which the fan shroud wraps
around the body of a footless (often special OEM)
motor, and is cinched around the motor body.
This is important because these special motors are
often inefficient and create challenges with VFD
installations.
Larger evaporator coils are usually equipped with Figure 8: Evaporator coils in a penthouse
cast aluminum fan blades, while smaller coils are
equipped with simple stamped-steel propellers attached to a hub.

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Centrifugal Fans
Custom, fractional horsepower
Less common are evaporator coils that use centrifugal (“squirrel-
cage”) fans (Figure 9). These are often floor-mounted, and are used fan motors are inefficient, and
when low noise levels or high static pressures (such as ducts) are create challenges for VFDs.
required.
In general, evaporator coils with centrifugal fans require higher-
Stamped-steel fan blades are
horsepower fans and are less efficient (that is, have a higher power inefficient.
per volume of air delivered) than those with axial fans.
On evaporators, axial fans are
Fan Controls more efficient than centrifugal
Evaporator fans can also be used to control evaporator capacity, fans.
either as the primary means of capacity control or as subordinate to
the valves that control refrigerant as discussed in Valves on page 36.
Constant operation of
There are three primary methods of fan control. evaporator fans is common,
but wastes energy.
Cycling/Alternating/Shedding
In some systems, the entire evaporator coil fan (or set of fans) is
cycled off when cooling is disabled. This is known as “fan cycling.” In some scenarios, only a subset of the
fans on each coil are cycled off. Occasionally, an operator will choose to manually turn off or “shed” a
portion of fans based on load or season.

Two-Speed
Evaporator fan motors can have two speeds, allowing full- and
(typically) half-speed operation.

Variable Speed
Evaporator fans can be managed with variable-frequency drives
(VFDs) to control fan speed continuously (rather than in steps). A
detailed discussion of VFD technology is presented in Variable
Frequency Drives (VFDs) beginning on page 42. Courtesy of Vilter

Figure 9: Evaporator coil with


Refrigerant System centrifugal fans

Refrigerant Transport
There are three major methods of supplying liquid refrigerant to evaporator coils:
! Recirculated or overfeed
! Flooded
! Direct expansion Virtually all ammonia
Normally, the capacity of evaporator coils is controlled by controlling evaporators are either
the flow or pressure of the liquid refrigerant to achieve temperature recirculated or flooded.
control.
Direct expansion is rare,
The following sections describe each method and explain how
evaporator capacity is controlled in each. although it sometimes limits
system efficiency.

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Recirculated or Overfeed
In a recirculated (or overfeed) system (Figure 10),
liquid refrigerant is held in a remote vessel called a
low-pressure receiver (LPR) at low pressure and
temperature. Refrigerant is pumped either with a
mechanical pump or with a gas-pressure system
from the LPR to the evaporator coil. The rate of
flow is metered by a hand expansion valve to
provide the coils with about three to four times
more liquid than is boiled in the process of
removing heat, resulting in the term “overfeed.”
Hence, the refrigerant returning from the coil is
about three-fourths liquid and one-fourth vapor Figure 10: Recirculated (overfeed) refrigerant
(by weight, not volume). The mixture returns to transport
the LPR, where the vapor rises to the top and is
drawn away by the compressors.
In a recirculated system, the capacity of the evaporator coil is controlled by simply turning the refrigerant
flow on and off with a solenoid valve.

Flooded
In a flooded system, low-pressure, low-temperature liquid refrigerant
is held in an adjacent vessel called an accumulator. The accumulator
is physically located above the coil, and refrigerant simply flows to
the coil due to gravity. As the refrigerant boils, the vapor bubbles rise
through the coil to the top of the accumulator, where the vapor is
drawn away by the compressors.
In a flooded system, a pressure regulator is located on the
accumulator. The refrigerant pressure (and hence temperature) is
varied in the accumulator by throttling the gas returning in the
suction line of the compressors. When the regulator is wide open, the Figure 11: Flooded evaporator
refrigerant essentially sees the full suction pressure of the
compressors and the refrigerant is at low temperature, thus maximizing capacity. As the regulator closes,
the pressure rises in the coil, with a commensurate increase in boiling temperature and decrease in
temperature difference between refrigerant and entering air.

Direct Expansion
In a direct expansion (or DX) system, high-
pressure liquid refrigerant is piped from the high-
pressure receiver to the evaporator coil. A thermal-
expansion valve meters refrigerant flow to
maintain a target superheat for refrigerant leaving
the evaporator coil. Direct expansion evaporators
are designed to evaporate all of the liquid
refrigerant that is fed to the coil. When operating
properly, a DX coil will evaporate refrigerant in
Figure 12: Direct expansion refrigerant transport
about 70% of the coil. The last 30% of the
refrigerant circuit has little heat transfer associated
with it as the refrigerant is being superheated in this section. Since 30% of the coil is lost to effective heat
transfer, DX coils are less efficient on a fan power per ton basis relative to liquid overfeed and flooded
coils. Refrigerant flow control is often challenging for direct expansion evaporators. Too much flow leads
to liquid return in the suction line (which can damage compressors or create other problems for the
system). Too little flow lessens refrigeration capacity and reduces evaporator efficiency.
A high pressure differential is often required across conventional thermal expansion valve. Insufficient
pressure differential can lead to some of the problems with under- and over-feeding the evaporator coils.

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On the other hand, a high pressure differential requirement can be a barrier to efficient low condensing
pressures for the refrigeration system.
Recently, motorized electronic valves have become available as an alternative to conventional thermal
expansion valves for this application. The motorized valves offer stable performance and have lower
requirements for pressure differential.
Similar to a recirculated system, a direct-expansion system uses a liquid solenoid to turn refrigerant flow to
the thermal expansion valve on and off.

Defrosting Evaporator Coils


The surface of most evaporator coils with a refrigerant temperature below freezing will accumulate frost.
Over time, the frost buildup reduces coil performance and must be removed. To defrost the coils, the
refrigerant flow and fans are usually turned off, and some form of heat is added to the coil. The melted ice
drains to a collection pan and then away from the coil and out of the refrigerated space.

Types of Defrost
There are four common methods of frost removal and a fifth hybrid
method.

Hot-Gas Defrost
In a hot-gas defrost system, high-pressure, high-temperature,
refrigerant vapor is discharged from the compressor and routed to
and passed through the evaporator coil. The gas is often managed by
a pressure regulator at the coil outlet, maintaining a pressure of 65 to
95 psig within the coil. In addition, there may be a master pressure
regulator on the main hot-gas line that reduces pressure to about
100 psig. Any liquid or vapor refrigerant leaving the coil is typically
returned in the coil suction line.
Figure 13: Frosted evaporator
Water Defrost coil
In a water defrost system, warm water (typically 40 to 80°F) is
sprayed over the coil surface. Although well or city water is sometimes used directly, there is usually a tank
or pit where defrost water is stored. In a few cases, the water is heated by steam or electric resistance, but
normally, it is heated using heat recovered from the refrigeration system. In most cases, a remote
condenser sump serves double-duty as a defrost water tank, and water is heated during condenser
operation.

Air Defrost
Hot-gas and water defrost are
Air defrost is used in spaces where the refrigerant is below freezing
and the air temperature is above freezing. The flow of liquid most common.
refrigerant is interrupted, and the fans continue to operate, blowing
air over the coil surface to melt the ice.
Hot-gas defrost is often done
too frequently for too long,
Electric Defrost
wasting energy.
Electric-resistance defrost is fairly uncommon in industrial
refrigeration systems. Resistance elements are located on the
evaporator coil, in contact with the metal. The elements heat the coil
to melt accumulated ice. The size of the elements ranges typically from 10 to 40 kW per coil.

Hybrid Defrost
Although uncommon, some systems use a simultaneous combination of hot-gas and water defrost. A
typical application would be a freeze tunnel where completely eliminating all frost quickly is critical to
productivity.

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Defrost Control
Defrost can be initiated manually, through simple local controls, or through a centralized computer-
control system.
The need for defrost is a function of air flow, the coil temperature, and the amount of moisture in the air
(which can vary seasonally or by product type). In cooled spaces that are seldom accessed and contain
covered or sealed food products, defrost requirements are minimal. Defrost introduces significant heat to
the refrigerated spaces through convection, radiation, and sublimation, so minimizing defrost cycles while
keeping coils frost-free and efficient is a goal of defrost controls.
Manual defrost is sometimes seen in processes such as spiral freezers
or freeze tunnels, but manual defrost is becoming less common.
Defrost is typically scheduled for the same time(s) each day, such as
during plant cleanup in a potato freeze tunnel, and is initiated by
system operators.
Without a central computer-control system, defrosts are usually
initiated with a dedicated local defrost controller. The controller is
essentially a time clock with multiple set points for each phase of the
defrost cycle.
The most sophisticated form of defrost control is the central
computer-control system that initiates and manages defrost cycles. It Courtesy of Hansen
provides the greatest level of customization and is discussed more
Figure 14: Defrost controller
fully in Computer Control beginning on page 40. Unfortunately,
many computer-control systems still use a time schedule for defrost
and thus are inherently no more efficient than simple electro-mechanical controls.
The simplest defrost scheme is a time schedule, in which defrost cycles occur at the same time every day.
A more sophisticated option is to trigger defrost based on some measurement of coil load, such as
cumulative refrigerant run time. Approaches to initiating defrost include measuring air-temperature drop
across the coil, air-pressure drop, frost thickness, or fan-motor current, or using optical sensors that look
through coil fins to “see” if they are blocked by frost. Despite the sophistication of some of these
methods, initiating defrost based on sensed conditions has proved to be challenging. For this reason, most
defrosts are triggered on a simple time schedule or after a specified refrigerant run time.
Similarly, the simplest termination event for defrosting is a time schedule. The length of defrost cycles
varies depending on many factors including moisture load, temperature, defrost method, condensing
pressure, regulator pressure, hot gas line size, hot gas line insulation, valve configuration, and the degree of
operator conservatism. Most industrial refrigeration defrost cycles last from 10 minutes to 1 hour.
Most hot-gas defrost cycles last 15 to 45 minutes. Early in the defrost cycle, virtually all hot gas entering
the coil is condensed, while later in the defrost cycle some or most of the gas can simply pass through the
coil uncondensed. A more sophisticated method of terminating defrost is to measure the gas temperature
leaving the coil with a temperature probe. A rising gas temperature indicates that the frost has melted and
much of the defrost gas is simply passing through the coil and bleeding into the suction line without losing
heat and temperature.
In our experience, the radiation and convection losses from the coil are sufficiently large to cool the
refrigerant to saturation temperature and condense, even after all frost has melted. As a result, measured
temperature does not always accurately indicate when defrost is complete. Hence, direct observation is the
key to adjusting the duration of the defrost cycle.

Rating Evaporator Coils


Virtually all evaporator coils are rated in the following normalized manner:
Normalized Rating = X Btu/hr/°F
where °F is the difference between the temperatures of the entering air and the liquid refrigerant in the
coil. This difference is called the “Temperature Difference” or TD and should not be confused with the
difference between entering and leaving air temperature.

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For example a coil might be rated by the manufacturer at 10,000 Btu/hr/°F. With entering air at 40°F and
a liquid refrigerant temperature of 30°F, the resulting operating capacity of the coil would be:
Operating Capacity = Normalized Rating ! Temperature Difference

= 10,000 Btu/hr/°F ! (40°F – 30°F)


= 100,000 Btu/hr
While this is the general method of rating coils, there are design and selection issues that modestly affect
coil performance. These include the type of liquid feed and whether the coil will operate frosted or wet.

Heat Exchangers
The second major category of evaporators is the heat exchanger. There are two main categories of heat-
exchange methods and several types of heat exchangers that are appropriate for each:

Heat Exchange Methods


! Refrigerant-to-secondary fluid
! Direct-contact

Types of Heat Exchangers


! Shell-and-tube
! Plate-and-frame
! Falling-film
! Scraped-surface
! Plate freezer
! Ice scraper and ice maker

Heat-Exchange Methods

Refrigerant-to-Secondary Fluid Chillers


In this method, refrigerant cools a secondary fluid, commonly water, glycol, or brine. This is usually done
with a shell-and-tube, plate-and-frame, or falling-film heat exchanger. The secondary fluid is pumped to
the ultimate cooling application. Examples include using chilled water to cool milk products in a creamery,
or using brine to freeze popsicles or crabs.

Direct-Contact Freezers
In this method, refrigerant is used to cool a food product such as juice or milk. This is usually done with a
plate-and-frame, shell and tube, or other specialty heat exchanger. Also, scraped-surface exchangers are
used for high-viscosity or hardening products such as puree, ice cream, or flake ice. In other systems,
refrigerant cools a plate or surface that is directly opposite a hardening product such as cartons of ice
cream or fish fillets. This is usually done with a plate freezer. Also, batch ice-cube makers rely on contact
between a refrigerated surface and freezing water.

Types of Heat Exchangers

Shell-and-Tube Heat Exchangers


Shell-and-tube evaporators (Figure 15) are commonly used for cooling secondary fluids or fluid products.
Until the advent of plate-and-frame exchangers, nearly all fluid cooling was done with this design. Usually,
refrigerant passes through (or is flooded in) the shell side, and the cooled fluid passes through the tubes.
Nearly all applications use a flooded design with a refrigerant-pressure regulator. In some advanced
designs, liquid refrigerant is agitated by entering high-pressure liquid or gas refrigerant to improve heat
transfer.

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Plate-and-Frame Heat Exchangers
Plate-and-frame heat exchangers (Figure 15) have very high heat-transfer coefficients. They are compact
and can be disassembled for cleaning, and the plates can be added or removed as needed. There are often
multiple heating or cooling stages within a single unit, as in milk pasteurization.

Falling-Film Heat Exchangers


In a falling-film exchanger (Figure 15), liquid refrigerant flows within a smooth or dimpled plate that is
vertical or angled upward. A secondary fluid, usually water, is released at the top of the plates and cascades
down the sides of the plates for cooling. A common application is chilled water for vegetable processing.

Courtesy of Mueller

Figure 15: Heat exchangers: Shell-and-tube, inside (left top) and outside (left bottom); Plate-and-frame
(center); Falling-film (right)

Scraped-Surface Heat Exchangers


Scraped-surface heat exchangers
(Figure 16, left) are commonly
used for ice cream and
vegetable or fruit puree. Inside
the exchanger is a rotating inner
drum with blades that scrape
the cooled or frozen product
from the refrigerant-filled outer
barrel.

Plate Freezers
A plate freezer (Figure 16, right)
is commonly used to harden or
freeze food products such as Courtesy of Cherry-Burrell (left) and APV (right)
cartons of ice cream or fish
fillets. The product is placed on Figure 16: Scraped-surface heat exchanger (left) and plate freezer
a flat horizontal surface with (right)
refrigerant or a secondary
coolant directly on the other side.

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Ice Scraper and Ice Maker
Ice is typically manufactured in
several forms: flake, cube, tube,
and crushed. Flake ice is often
used in seafood or meat
processing facilities, and is
shoveled in and around
products while they are stored
or transported in totes. The
flake ice is made by spraying a
light film of water onto the
inner surface of a vertical drum
(Figure 17 and Figure 18).
Refrigerant is flooded into the
other side of the drum. Sharp
rotating blades scrape the thin
frozen layer of ice from the
inner surface, and the flake ice Courtesy of Northstar

falls into totes or a storage Figure 17: Flake ice maker and cutaway view
room for later use.
Crushed, tube, or cube is usually made with specialized machines that manufacture ice in batches. Tube ice
machines use hot gas refrigerant to harvest the ice. The batch operation can result in a highly variable
refrigeration load.
In the past, ice was manufactured manually in large blocks. Water was
poured into large metal tubs which were then immersed in a brine
solution. The blocks were then placed in storage or ground into
smaller material. These systems were labor-intensive and very few
remain in use.

Compressors

Introduction
The purpose of a compressor is to increase the pressure and
temperature of refrigerant vapor returning from the evaporators.
There are three primary types of compressors:
! Reciprocating
! Rotary screw
! Rotary vane

Reciprocating and rotary screw compressors are most common.


Although rotary vane compressors are rarely installed today, many are
still in use.
Courtesy of Vogt
This section describes the configuration, operation, and control of
reciprocating, screw, and rotary vane compressors. Figure 18: Cube ice maker

Reciprocating Compressors
Applications
Reciprocating compressors are widely used in either low- or high-temperature applications. They can
accommodate compression ratios up to 8:1 with ammonia, and can be installed as boosters, high-stage,
high-suction, and single-stage. Their maximum size is about 300 horsepower.

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide 21


Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Configuration
Reciprocating compressors use pistons to
compress refrigerant vapor within a cylinder. Most
compressors have 2 to 16 cylinders. Figure 19
shows a 12-cylinder compressor.
The pistons are driven by a crankshaft which is
driven either directly, by an electric motor, or
indirectly, via a belt drive connected to a motor.
An inlet valve opens and low-pressure, low-
temperature refrigerant vapor is drawn into the
cylinder as the piston lowers. The inlet valve then
closes and the piston rises, compressing the vapor. Courtesy of Vilter
As the gas pressure increases, it exits the cylinder
Figure 19: Twelve-cylinder reciprocating compressor
through the exhaust valve. Figure 20 shows an
internal view.
In some uncommon applications, a “compound”
compressor provides multiple stages of
compression in a single machine. For example,
four cylinders might provide a first stage of
compression, and another two cylinders may
provide a second stage. Compound compressors
are used to improve efficiency and to extend the
operable pressure range of the machine.

Capacity Control
Most, but not all reciprocating compressors have
capacity control. For those with capacity control,
Figure 20: Cut-away view of compressor
cylinder unloading is the universal method. The
inlet valve is held open (either by oil pressure or discharge-gas pressure), preventing the cylinder from
compressing. Although the piston still draws suction gas on its downward stroke, it simply pushes the gas
back into the suction line during the upward stroke. Most compressors have simple unloading stages (such
as an 8-cylinder machine unloading to 75%, 50%, and 25% capacity).
In general, electric solenoids
Sample Reciprocating Compressor Part Load
activate unloaders. The electric
solenoids can be managed by 100%

pressure switches mounted 90%


directly on the compressor, by 80%
remote electro-mechanical
70%
switches, or by a modern
computer-control system. 60%
Power

50%
Cylinder unloading is an
40%
efficient form of capacity
30%
control, with a nearly
proportional reduction in 20%
Cylinder Unloading
capacity and power (see 10%
Ideal
Figure 21). 0%
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%

Capacity
Cooling
Usually, reciprocating Figure 21: Reciprocating compressor part-load curves
compressors are cooled by
circulating water through the heads and cylinder jackets. Some compressors have external oil coolers that
are water-cooled. Water is often supplied from an adjacent condenser sump, although it is not uncommon
to simply use a once-through supply of city or well water that is sent to the drain (which can be costly in
terms of water use and possibly sewer charges).

22 Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide


Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Less commonly, liquid refrigerant is used to cool the heads.

Control
As mentioned before, reciprocating compressors are often provided with simple pressure switches for
cylinder unloading and safety cut-outs. Microprocessor-based controls are rarely provided for reciprocating
compressor packages.

Advantages and Disadvantages


Table 3 lists the advantages and disadvantages of reciprocating compressors.

Table 3: Advantages and disadvantages of reciprocating compressors

Advantages Disadvantages
Low Cost Frequent Maintenance
Simple Maintenance High Maintenance Cost
Efficient Unloading Limited Capacity/Size
Compact Discrete Unloading
Many Moving Parts,
Limited Pressure Differential

Rotary Screw Compressors


Applications
Rotary screw (“screw”) compressors can be used in virtually any refrigeration application. They can
accommodate compression ratios up to 20:1 with ammonia, and can be installed as boosters, high-stage,
and single-stage. Maximum size is about 1500 horsepower, although units above 700 hp are rare in
refrigeration applications.

Courtesy of Mycom (right)

Figure 22: Twin screw compressor

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide 23


Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Configuration
Screw compressors come in two designs: twin and
single screw.

Twin Screw
A twin screw has a male and female rotor which
rotate and mesh together (see Figure 22).
Refrigerant vapor is drawn into the space between
the rotors, and as the rotors turn and mesh, the
vapor is trapped. As the rotors continue to rotate,
the vapor is compressed and pushed to the
opposite end of the compressor. The vapor is then Courtesy of Frick
opened to the discharge port, and pushed from the
compressor. Figure 23: Screw compressor package

The screw compressor package relies on oil to seal the rotors during compression. In addition, oil is
pumped through bearings for lubrication. After compression, the refrigerant vapor and oil are mixed and
must be separated. The compressor and driving motor are commonly mounted on top of an oil separator,
as shown in Figure 23. The oil separator has coalescing elements that trap the entrained oil from the
refrigerant vapor stream.

Single Screw
The single-screw design is
relatively new and has a single
rotor and two gate rotors, one
on each side (see Figure 24).
The center female rotor is
driven by the motor and the
two male gate rotors mesh with,
and turn alongside, the female
rotor. The resulting
compression is similar to that of
a twin screw. Courtesy of Vilter (right)

Capacity Control Figure 24: Single-screw compressor

There are four methods of controlling the capacity of screw


compressors:
! Slide Valve
! Poppet valve
! Inlet throttling
! Motor speed

Virtually all compressors use slide-valve unloading to control


capacity. One prominent manufacturer offers a line of compressors
with poppet-valve unloading, and another offers inlet throttling.
(Figure 58 on page 59 shows typical part-load curves for a screw
compressor.)

Slide Valve Unloading


Figure 25: Screw compressor and
Figure 25 shows an exploded view of a screw compressor and slide slide valve mechanism
valve mechanism.

24 Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide


Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Courtesy of Frick (right)

Figure 26: Diagram of slide valve unloading (left) and Photograph of slide valve (right)

As the slide valve is moved, the


Typical Screw Compressor Part Load
point on the rotors where 100%
compression starts is delayed
90%
(Figure 26). Gas is allowed to
return to the suction port, 80%

uncompressed. The slide valve 70%

can provide infinite adjustment 60%


of capacity, down to 10% to
Power

50%
30% of capacity. The slide valve
is usually moved by oil pressure 40%

and, in new compressors, is 30%

managed by the package- 20%


Throttled
Poppet
mounted micro-processor. 10%
Slide Valve
Ideal
Figure 26 shows an actual slide
0%
valve. 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%

Capacity
Slide valve unloading is a
moderately efficient form of
capacity control, although the Figure 27: Screw compressor part-load performance curves for various
efficiency of a machine degrades capacity-control methods
when highly unloaded,
particularly in applications with a high pressure ratio. Fully unloaded power varies from 30% to 50% or
more.

Poppet Valve and Suction Throttling


Bypass port (or poppet valve) unloading is used on a line of booster compressors offered by one
manufacturer. Three ports are located along the rotor casing, with valves that can open to bypass
compressed gas back to the suction end of the compressor. The ports provide three discrete stages of
unloading, although the resulting capacity and power for each stage is highly dependent on the pressure
ratio. Poppet valve unloading is very inefficient, with fully-unloaded capacity of approximately 10% and
power as high as 85%.
Suction throttling is rare, but is used on a line of booster compressors offered by one manufacturer. An
inlet valve in the suction line closes, reducing refrigerant flow to a trickle. Although the flow rate is
reduced, the compressor draws a tremendous vacuum between the throttling valve and rotors. This form
of unloading is virtually identical to the inlet throttling seen on many modulating screw air compressors.
This form of capacity control is very inefficient, drawing more than 90% power when fully unloaded.

Speed Control for Unloading


In the past, screw compressors were available with two-speed motors for added capacity control.
Operating the compressor at half speed provided roughly half capacity at half power. Modern VFD
technology makes two-speed installations increasingly rare. A two-speed motor and starter cost nearly as
much as a VFD.

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide 25


Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Most screw compressor manufacturers now offer VFD control as a
factory-provided option. (This is a relatively new development. There VFDs are the most efficient
were few applications before the mid-1990s and most early
applications were retrofits.) The compressor is allowed to slow from
form of capacity control for
100% to its minimum speed set point which can vary from 20% to screw compressors.
50% speed depending on the application. The slide valve is held at
the 100% capacity condition until the compressor is at minimum
speed. Once at minimum speed, the slide valve is allowed to unload
for further capacity reduction The VFD and slide are managed by the compressor microprocessor panel or
a refrigeration computer-control system.
VFD control provides better efficiency than any of the other methods of capacity control. A detailed
discussion of VFD control is found in Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) beginning on page 42.

Cooling
Screw compressors use oil for lubrication and cooling during the compression process, so heat must be
removed from the oil continuously. There are several methods of cooling screw compressors, including:
! Liquid injection
! Thermosiphon
! Water or glycol cooling
! Direct cooling

Liquid Injection Cooling


Liquid injection is a simple and inexpensive form of cooling (Figure 28). High-pressure liquid refrigerant is
injected into the side of the rotors, and flashes to low pressure and temperature within the rotors. This
flashing and evaporation of the injected refrigerant cools the refrigerant and oil, and the discharge
temperature is kept at about 125°F with a thermal expansion valve on the feed circuit.

Figure 28: Diagram and photo of liquid-injection cooling system

Liquid injection cooling imposes a small capacity penalty, and can impose a power penalty of 1% to 10%
or more. The power penalty results from the need to recompress the refrigerant that was injected into the
compression process. In general, the power penalty increases with pressure ratio, and is greatest in single-
stage applications with a low suction pressure.
An additional disadvantage of liquid injection is the need to elevate condensing pressure to ensure
adequate pressure to inject properly. Older designs had a minimum pressure requirement of 100 to
125 psig, although modern designs with electronic expansion valves are capable of operating at lower
pressures.
In a small number of applications, the injection occurs in the compressor discharge line. This eliminates
the power penalty, but requires a booster pump. A small liquid pump boosts liquid pressure sufficiently to

26 Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide


Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
allow injection into the compressor discharge piping. Figure 29 shows one manufacturer’s discharge
injection system.

Thermosiphon Cooling
Thermosiphon oil cooling (Figure 30) is a passive
method of cooling compressor oil. A shell-and-
tube (or small plate-and-frame) heat exchanger is
mounted on the side of the compressor package,
angled slightly from the horizontal. High-pressure
liquid ammonia is piped from a pilot vessel
(usually either a separate vessel located in the
ceiling of the engine room, or the upper portion of
a vertical high-pressure receiver with a catch basin)
to one side of the exchanger, and the hot
compressor oil is passed through the other side of
the exchanger. The warm oil causes the liquid
ammonia to boil, cooling the oil. The ammonia
vapor from this process floats upward and is piped
back to the condenser.
There are three advantages to the thermosiphon Courtesy of Vilter
system. First, there is no capacity or power penalty.
Second, there is no artificial lower limit to Figure 29: Discharge injection system showing pump
discharge pressure. And third, all heat rejected (arrow)
from the oil is routed directly to the condenser,
which provides energy savings with booster compressors in a two-stage system (discussed in Multistage
Compression beginning on page 71).
Thermosiphon cooling is not cheap: about $10,000 to $25,000 more per machine than injection cooling. In
addition, the heat exchanger requires adequate space next to the compressor package.

Figure 30: Diagram and photo of thermosiphon cooling system

Water or Glycol Cooling


Water or glycol can be used to cool screw compressor oil, but this method is fairly uncommon. As with
thermosiphon cooling, a heat exchanger is mounted on the compressor package. In this case, water or
glycol (rather than ammonia) is pumped through the exchanger for cooling. The heat can be rejected in
several ways, including cooling towers, condenser sumps, or even to freezer underfloor heating systems.
These systems are similar to thermosiphon in that they are a form of external oil cooling and they do not
limit discharge pressure. However, they are less popular because of the possibility of fouling the water-side
of the heat exchanger. They are also less efficient than thermosiphon due to circulation pump power.

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide 27


Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Direct-Contact Cooling
A recently developed
technology is direct-contact
cooling between the refrigerant
and oil. A layer of liquid
refrigerant is maintained on top
of the oil within the oil
separator. The refrigerant boils
in the separator, cooling the oil.
A mixture of oil and liquid
refrigerant is injected into the
discharge end of the rotor
casing, providing cooling
following the compression Courtesy of Vilter

process. Figure 31 is a sample


Figure 31: Direct-contact cooling system
diagram of this cooling
alternative.
This method of cooling is relatively new in the marketplace. Claimed advantages include lower cost and
higher efficiency.

Internal Volume Ratio


A discussion of screw compressor basics would not be complete without a review of the internal volume
ratio, or VI. In the simplest terms, the VI is the ratio of the gas volume at the beginning of the
compression process (just as the rotors seal off the suction port) to that at the end of the compression
process (just as the rotors open to the discharge port). The VI is determined by the location and
dimensions of the discharge port and, in some cases, the design of the slide valve.
The simplest design includes a fixed VI. That is, the VI of the compressor is determined by the physical
design of the machine (the shape of the slide valve and discharge port) and cannot be adjusted except by
machining or replacing parts.
Some screw compressors are equipped with a Overcompression and Undercompression
variable VI feature. The VI can be automatically 160

adjusted as the compressor operates (in discrete 140


Beginning of Compression

Discharge
steps or continuously), or can be set manually 120
Pressure

through mechanical adjustment. The location and


Pressure (psi)

100 Overcompression
shape of the discharge port is changed by moving

End of Compression
80
a slide stop, a block of metal adjacent to the slide
valve. 60

40
Undercompression

Why does the VI matter? It can significantly affect 20


energy efficiency. If the VI doesn’t properly match Suction
Pressure
0
the actual pressures of the system, Compression Process
overcompression or undercompression occurs
(Figure 32).
Figure 32: Diagram of overcompression and
In the case of undercompression, the gas within undercompression
the compressor does not rise to the pressure
outside the discharge port. As the rotors turn and open to the discharge port, gas actually rushes into the
compressor from the discharge line. This gas must be recompressed and discharged from the machine.
This results in inefficiency.
In the case of overcompression, the gas within the compressor rises to a pressure higher than that outside
the discharge port. Unnecessary work on the gas within the compressor also results in inefficiency.

28 Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide


Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Ideally, the gas pressure within the compressor perfectly matches the
pressure outside the discharge port. Correctly selecting a fixed-VI
compressor, adjusting a manual VI port, or upgrading to an auto-VI
feature will improve efficiency (see Screw Compressor Volume
Ratio on page 67 for details).

Compressor Control
Virtually all new screw compressors are controlled by a
microprocessor panel mounted on the compressor package (see
Figure 33). Microprocessor panels allow the operator easily operate
the compressor in local, remote, or manual mode. They incorporate
many safety and protection features. They allow for easy calibration.

Advantages and Disadvantages Courtesy of Frick

Table 4 lists the advantages and disadvantages of screw compressors.


Figure 33: Compressor control
panel
Table 4: Advantages and disadvantages of screw compressors

Advantages Disadvantages
Long maintenance intervals High initial cost
Available in large capacity Factory-level service requirements
Slide valve with infinite control Inefficient unloading
Few moving parts Large package size

Rotary Vane Compressors


Applications
Rotary vane compressors are rarely used in new
installations, but are found in many existing
facilities. For this reason, they are included here.
Rotary vane compressors are exclusively applied as
booster compressors in low-temperature
applications. They can only accommodate
compression ratios up to 5:1 with ammonia.
Maximum size is about 400 horsepower.

Configuration
Figure 34 shows an external view of a rotary vane
compressor. Figure 34: Rotary vane compressor
The center shaft is offset, and flat blades called
“vanes” are located in slots of the rotor. As the compressor turns, the vanes are thrust outward and slide
along the case. Gas is drawn in one side of the compressor, and discharged at the other side. Figure 35
shows an internal view.
The compressors can move a tremendous flow of refrigerant, although they have limited pressure ranges.
In addition, the compressors are frail and the vanes are highly susceptible to shearing when liquid
accidentally enters the compressor. In addition, these compressors are very loud.

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide 29


Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Capacity Control
Virtually all rotary vane compressors have no
capacity control. With no capacity control, suction
pressure floats to an equilibrium pressure where
load meets capacity. Rarely, a gas bypass feature is
available that recirculates high-pressure gas from
the discharge line back to the suction line. This is a
very inefficient method of capacity control.

Cooling
In many rotary vane booster applications, no
cooling is required because of the very low
operating suction temperature. However, water
cooling is used when needed. Figure 35: Rotary vane compressor—internal view

Control
Virtually all applications are operated manually or with simple pressure switches or a computer-control
system.

Advantages and Disadvantages


Table 5 lists the advantages and disadvantages of rotary vane compressors.

Table 5: Advantages and disadvantages of rotary vane compressors

Advantages Disadvantages
High-volume capacity No or limited capacity control
Compact Susceptible to vane damage
Noisy

Performance Ratings
Full-Load Ratings
All compressors are rated for capacity and power at various suction and discharge pressures and
temperatures. Ratings are often available as a table, performance curves, or through factory-provided
software.
Capacity is rated in tons of refrigeration (TR), where 1 TR = 12,000 BTU/hour. Power is universally rated
in brake horsepower (BHP), the input power required at the shaft. Table 6 shows sample ratings.

Table 6: Sample compressor ratings

Condensing Suction Temperature and Pressure


Temperature -40°F (8.7") 0°F (15.7 psig) +40°F (58.6 psig))
& Pressure BHP TR BHP/TR BHP TR BHP/TR BHP TR BHP/TR
75°F (126 psig) 269 108 2.49 347 317 1.09 350 773 0.45
85°F (152 psig) 301 103 2.92 389 308 1.26 419 751 0.56
95°F (181 psig) 336 99 3.39 436 296 1.47 496 729 0.68
105°F (214 psig) 374 94 3.98 486 290 1.68 582 705 0.83

30 Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide


Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
There are three general rules that can be applied to any set of full-load compressor ratings:
! Raising suction pressure increases compressor capacity.
! Lowering discharge pressure decreases power.
! In all cases, raising suction or lowering discharge pressure improves BHP/TR.

These rules will be used in later sections to improve compressor and system efficiency (see Increasing
Suction Pressure, page 46 and Reducing Discharge Pressure, page 49).

Part-Load Ratings
Traditionally, full-load ratings have been the focus for designing and assessing the overall performance of
compressors. Only recently has part-load performance become prominent, particularly in response to
increased energy awareness. Unfortunately, part-load ratings for compressors are developed and presented
less consistently than full-load ratings, making it difficult to compare the part-load performance of
equipment from different manufacturers.
Historically, only general part-load ratings were published. That is, performance at specific operating
conditions was not rated. In addition, manufacturers would “take liberties” with performance curves, for
example, claiming reduced discharge pressure when unloaded to mask inefficiency. It was difficult to
accurately assess compressor performance at reduced load.
However, most manufacturers now offer rating software that allows detailed part-load curves to be
developed, and variable speed performance to be documented.
There are only two absolute rules that can be taken from any set of part-load compressor ratings:
! Compressor efficiency degrades as the compressor operates at decreasing percentages of full load.
! Speed control provides the best part-load performance for screw compressors.

These rules will be used in later sections to improve compressor and system efficiency (see Improving
Compressor Part-Load Performance, page 59).

Condensers Most existing, and nearly all


new applications, use
Introduction evaporative condensers.
The purpose of a condenser is to reject the heat absorbed by the
refrigeration system. This step condenses, or returns to a liquid, the
high pressure, high temperature vapor refrigerant discharged by the compressors. The total condensing
load includes not only the heat absorbed by the evaporator, but all other energy entering the cycle,
including compressor shaft power and other minor loads. In nearly all cases, the majority of the heat is
rejected to the ambient (outdoor) environment. Engineered heat recovery systems are common
(particularly for underfloor heating of freezers), but they only reduce the total condensing load by a small
percentage.
Though a few refrigeration systems use air-cooled or shell-and-tube condensers with cooling towers or
even river water, we will focus on evaporative condensers, which are used for the vast majority of modern
industrial refrigeration systems.
This section describes the configuration, operation, and control of evaporative condensers in industrial
refrigeration systems.

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Basic Operating Principles
An evaporative condenser combines heat and mass
transfer in a single package. Refrigerant from the
compressor discharge is piped to a tube bundle
inside the upper portion of the condenser. Water is
sprayed over the top of the tubes, and falls by
gravity over the tube bundle down to a sump in
the bottom of the condenser. This water cools the
refrigerant in the tubes, eventually condensing the
vapor refrigerant into liquid at the same pressure
and temperature. The liquid refrigerant drains to
the lower portion of the tube bundle and
eventually out of the unit and back to the high-
pressure receiver vessel. The water in the sump is
pumped back to the top of the condenser to be
sprayed over the tube bundle again.
As the water falls over the tube bundle, air is
blown or drawn upward, counter to the water
flow. The air causes some of the water to
evaporate, thereby cooling the water. The air
stream leaving the condenser is warm and moist,
carrying away all heat released by the condensing Figure 36: Evaporative condenser
refrigerant.
Figure 36 shows a simple internal diagram of an evaporative condenser.

Common Configurations
There are three common configurations of evaporative condensers:
! Forced-draft with axial fans
! Induced-draft with axial fans
! Forced-draft with centrifugal fans

Forced-Draft, Axial Fan Condensers


In forced-draft axial fan condensers (Figure 37, left), fans are located on the end or side and blow air into
the volume below the tube bundle. These units are often rectangular in shape, and can have from one to
six fans (with one to four motors driving one or two fans each) and one or two pumps. The fans are
always belt-driven. The benefit of this design is high efficiency and simple access to fans and motors.

Courtesy Imeco (left), Evapco (center), and Baltimore Air Coil (right)

Figure 37: Forced-draft, axial fan condenser (left); Induced-draft, axial fan condenser (center); Forced-draft,
centrifugal fan condenser (right)

32 Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide


Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Induced-Draft, Axial Fan Condensers
An alternative to the forced-draft axial fan unit is the induced-draft condenser (Figure 37, center). In these
units, the fans are on the top and draw air in the sides of the condenser and upward over the tube bundle.
The units can have from one to four fans (each driven by a dedicated motor), and one or two pumps. The
fans are driven by belts on smaller units, and by a shaft and gearbox on large units. These models are
typically quieter than forced-draft, axial fan models.

Forced-Draft, Centrifugal Fan Condensers


In forced-draft centrifugal fan condensers (Figure 37, right), fans are located underneath the tube bundle
and blow air into the volume below the tube bundle. The units have from one to eight fans (driven by one
to four motors, each turning a shaft), and one to or two pumps. The fans are always belt-driven. The
benefit of this design is very quiet operation and the ability to produce high-pressure air flow, as might be
required inside a building or with ductwork. Centrifugal condensers are typically much less efficient than
axial models on a fan power per ton basis.
In all three designs, pump motors range from 1/3 hp to 7.5 hp, and fans from 1/2 hp to 50 hp each. The
largest designs can have between 150 and 200 hp of combined fan and pump power.

Capacity Control
Condenser capacity is managed by interrupting or varying the water and/or air flow.

Fan and Pump Cycling


In the simplest configuration, pressure switches cycle pumps and fans on and off. The set points are often
staggered, bringing on different stages of capacity over a range of pressures. The pressure switches are
almost always spring-loaded or mercury units, which are discussed under Pressure Switches on page 39.

Air Flow Control


Many modern condenser installations use VFDs to control fans. Fan speed can be varied continuously
from 0% to 100% (although the manufacturer should be consulted to avoid resonant frequencies).
Although VFDs are discussed in condenser product literature, the VFD is rarely provided by the
condenser manufacturer. It is usually provided by the electrical or other installing contractor.
Before VFDs gained prominence, both two-speed and pony-motor options (a half-speed motor driving
the same shaft) were available. However, advances in VFD control technology have made these options all
but obsolete.
A seldom used option for air flow control is a damper that is closed by an actuator, thereby reducing air
flow and capacity. Again, VFD technology makes this option virtually obsolete.

Water Flow Control


In almost all cases, the capacity of the condenser should not be controlled by varying water flow. Although
doing so would work, varying water flow can cause solids to build up on tube surfaces as they dry and are
rewetted. For this reason, pumps should only be operated at full flow, and frequent cycling should be
avoided unless effective water treatment eliminates the possibility of build-up.

Design and Installation Options


Besides capacity control, there are few configuration options for condensers that affect energy efficiency.
The primary remaining option is the choice of integral or remote sumps. An integral sump design holds
the water in a pan at the bottom of the condenser, and a factory-installed pump simply lifts the water from
the sump to the spray nozzles above.
In a remote sump design, a large tank is located below the condensers, often 15 to 30 feet below. Pumps
must be two to three times larger to overcome the increased pumping head pressure. Remote sumps are

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide 33


Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
often installed to simplify water treatment, to provide a reservoir of water for defrosting or compressor
cooling, or where frigid climates make integral sump designs troublesome.

Capacity Ratings
Full Load
All evaporative condensers are rated at nominal conditions (in thousands of Btu/hr, or MBH), and are
corrected based on condensing temperature and entering wet-bulb temperature. These correction factors
are virtually universal across all manufacturers and models.

Part Load
Condenser manufacturers do not provide part-load performance data in standard published literature.
However, there are experimental or theoretical formulas that can be applied to rated capacity at reduced air
or water flow. To be conservative, you can assume that capacity decreases proportionally with air flow. In
reality, performance is slightly better due to more effective heat transfer.

Dry Operation
If a condenser must be operated without water (conditions below freezing), the fans can be operated
alone. In this situation, heat transfer is very poor. Condenser manufacturers provide ratings for dry
operation, but, as discussed in Wet vs. Dry Operation (page 64), dry operation is very inefficient and
should be avoided unless absolutely necessary under frigid conditions.

Vessels, Valves, Purgers, and Underfloor Heating

Introduction
Some important components of an industrial refrigeration system do not use energy directly but
nonetheless affect the overall energy efficiency of the system. Examples include vessels, valves, heat
exchangers, purgers, and other miscellaneous equipment. It is important to be familiar with these
components and their role in system efficiency.

Vessels
Low-Pressure Receivers
A low-pressure receiver (LPR) is an insulated tank
that holds low-pressure, low-temperature liquid
ammonia to be sent to evaporators (Figure 38).
The liquid is pumped to the coils, and some of it
(typically 1/4 to 1/3) boils in the evaporator coil.
The mixture of vapor and liquid returns to the
LPR where the gas rises to the top and is drawn
away by the compressor suction. Since only some
of the refrigerant is boiled in the evaporator, this
system is often called “overfeed” or “liquid Figure 38: Low-pressure receiver (LPR) with
recirculation.” insulation and liquid pump

We address the LPR and its piping and valves in Chapter 4:Best Practices for Equipment, Systems, and
Controls because overfeed rates and other related issues can affect efficiency.

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Accumulators
An accumulator is also an insulated tank that holds low-pressure, low-temperature liquid ammonia for
flooded evaporator applications. It is located above an evaporator coil or heat exchanger, and the liquid
ammonia level is held about midway in the accumulator and thus completely floods the evaporator below
it. Virtually all accumulators have a manual, dual-position, or motorized pressure regulator between the
vessel and the compressor suction line that manages ammonia pressure and temperature within the coil.
We address adjusting and controlling pressure regulators on these coils in Optimum Evaporator VFD
Control and Set Points on page 57.

Intercoolers and Subcoolers


An intercooler is a vessel that contains liquid
refrigerant at an intermediate pressure in a
multistage system (Figure 39). As discharge gas
from a booster compressor bubbles up through
the liquid, all superheat is removed and it returns
to saturation temperature. A subcooler is a vessel
containing liquid refrigerant in an economized
system for subcooling. It is a key component in
multistage systems and systems with economizers.
In Chapter 4: Best Practices for Equipment,
Systems, and Controls, we discuss these systems
and the effect of intercoolers and subcoolers on Figure 39: Diagram of an intercooler
efficiency.

High-Pressure Receivers
A high-pressure receiver (HPR) is an uninsulated
tank that holds the high-pressure liquid draining
from the condensers (Figure 40). Virtually all
refrigeration systems have some kind of HPR. It is
usually located in the engine room, but it is
sometimes located on the roof immediately below
the condensers, or outdoors adjacent to the engine
room. These vessels can be horizontal or vertical
designs.

Controlled-Pressure Receivers
Some systems use a gas-pressure recirculation
design, where compressor discharge gas is used to
move liquid refrigerant throughout the coils and Figure 40: High-pressure receiver (HPR)
between vessels. In lieu of a high-pressure receiver,
these systems use a controlled-pressure receiver (CPR). In a system with a standard HPR, the pressure
inside the vessel floats with system condensing pressure. With a CPR, pressure in the vessel is held at a
constant level, typically 65 to 100 psig. Gas-pressure systems are often inefficient for several reasons:
! CPR often presents a bottleneck to reducing condensing pressure.
! In the course of managing liquid refrigerant and controlling vessel pressure, a significant volume of
refrigerant vapor is regulated or transferred from the condensing pressure to the low side of the
system. This gas must be recompressed and represents a “false” load on the system.

Liquid Transfer Vessels


Gas pressure recirculation systems also incorporate additional transfer vessels. Liquid refrigerant from
overfeed system or other sources drain typically drain to one or more transfer vessels. As the liquid vessels
reach their upper limits, gas pressure or pumps are utilized to transfer the liquid to a higher pressure vessel.

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide 35


Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Valves
Liquid Solenoids
A liquid solenoid is a valve that
opens and closes to manage
liquid (or gas) refrigerant flow
(Figure 41, left). All
refrigeration systems include
liquid solenoids. A liquid
solenoid opens and closes to Courtesy of Hansen

manage the flow of liquid


Figure 41: Liquid solenoid (left); Metered liquid solenoid (right)
refrigerant. Solenoids are
commonly used for evaporator
feed in recirculated systems, for make-up liquid to LPRs and intercoolers, and for miscellaneous
applications such as compressor liquid injection.
In a newly developed type of solenoid, the valve doesn’t just open and close abruptly, but rather modulates
to meter the flow (Figure 41, right). This smoothes out system pressure changes, which often fluctuate
wildly during liquid feed. This can have secondary energy effects on such issues as sequencing compressors
or selecting a compressor for operation.

Hand Expansion Valves Poorly performing solenoids,


Hand expansion valves are used to meter flow, usually in conjunction pressure regulators, and valves
with a liquid solenoid (Figure 42, left). Common applications include
recirculated evaporator coils where the overfeed rate is set by the can reduce system efficiency.
hand expansion valve, and liquid transfer to vessels controlled at
reduced pressure.

Thermal Expansion Valves


Thermal expansion valves are used on applications that include a direct-expansion evaporator coil, on
screw-compressor liquid-injection systems (Figure 42, center), and on less common applications. Older
thermal-expansion valves use a classic bulb-and-diaphragm design, although new electronic versions are
becoming increasingly popular for greater flexibility and control.

Courtesy of Hansen (left), Sporlan (center), Danfoss (right)

Figure 42: Hand expansion valve (left); Thermal expansion valve (center); Electronic expansion valve (right)

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Electronic Expansion Valves
Electronic expansion valves are a relatively new technology that are being increasingly utilized in the
industrial refrigeration market (Figure 42, right). These valves are often employed in applications instead of
hand or thermal expansion valves. Electronic valves offer the advantage of modulating control of
refrigerant flow. Modulating liquid flow to recirculated evaporator coils and pressure vessels stabilizes
system pressure versus traditional on/off control. Reducing swings in refrigeration loads can have an
energy benefit when it allows a system to downsize or reduce the number of compressors operating.

Pressure Regulators
Pressure regulators maintain a
steady pressure at their inlet or
outlet (Figure 43). Examples
include a suction-pressure
regulator on a flooded
evaporator coil, or a hot-gas-
defrost regulator. Pressure
regulators are common in
industrial refrigeration systems.
They can either be manual (set
to maintain a fixed pressure),
dual-pressure (with high and
low settings), or motorized Courtesy of Hansen

(continuously adjustable). They Figure 43: Pressure regulators


play a large part in system
performance, and adjusting them to the most appropriate pressure set points often improves efficiency.

Purgers
Systems operating with negative suction pressures (below atmospheric pressure) tend to draw air into the
system. Left unresolved, the added air results in increased condensing pressures. We discuss the benefits of
purgers (Figure 44) in Purgers on page 75.

Underfloor Heating
Virtually all systems with freezers (below 32°F) need underfloor
heating to prevent the floor from frost heaving. There are three
common types of underfloor heating:
! Glycol
! Air
! Electric

Underfloor heating can have dramatic direct and secondary impacts


on energy efficiency. Heating can limit system operating pressures, Courtesy of Hansen

can put too much heat under the floor, and can use inefficient forms
Figure 44: Automatic purger
of heating (for example, electric resistance).

Glycol Floor Heating


In this system, glycol at 60 to 90°F runs through 1"–3" PVC pipe set into the floors beneath the freezer.
The piping runs beneath the floor insulation and is spaced several feet apart. A pump circulates glycol
through a heat exchanger located in the engine room and the underfloor piping.
In most applications, the glycol is heated with ammonia from the compressor discharge header. In some
systems, the entire discharge of refrigerant gas flows through the exchanger, and the glycol is warmed by
simply absorbing some of the superheat in the refrigerant. In other systems, a portion of the gas is diverted

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
through a small condensing exchanger, with the refrigerant condensing into liquid as it heats the glycol. It
is rare that the glycol is heated with anything other than refrigerant heat.

Air Floor Heating


Similar to glycol, warm air is blown under freeze floors in 3” to 5” PVC piping. In many systems, the air is
simply ambient or engine room air that is not heated. However, some systems utilize refrigerant heat
recovery, electric, or gas heating to raise the air temperature.

Electric Floor Heating


In some cases, underfloor heating is done with strips of heat tape or cable laid underneath or in the slab,
or heating elements actually located within the concrete. These applications are usually small, although
some large applications can exceed 100 kW.

Controls

Introduction
All industrial refrigeration systems must be controlled to keep temperatures, pressures, and other critical
variables within suitable ranges. Refrigeration controls affect production, safety, and efficiency. The basic
features of most computer-control systems are:
! Evaporator liquid solenoid and pressure regulator control
! Evaporator fan on/off control
! Evaporator defrost control
! Compressor on/off and unloading control
! Condenser pump and fan on/off control

In the simplest sense, evaporators are controlled in response to zone temperature, compressors are
controlled in response to suction pressure, and condensers are controlled in response to condensing
pressure.
In addition to these basic functions, refrigeration control systems can also provide additional advanced
functions including:
! Advanced compressor sequencing
! Advanced condenser control algorithms
! Advanced demand defrost initiation and termination control
! Two-speed motor and variable frequency drive control
! Underfloor heating system monitoring and control
! Recording of system variables (trending)
! System alarms
! Remote control

The presence of advanced control features depends on the control system capabilities and the customer’s
needs.
There are four basic categories of control systems:
! Manual control
! Electro-mechanical control
! Simple programmable logic controllers (PLC)
! Computer control

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Manual Controls
Manual control is simply the complete management of equipment by attending personnel.
With manual control systems, system operators simply turn on equipment (such as a compressor,
condenser pump, or fan) and, in some cases, adjust capacity as needed. Simple push-button controls or
hand switches are most common for equipment start and stop. Manual control is increasingly uncommon.

Electro-Mechanical Controls
Electro-mechanical controls use simple pneumatic or electronic circuitry to manage refrigeration
equipment.
Electro-mechanical controls are still relatively common, particularly for small systems where computer
control is not cost-effective, and with equipment such as reciprocating compressors where pressure
switches are often integrated with the equipment by the manufacturer.

Pressure Switches
Simple pressure switches are most often used to unload the cylinders in reciprocating compressors and to
control the cycling of condenser pumps and fans. There are two common types of pressure switches:
! Spring-loaded
! Mercury

Spring-loaded pressure switches


(Figure 45, left) all have a “cut-
in” set point and either a
“differential” or “cut-out” set
point. They are adjusted with a
screwdriver, are difficult to set
accurately, and are susceptible
to drift.
Mercury pressure switches
(Figure 45, right) use a liquid Courtesy of Mercoid (right)
mercury switch, and offer a cut-
in and cut-out setting. These Figure 45: Spring-loaded (left) and Mercury (right) pressure switches
switches are easy to set and are
most common on condenser controls.

Thermostats
A thermostat senses temperature changes and activates a switch that
controls a piece of equipment. In refrigeration systems, they are most
often used to control evaporator coils and associated liquid solenoids
and fans. Figure 46 shows a sample application.

Packaged Electro-Mechanical Systems


In larger refrigeration systems, electro-mechanical controls can be
assembled into a package. One example is a control panel for a screw
compressor that is used to manage all compressor controls, alarms,
and safeties.
On a larger scale, electro-mechanical control centers can be used to
sequence and control equipment, as shown in Figure 47. Figure 46: Thermostat

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Though electro-mechanical
control systems were once the
most effective option, they are
increasingly rare in new
installations. PLC and
computer-control systems have
superseded electro-mechanical
systems on nearly all new
construction projects, and are
replacing many aging electro-
mechanical systems in existing
installations.

Simple Programmable
Logic Control (PLC)
Small systems can be controlled Figure 47: Electro-mechanical control system
using simple programmable
logic controllers, or PLCs (Figure 48). These types of controllers perform the same basic functions as
electro-mechanical controls, using solid-state hardware in lieu of pneumatic, thermostatic, and electrical
(relay) controls. Common PLCs include the Honeywell Universal Digital Controller (UDC) series and the
Allen-Bradley SLC 500. UDC controllers are used for simple applications, such as taking a temperature-
probe input and outputting a control signal to a pressure regulator. These units can perform simple math
and can have multiple inputs and outputs. They are self-tuning, and have push-button set point
adjustments.
A PLC system like the SLC 500 is capable of more advanced control.
This type of PLC is mounted on a rack panel, and can be expanded
to meet a variety of input and output requirements. The system can
be tied into a central interface computer or process display, and can
provide trending and other advanced features.

Compressor Microprocessor Panels


The majority of new screw compressors available today are equipped
with microprocessor panels that provide local control of the
compressor package. In addition, a number of compressor
manufacturers now offer panels with advanced functions like Courtesy of Honeywell

compressor trend-logging, sequencing of multiple compressor in an


Figure 48: Simple digital
engine room, and even rudimentary condenser fan and pump control.
controller
Although many older packages were originally equipped with simple
electro-mechanical controls, these can be upgraded to a modern microprocessor panel for additional
features and improved integration with a central computer-control system.

Computer Control
Introduction
Computer-control systems for refrigeration first became available in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These
systems were a remarkable leap forward in control, trending, alarms, and other operations. Since these
early systems, the capabilities of computer-based controls have expanded dramatically, with easy-to-use
graphical interfaces, remote access, and advanced features.

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Central vs. Distributed
There are two primary varieties of computer control:
! Central
! Distributed

In a central control system, the computer directly executes all control


code and trending. In a distributed system, individual PLC controllers
are located throughout the system. These PLCs are accessed through
a central interface computer, but each PLC operates independently.
The central computer could be turned off and the system would
continue to operate.
Figure 49: Computer-control
Figure 49 shows a sample computer-control system interface. system interface
Both central and distributed systems have advantages and
disadvantages. Both designs operate well, and as hardware and software continue to be refined, any
differences between the two designs may narrow.

Input/Output and Communications


All refrigeration control systems use a system of analog and digital
input/output (I/O) modules to communicate with sensors and
equipment. For example, an analog signal may measure a pressure
transducer (with a variable setting), while a digital signal might
control a liquid solenoid (which is either on or off). The I/O
modules are contained in one or more panels located throughout the
facility, as shown in Figure 50.
The development of serial communications led to RS-232, RS-485,
and standards such as Modbus to communicate with refrigeration
equipment. For example, virtually all modern microprocessor panels
for screw compressors can accommodate Modbus communications.
Rather than using discrete analog and digital I/O to manage and
monitor the compressor, a single communications cable can not only Figure 50: I/O communications
control the compressor microprocessor, but have access to every panel
control parameter. Modbus is also useful in VFD control.

Vendors and Installers


There are two categories of vendors of computer-control systems for refrigeration systems:
! Refrigeration-specific
! General control

Refrigeration-Specific Control Systems


Most of the major suppliers of industrial refrigeration equipment offer computer-control systems for their
equipment. Also, control firms offer systems specifically designed for refrigeration systems (as opposed to
general-purpose control systems adapted to refrigeration systems). Also included in this category are
design-build refrigeration contractors that design and install refrigeration systems. Some of these
contractors employ control specialists who design, assemble, and implement refrigeration control systems
for them.

General Control Firms and In-house Personnel


General control firms provide controls applicable to a variety of commercial and industrial applications. In
general, they do not specialize in industrial refrigeration, and the success of the application depends on the
experience and skills of the assigned programmer. In these applications, the operator of the customer’s
refrigeration system must often be involved in developing the proper control algorithms.

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Also included in this category are in-house or corporate control specialists. For example, industrial food
processing facilities often have process-oriented control systems that can be expanded to manage the
refrigeration system. Also, in some cases, the facility may have staff with sufficient control or refrigeration
expertise to successfully implement a stand-alone computer-control system.

Control Software
In the earliest systems, computer control depended on Unix, DOS, Assembly Language, C++, and other
low-level languages. These systems were usually proprietary, and have mostly given way to systems with
modern, open software platforms such as Wonderware, Intellution, Allen Bradley, GE, Think-N-Do, and
others. However, there are still many systems that use proprietary or low-level software for control.
Advanced features, brought about by Microsoft Windows and its graphical user interface, networking, and
the Internet, have expanded the abilities of control software. In general, there has been an evolution away
from proprietary and low-level software toward open architectures that require less arcane coding.

Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs)

Introduction
Until the early 1990s, the use of variable frequency drives (VFDs) in industrial refrigeration was rare.
Throughout the 1990s, VFDs began to appear as a standard factory-offered option for other equipment
such as centrifugal water chillers. In the early 2000s, even rotary-screw air compressors offered VFD
options. Only relatively recently have manufacturers of industrial refrigeration equipment embraced VFD
technology. Now, virtually all prominent manufacturers of screw compressors for industrial refrigeration
offer VFD control as a factory option. It is also possible to retrofit VFDs on many existing compressor
systems. In addition, all prominent condenser manufacturers now discuss fan VFD control in marketing
literature. And VFD control of evaporator fans, although common in the Pacific Northwest, has become
more widely embraced nationally by refrigeration design firms and their customers.

Standard Motors
Whether driving fans, pumps, or compressors, virtually all industrial refrigeration motors are three-phase
induction units that operate at fixed speeds of 900, 1200, 1800, or 3600 rpm. Motor speeds for typical
equipment are:
Evaporator Fans: 1200 or 1800 rpm
Compressors – Reciprocating: 1200 rpm (direct) or 1800 rpm (belt)
Compressors – Rotary Screw: 3600 rpm
Compressors – Rotary Vane: 900 or 1200 rpm
Condenser Fans: 1800 rpm
The operating speed of the motor is determined by the frequency of the line current (in North America, 60
Hertz, or 60 cycles per second), and the winding configuration (number of poles) of the motor. When
running unloaded a motor turns at its nameplate-listed speed, slowing a few percent as load is placed on
the shaft. Equipment run by motors at a single, fixed speed meet peak loads requirements, but do not
accommodate part-load conditions well, which account for most operating hours.

Purpose of Variable Frequency Drives


The purpose of a VFD is to allow a motor to be operated at speeds other than design. Although VFDs
can actually increase motor speed, this is seldom a goal when trying to improve energy efficiency.
In the simplest view, a VFD converts the 60 Hz line current into discrete voltage pulses. The frequency of
the pulses can be varied by electronics internal to the VFD and as motor speed is dependent on the
frequency of the line current, a VFD can continuously vary motor speed. Figure 51 shows a sample VFD
output voltage and current waveform.

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Waveform Sample - VFD Output Voltage Waveform Sample - VFD Output Current

1600 600

1200 400

800
200

400

Voltage
0

Amps
0
-200
-400

-400
-800

-1200 -600

-1600 -800
0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500

Time (milliseconds) Time (milliseconds)

Figure 51: VFD output voltage and current waveform

VFDs are available in a wide range of capacities,


from fractional horsepower to thousands of
horsepower. In the United States, virtually all
industrial refrigeration applications are 480-volt,
although some 240 volt applications still exist.
Although rare in refrigeration, medium voltage
units—2300 to 4160 volts—are also available.
Figure 52 shows a VFD installation.
It is important to note that a VFD itself does not
reduce energy use. Rather, energy savings occur by
operating the driven equipment at a lower speed
and possibly reduced torque. Placing a VFD on a
motor that always operates at full speed will not
reduce energy, but will actually increase power
slightly as VFD are themselves only about 95%
efficient at full speed.

Constant and Variable Torque Figure 52: Variable-frequency drives (VFDs)


Loads
Motors and VFDs see two types
Constant Torque Loads
of shaft loads:
100%
! Constant torque
90%
! Variable torque.
80%

Since power (in horsepower or


Torque and Power

70%

kilowatts) is defined as torque ! 60%

speed, the torque characteristics 50%

of a shaft load dictate the actual 40%


power required by the motor 30%
and VFD.
20%

In situations of constant torque, 10%


Torque
Power
the torque load on the shaft 0%
does not vary with speed. For 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%

example, the twisting force at 30 Speed

Hz (half speed) is the same as


that at 60 Hz (full speed). In Figure 53: Graph of torque and power versus speed for a constant
industrial refrigeration torque load
applications, compressors are
the only constant torque load of interest. For constant torque loads, shaft power varies in direct

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
proportion to speed. That is, the power at 30 Hz is only (30"60) or one-half the power at 60Hz. Figure 53
is a chart of torque and power versus speed for a constant torque situation.
In situations of variable torque,
Variable Torque Loads
the torque load on the shaft
varies with the square of speed. 100%

That is, the twisting force at 30 90%

Hz is only (30"60)2 or one- 80%


quarter the twisting force at 60

Torque and Power


70%
Hz. In industrial refrigeration
60%
applications, evaporator and
condenser fans are the variable 50%

torque loads of interest. For 40%

these variable torque loads, 30%

shaft power varies in proportion 20%


to the cube of speed, often 10%
Torque

called the “cube law.” That is, at Power

0%
30 Hz, the load would require 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%

(30"60)3, or one-eighth the Speed


power. Figure 54 is a chart of
torque and power versus speed Figure 54: Graph of torque and power versus speed for a variable
for a variable torque situation. torque load
Note that for both the constant
and variable torque applications, capacity varies in direct proportion to speed. So a screw compressor
operating at half speed provides half the capacity. Likewise, for a fan operating at half speed, the fan
moves half the air flow. Operating a screw compressor or fan at reduced speed provides higher efficiency
than other methods of capacity control.

VFD Features and Design Issues


Although VFDs have become very common, proper selection and application is very important. Issues
commonly encountered in industrial refrigeration applications include:

VFD Issues
! Size of VFD
! Need for bypass feature
! Input reactor or harmonic filtering
! Output reactor or dV/dt filtering
! Grouping of multiple motors
! Setup of internal parameters
! Temperature of environment
! Need for external cooling
! Cleanliness of environment

Motor Issues
! Cooling at reduced speed
! Insulation dielectric capabilities
! Current in bearings

Driven-Equipment Issues
! Minimum and maximum allowed speeds
! Resonant frequencies

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Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
Control Issues
! Serial or discrete I/O for control
! Control algorithms
! Control set points
! Alarms and faults

In the Best Practices chapters, we address these issues and the proper application of VFDs to evaporator
fans, screw compressors, and condenser fans; we identify inappropriate refrigeration applications such as
reciprocating compressors and condenser pumps; and we discuss proper control algorithms.

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide 45


Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics
CHAPTER 4

Best Practices for Equipment, Systems,


and Controls

Introduction
This chapter covers engineering opportunities to improve refrigeration system design, select efficient
components, and control the system optimally. The chapter methodically addresses the “Big Picture”
efficiency categories introduced in Chapter 2: Best Practices Overview:
! Reducing Lift (below)
! Improving Part-Load Performance (page 55)
! Upgrading Equipment (page 65)
! Improving System Design (page 71)
! Reducing Refrigeration Loads (page 75)

At the end of this chapter, we highlight the importance of computer controls (page 79) and provide three
checklists (page 79) pertaining to evaporators, compressors, and condensers that help tie together these
concepts.

Reducing Lift
Introduction
“Lift” in a refrigeration system is the difference between suction pressure and discharge pressure at the
compressor. Reducing lift by raising suction pressure or lowering discharge pressure improves compressor
efficiency. Three general rules apply to lift:
! Increasing suction pressure increases compressor capacity.
! Reducing discharge pressure decreases power.
! Increasing suction or reducing discharge pressure reduces BHP/TR (brake horsepower per ton
refrigeration) and thereby increases efficiency.

This section presents methods for reducing lift, discusses some of the barriers to doing so, and presents
the potential energy savings. Note that suction and discharge pressure are often referred to as
temperatures, as there is a direct, proportional and consistent relationship between the pressure and
temperature of saturated ammonia vapor. This section will sometimes use one or the other description.
Table 7 describes the relationship between pressure and temperature for ammonia.

Increasing Suction Pressure

Effect of Increasing Suction


The efficiency of a compressor in an industrial ammonia refrigeration system increases by about 2% per
degree Fahrenheit increase in suction temperature. Although the efficiency improvement depends on
actual operating pressures, compressor design, and refrigerant, the relationship of pressure change and
savings is relatively consistent.

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Chapter 4: Best Practices for Equipment, Systems, and Controls
Table 7: Relationship between pressure and temperature for ammonia at sea level

Pressure Temperature Pressure Temperature


-15 in. Hg -51.4 °F 50 psig 33.8 °F
-10 in. Hg -42.1 °F 60 psig 41.0 °F
-5 in. Hg -34.5 °F 70 psig 47.3 °F
0 psig -27.9 °F 80 psig 53.2 °F
5 psig -17.3 °F 90 psig 58.5 °F
10 psig -8.5 °F 100 psig 63.5 °F
15 psig -1.0 °F 120 psig 72.6 °F
20 psig 5.6 °F 140 psig 80.7 °F
25 psig 11.3 °F 160 psig 87.9 °F
30 psig 16.6 °F 180 psig 94.7 °F
40 psig 25.8 °F 200 psig 100.8 °F

Energy savings from increased suction are seen at the compressor. When you increase the capacity of the
compressor, it will operate at a lower fraction of its full-load capacity when meeting a given cooling load.
Hence, the part-load performance characteristics of the compressor ultimately dictate the magnitude of the
energy savings. In the same way, an increase in suction may actually allow a compressor to be turned off,
or a large compressor to be shut down in favor of a smaller one. So although the 2% rule of thumb is
good for estimating, a complete analysis of compressor operation would be needed to determine savings
precisely.

Best Practices:
Regulating Suction Pressure Suction Pressure
Suction pressure is maintained by compressor set
points. Regulating suction can be as simple as ! Suction pressure should be held where
adjusting the set point in a computer-control compressor power and evaporator fan power
system. With other control systems, you may need
to adjust a micro-processor panel on a screw are at a “combined minimum.”
compressor or a pressure switch on a reciprocating ! When no fan savings are possible, set suction
compressor.
pressure as high as possible.
! A small increase in suction pressure will often
Selecting Larger Evaporator Coils
let the operator shut off a compressor. This
The cooling capacity of an evaporator is directly
proportional to the difference between the strategy should be pursued aggressively—
temperature of the air entering the coil and the particularly for systems with screw
temperature of the refrigerant within the coil. This
difference in temperature is called the temperature compressors.
difference, or TD. Evaporator coil capacity is also
proportional to the area of the heat-exchange
surface of the coil. So by using a larger evaporator coil (one with more surface area), you can reduce the
TD and still maintain cooling capacity. This lets you increase suction pressure while providing the same
amount of cooling in the space.
Typically, evaporator coils are selected based on their capacity at a TD of 12 to 15°F. By using a larger coil
that allows a TD of 10°F or even 8°F you can increase suction temperature. For example, reducing coil
TD from 15°F to 10°F will allow a 5°F increase in suction temperature and reduce compressor energy
consumption about 10%:
(15°F – 10°F) ! 2%/°F = 10% savings
You can also increase the number of evaporator coils to increase the area of the heat-exchange surface,
and achieve similar savings.

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Chapter 4: Best Practices for Equipment, Systems, and Controls
Choosing a larger evaporator coil may make it Best Practices:
necessary to use a larger (higher horsepower)
Highest Allowable Suction
evaporator fan. The increased energy use by the
larger fan may offset some or all of the savings Pressure
achieved by the compressor, and may even result
in a net increase in energy use, so be sure to ! For loads that limit the suction pressure, select
evaluate that interaction. oversized evaporator coils with a temperature
The same issues apply to heat exchangers or any difference of 8 to 10°F.
other evaporator loads, such as chillers or process
loads. Pressure drop and pumping energy should ! Get extra coil capacity with more surface area,
be considered when assessing larger heat not more evaporator fan power.
exchangers.
! Size suction line losses for a pressure drop that
equates to 2°F or less at design for critical
Worst-Case Load or Zone Issues
loads.
In nearly all refrigeration systems, the worst-case
evaporator load or the zone with the largest
cooling requirement determines the maximum
allowable suction pressure. This can be a room that requires a lower temperature than others, or a process
load that requires a lower suction pressure.
Consider the example of a food distribution
warehouse with a small -20°F ice cream room
served by the same refrigeration suction as a -10°F
main freezer, as shown in Figure 55.
Although the main freezer creates most of the
refrigeration load, the lower temperature of the ice
cream room dictates the eventual evaporating
temperature. Where the main freezer could be
served by a suction of -20 to -25°F, the ice cream
room requires -30 to -35°F—a full 10°F lower.
Using our 2%/°F rule of thumb, the refrigeration
for the main freezer could be about 20% more
efficient if it were served by a dedicated
compressor (separate from the ice cream room)
with a higher suction.
Figure 55: Ice cream room within a refrigerated
warehouse

Reducing Suction Line Pressure Drop


There is no generalized rule for acceptable suction line pressure drop for the simple reason that pressure
drop becomes more important at lower suction pressure. One psi of pressure drop has minimal impact at a
high suction pressure, say 25 psig, whereas the same 1 psi can be absolutely critical at a deep vacuum, say
8". Increasing pipe diameter by even one size can dramatically reduce pressure drop, since pressure drop
varies as the square of pipe diameter. For example, increasing a pipe from 6" to 8" in diameter would
decrease refrigerant velocity by 44% and would reduce pressure drop (which is proportional to the square
of the velocity) by 69%. Increasing suction line piping is often more cost-effective than buying larger
evaporator coils.
Decreasing pressure drop in the suction line will only save energy if compressor suction pressure can be
increased, or if evaporator fan control (cycling, VFDs, etc.) can be improved.
The same issues apply to main compressor discharge header piping to the condensers, where compressor
power and/or condenser fan and pump operation is reduced.

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Barriers to Raising Suction Best Practices:
Pressure Load Aggregation

There may be system- or equipment-related ! Avoid having loads with different temperature
barriers to raising suction pressure. For example,
higher suction pressure causes the refrigerant flow requirements on the same suction system. In
rate and resultant velocity to increase in the oil particular, do not let a small, lower
separator of a screw compressor. If the separator
cannot handle the increased velocity, it may not
temperature load dictate the suction pressure
completely remove the oil from the refrigerant. In for a larger, higher temperature load.
addition, raising suction often increases the shaft
! Serve each load with the highest possible
horsepower of the compressor (even though
higher capacity improves overall efficiency), and suction system, even if it means additional
may overload the motor. In this case, current- compressors, piping, and complexity.
limiting would be required to unload the
compressor. In both new and retrofit applications, ! Additional suction systems can mean more
you should review the performance of the oil simultaneously unloaded compressors.
separator and the sizing of the motor before
increasing suction pressure. Improving compressor part-load efficiency must
also be addressed.
Balancing Compressor Savings and
Fan Energy
In some applications, a conflict can arise between increasing suction pressure to reduce compressor
energy, and maintaining an adequate coil temperature difference so that fan cycling or VFD control will be
effective. The optimal balance will be unique for each application, and is particularly sensitive to the ratio
of compressor and fan power and the non-linear nature of fan VFD energy savings.
In some cases, the evaporator fan horsepower is low enough that operating the compressor at the highest
possible suction pressure and operating the evaporator fans at full capacity is the most efficient strategy. In
other cases, the combination of a large fan horsepower and VFD control might make fan savings a higher
priority than compressor savings. The problem gets even more complicated with multiple refrigerated
spaces and different process loads all on a common compressor. In such cases, detailed energy analysis is
the only way to assess the optimal operating strategy. However, in all cases, the goal is the lowest total
system energy use.

Reducing Discharge Pressure


This section addresses reducing “discharge pressure,” sometimes called “condensing pressure,”
“condensing temperature,” or “head pressure.” These terms are essentially interchangeable, as long as
there is not a large pressure drop between the compressor discharge and the condensers.

Effect of Reducing Discharge


The efficiency of a compressor in an industrial ammonia refrigeration system increases about 1½ to 2%
per degree Fahrenheit of reduction in condensing temperature. The magnitude of the savings is almost
entirely dependent on the operating pressure ratio of the compressor.

Regulating Discharge Pressure


Discharge pressure is maintained by condenser pump and fan set points. Regulating minimum discharge
can be as simple as adjusting the set point within a computer-control system. On other systems, condenser
pressure switches may need to be adjusted.

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Minimum Condensing Pressure Best Practices:
versus Approach Reducing Condensing Pressure

It is important that the issue of “minimum ! All Systems: Operate at the lowest possible
allowable condensing pressure” and “approach” be
clarified. This is a common misconception when condensing pressure.
discussing reduced discharge pressure. ! New Construction: In the Pacific Northwest, use
a target condensing pressure of 90 psig.
Reducing Condenser Approach ! Retrofit projects: Every system is different. 90
Reducing condenser approach is another way to to 110 psig should be possible in most systems.
reduce condensing pressure. The effect of
increased condenser capacity on energy Never let a small or low-cost barrier dictate
consumption depends on outdoor conditions minimum pressure.
which vary by season and geographical location.
Whenever the refrigeration system operates above Benefits Beyond Energy
the minimum allowable condensing pressure set ! Lower pressure puts less stress on equipment,
point, condensing temperature will float above the
ambient wet-bulb temperature. Additional particularly reciprocating compressors.
condenser capacity will reduce the approach to ! Lower condensing pressure increase both
wet-bulb temperature, and hence the condensing
pressure. This will reduce compressor energy use. compressor capacity and system capacity.
If the system operates at the minimum allowable ! Lower condensing pressure requires more
condensing pressure, then additional condenser attention to maintenance and operation, but
capacity does not affect pressure and compressor
power. However, the condenser system will be this attention often helps identify and
allowed to operate at reduced capacity (for ultimately fix underperforming components.
example, with slower fan speeds under VFD
control). In this situation, the condenser will use
less energy.
The economic return on increased condenser capacity can be assessed incrementally. That is, a baseline
condenser designed for a 20°F approach can be compared to a condenser designed for an 18, 16, 14, or
even 12°F approach. At some point, the incremental return on investment will diminish, particularly when
the additional structural, piping, electrical, and water-treatment costs are considered.
In selecting incrementally larger condensers, it is better to rely on more surface area than on higher air
velocity, air-pressure drop, and fan power.
In the field, many condensers underperform relative to their design ratings. That is, they do not attain the
condenser approach that is expected based upon condenser rating, heat rejection load, saturated
condensing temperature, and ambient wet-bulb temperature. Many factors contribute to this
underperformance, including:
! Humid micro-climate brought on by condenser placement, spacing, or proximity to steam or other
humidity sources (for example, boiler stack)
! Inadequate piping that, among other things, can create pressure drop, causing the effective loss of
condensation surface area, and contribute to problems with non-condensable gases
! Inadequate maintenance that impedes condenser performance because of, for example, tube scaling,
unaddressed non-condensable gas, poor spray water dispersion, belt slippage, inadequate water
pressure, and blocked or clogged drift eliminators

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Reducing Minimum Condensing Best Practices:
Pressure Condenser Sizing

The minimum allowable condensing pressure is ! In the Pacific Northwest, select a condenser
the lowest pressure at which the refrigeration
system will function properly. Compressor with a 15°F or lower approach to design wet-
limitations, liquid transfer issues, defrost, and bulb temperature.
many other factors affect the minimum allowable
! To do this, select a condenser with larger
pressure and must be considered when pursuing
strategies to reduce discharge pressure. surface area, not higher fan power.
Systems in cool, dry climates may operate for
thousands of hours per year at minimum Benefits Beyond Energy
condensing pressure, while systems in warm,
humid climates or with limited condenser capacity Oversized condensers provide:
may operate for only a few hours per year at
minimum pressure. In any case, there will be times ! Flexibility for the future and help maximize
during the year when it is impossible to achieve the
minimum pressure set point, such as in the heat of production
summer. ! A safety margin that helps avoid production
For industrial ammonia refrigeration systems, a slow-downs under peak loads.
minimum pressure of 80 to 90 psig is a relatively
aggressive target for energy efficiency. The number
of hours per year when condensing pressure can
fall this low will determine how aggressively this target range should be pursued.
To illustrate, we will compare systems in Seattle, WA and Miami, FL. To assess the opportunity to operate
at reduced condensing pressure, we must look at weather data for each location. Table 8 shows the
number of hours per year that fall within 5-degree ranges of dry-bulb temperature and the mean coincident
wet-bulb temperature for each dry-bulb range.
Since evaporative condenser performance is dictated by the condensing temperature relative to the
ambient wet-bulb temperature, the distribution of wet-bulb temperature is the key factor. The table shows
that the average wet-bulb temperature for Miami is almost 25°F higher (70.2°F – 46.3°F) than that for
Seattle.
Now, consider a system with a condenser designed for a 15°F approach (ambient wet-bulb temperature
minus refrigerant temperature). With a target minimum condensing pressure of 90 psig (at which ammonia
is 58°F), we need to determine how many hours per year the system would operate at this pressure.
In both Seattle and Miami, these conditions correspond to the dry-bulb temperature ranges from 44#F and
below. In Seattle, there are 2,907 hours—about one-third of the year—when the system could operate at
90 psig. In Miami, however, there are only 24 hours—about 0.3% of the year—when the system could
operate at 90 psig.
As this example shows, trying to reduce minimum condensing pressure to this 90-psig target will be a
more fruitful exercise in Seattle than in Miami.
Note that a constant 15°F approach to ambient wet bulb was assumed, regardless of actual wet-bulb
temperature. In reality, the necessary approach increases in cool weather since the psychrometric
properties of cooler air reduce the air’s ability to evaporate water. In this case, the same condenser may
require 20°F or 25°F approach during the winter to reject the same amount of heat. The constant
approach was used to simplify this example.

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Table 8: Weather data for Seattle, WA and Miami, FL

Dry-Bulb Seattle, WA Miami, FL Condensing Temperature


Range Annual Wet-Bulb Annual Wet-Bulb with 15°F Approach
(°F) Hours (°F) Hours (°F) Seattle, WA Miami, FL
95 to 99 12 67.2 82.2
90 to 94 11 67.7 70 77.4 82.7 92.4
85 to 89 36 66.3 910 76.8 81.3 91.8
80 to 84 76 64.4 2,046 74.6 79.4 89.6
75 to 79 137 61.9 2,680 71.8 76.9 86.8
70 to 74 234 60.1 1,692 67.9 75.1 82.9
65 to 69 376 58.0 743 63.2 73.0 78.2
60 to 64 764 55.5 307 57.2 70.5 72.2
55 to 59 1,220 53.0 158 52.7 68.0 67.7
50 to 54 1,554 49.0 92 48.1 64.0 63.1
45 to 49 1,433 44.2 38 43.5 59.2 58.5
40 to 44 1,405 40.1 14 40.4 58.0 58.0
35 to 39 863 35.2 10 34.5 58.0 58.0
30 to 34 523 30.6 58.0
25 to 29 114 25.4 58.0
20 to 24 2 24.0 58.0
Weighted Averages: 46.3 70.2

Barriers to Reducing Minimum Condensing Pressure

System and Equipment Barriers


There are a number of potential system or equipment barriers to reducing minimum condensing pressure.
Some of these barriers and possible solutions are summarized below:
Hot Gas Defrost Many ammonia refrigeration systems use hot-gas defrost. Usually, hot gas is regulated
within the coil to a pressure of 65–90 psig. In addition, some systems are equipped with a master regulator
in the engine room (often set at 100 to 110 psig). Although there is little difference in the latent heat of
ammonia at 150 psig versus 90 psig, the reduced delivery pressure can result in a lower flow rate of
ammonia early in a defrost cycle. After the coil has warmed and the regulator begins throttling flow, the
system condensing pressure no longer matters. Defrosts can take slightly longer at reduced pressure.
Solutions The simplest solution is to tolerate a longer defrost cycle. In systems with a high defrost
regulator set point, the set point can be reduced to 65–75 psig to eliminate the regulator as a barrier.
Similarly, master hot-gas regulators can be reduced to 15–20 psig above coil regulator set points. In
facilities with multiple compressors, one or more compressors can be dedicated to “defrost duty.” A
regulator is installed in the discharge line of that particular compressor to elevate its discharge
pressure, and all hot gas can be supplied from this one machine. To maximize savings, a computer-
control system would elevate pressure in this header only when necessary, and the capacity of the hot-
gas compressor would vary to supply the needed hot gas and maintain header pressure.
Heated Zones In some facilities (for example, 40°F to 55°F zones in food distribution centers), some
evaporator coils may use high-pressure ammonia vapor to heat the space. This may require a minimum gas
pressure of 110 to 120 psig or higher, depending on zone temperature and coil size.

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Solutions The same general solutions to hot gas defrost apply here. The most common solution is
to use a dedicated compressor to supply hot gas for the heated zones. Another option is to equip
these zones with steam, hot-water, or gas-fired heaters. Although this will cost more than the “free”
hot gas from the engine room, it is easier to control and won’t force the compressors to operate at
elevated discharge pressure.
Water Defrost and Common Sumps Some facilities (for example, fruit storage) use water defrost, with
water from a common defrost tank and condenser sump. Water temperatures of 55°F to 65°F usually
defrost coils fully and promptly. Condensing pressure is elevated to maintain warm water in the tank.
Solutions The simplest solution is to tolerate cooler water and slightly longer defrosts. A more
aggressive solution is to provide a weir to separate tanks for defrost water and condenser water.
Defrost water can then be heated using heat recovery (for example, compressor jacket cooling or oil
cooling), or with an ammonia desuperheater. This latter option provides warm water at low head
pressure—the best of both worlds.
Oil Separator Performance Oil separators on screw compressors are often sized for lower refrigerant
velocities than will be experienced at the target 80 to 100 psig. In addition, some reciprocating
compressors discharge through master oil separators to trap oil. In some cases, oil carryover can be a
barrier to reducing discharge pressure. Gas density decreases at reduced discharge pressure, resulting in
increased velocity. This can be exacerbated by efforts to increase suction pressure, further increasing mass
flow and separator velocity.
Solutions On new construction projects, all oil separators should be sized at the factory for 80 to
100 psig discharge pressure. On most retrofit projects, the existing separator works fine, although the
factory should be consulted. In rare cases, the internal baffling of the separator can be improved, or
an external oil separator and return system can be installed. This is also the case for reciprocating
compressors that discharge through master oil separators.
Hot Gas Unloaders and Gas-Powered Valves Some compressors use hot gas to activate cylinder
unloaders. These unloaders may not work correctly at reduced condensing pressure. Similarly, some
system valves can be gas-powered and pose barriers to condensing pressure.
Solutions This barrier is rare. In the case where unloader or valve operation becomes a barrier, a
source of high-pressure gas can be supplied, or the unloaders and valves can be converted to electric
solenoids.
Flooded System Liquid Delivery In flooded systems, liquid ammonia is piped from the high-pressure
receiver directly to flooded accumulators. In systems with improperly sized piping, excessive pressure drop
may prevent adequate liquid delivery to loads, starving the coil.
Solutions For new construction projects, the solution is to specify a design minimum condensing
pressure of 80 to 100 psig for the design engineer or refrigeration contractor. Retrofit projects may
require the installation of a pump on the liquid ammonia line from the high-pressure receiver. The
pump can be sized to provide an additional 20 to 40 psig of pressure to ensure proper liquid
distribution. This problem is rare.
Liquid Injection Oil Cooling Liquid injection oil cooling is one of the most common barriers to
reducing condensing pressure. Depending on compressor design and system operating pressures, a
minimum pressure of 115 to 125 psig is often specified by compressor manufacturers. Below these
pressures, there is inadequate liquid flow into the compressor, either due to limited expansion valve
performance, or simply insufficient pressure differential between the liquid supply and the injection port of
the compressor.
Solutions The most popular solution is to convert to external cooling, usually a thermosiphon
system. This not only eliminates the barrier to reducing condensing pressure, but eliminates the
injection efficiency penalty, improving efficiency by 3% to 10% or more. A second option is a liquid
pump to pressurize the high-pressure liquid line serving the injection systems. This could be coupled
with converting to discharge injection, also eliminating the standard efficiency penalty. A third option
is to apply electronic expansion valves that require less pressure differential. These valves are available
on some compressor models. Finally, several injection ports could be machined into the compressor.

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The injection can be relocated to a port earlier in the compression process, although this could
increase the net injection penalty.
Slide Valve Operation Some screw compressors (e.g., Frick RXF series) have slide valve mechanisms
that are actuated by discharge gas pressure.
Solutions Simple factory-authorized modifications to the slide valve mechanism may be required.
Consult the manufacturer to determine if modifications are required.
Underfloor Heating At warehouses and distribution centers with freezers or blast cells, warm glycol
(typically at 50°F to 80°F, or as high as 100°F for uninsulated floors) may be circulated under the concrete
slab to prevent frost heaving. This glycol is usually heated in a shell-and-tube or plate-and-frame
desuperheater or condenser that is piped in series or parallel to the main condensers. Reducing condensing
pressure can reduce the glycol temperature and risk from floor frost heaving.
Solutions Floor heaving is a serious issue. Underfloor temperature probes should be monitored
closely for proper ground temperatures. Converting from a condensing heat exchanger to a
desuperheater might maintain higher glycol temperatures. In more severe cases, a dedicated
compressor operating at an elevated discharge pressure or a larger heat exchanger may be required. In
some cases, experimentation and underfloor temperature probes have shown that heating is
unnecessary because of insulation levels or low water tables.
Pumper Drum Systems Some systems use a pumper-drum transfer system. In these systems, the high-
pressure receiver is replaced by a “controlled-pressure receiver” (CPR) at 65 to 100 psig. These systems are
usually liquid recirculated, with liquid from the CPR passing overfed through the coils and returning to an
accumulator. The liquid then drains into one or two liquid transfer units (LTUs) or “dump traps,” which
are emptied by introducing high-pressure compressor discharge gas into the top of the LTU and pushing
the liquid back to the CPR. These systems can have multiple barriers, including a high CPR pressure,
pressure requirements for proper transfer, and balance gas introduced into the CPR when pressure
inadvertently falls.
Solutions For new construction projects, the system should be designed for a minimum condensing
pressure of 80 to 100 psig, or installed as a standard pump-based recirculation system. For retrofits,
the pressure of the CPR can be reduced (possibly requiring the adjustment of system expansion
valves), and dump tank transfers can be modified for reduced pressure. In stubborn cases, a dedicated
compressor can be set up to deliver high-pressure gas when needed. Finally, it may be necessary to
convert to a mechanical pump-based recirculation system.
Direct Expansion Valves Evaporators and process equipment (for example, scraped-surface heat
exchangers) may use thermal expansion (TX) valves. These valves are designed for particular minimum
pressure ratio, and may not operate correctly at reduced head pressure.
Solutions For new construction projects, DX coils can be upgraded to a flooded or recirculated
design. For retrofit projects, the TX valves can be upgraded to electronic versions, the coils can be
retrofit or converted, or a liquid ammonia pump can be installed.
Process and Door Hot Gas Some process equipment may use high-pressure ammonia vapor for heating
and other applications. Examples include warehouse heating, freezer door heating, and the thaw cycle in
ice makers. or high pressure ammonia gas may also be utilized for agitation in some flooded water chiller
packages. These applications can require elevated hot gas pressure for proper operation.
Solutions The equipment manufacturer should be contacted to determine the minimum allowable
pressure. If operation at reduced pressure is not allowed, a source of high-pressure gas may be
required.
Oil Circulation Some compressors use the pressure difference between suction and discharge to drive
the circulation of oil. This is an unusual barrier to discharge pressure, but it does occur.
Solutions Contact the equipment manufacturer to determine the minimum allowable lift for a given
set of operating conditions. A supplemental oil pump is sometimes an option.

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Common Misperceptions
In addition to equipment or system barriers, there are also some common operational misperceptions that
limit efforts to reduce minimum condensing pressure. Some of the common misperceptions are:
Concern About Increased Condenser Power In nearly all cases, reducing condensing pressure will
increase condenser pump and/or fan power. However, compressor energy savings will nearly always
exceed the increase in condenser energy consumption. Only when available condenser capacity far exceeds
operating compressor capacity (for example, in a processing facility in “holding” mode on the weekend)
could increased energy use by the condenser outweigh compressor savings. In this case, applying a wet-
bulb approach algorithm will operate an optimum amount of condenser.
Issues of Screw Compressor Volume Ratio A screw compressor with a fixed internal volume ratio
(VI) can experience overcompression or undercompression when external pressure ratios do not match
the internal design of the compressor. Although this reduces the adiabatic or isentropic efficiency of the
compressor, compressor efficiency (in terms of brake horsepower per ton, or BHP/TR) always increases
when suction increases and discharge pressure decreases. Compressor VI should never be used to justify
maintaining an artificially high discharge pressure.
Operator Tradition Unfortunately, the preferences or traditions of system operators may result in high
condensing pressure. System operators often mark “target” or “acceptable” pressure levels on master
discharge pressure gauges in the engine room. When they grow accustomed to seeing system pressure
steady at some elevated value, they can find it disconcerting to see condensing pressure fall to
unprecedented levels during cool weather, even though that may be a perfectly reasonable condition under
a newly implemented control strategy. Ultimately, as system operators become more familiar with new
operating parameters and strategies, they will become more comfortable with variations in operating
conditions.

Improving Part-Load Performance


Introduction
Improving the part-load performance of refrigeration systems, particularly those with computer control
and VFDs, has become a major focus for energy savings. Although all refrigeration systems are designed
to meet peak loads, many spend few hours at peak load. Hence, part-load operation and performance can
play a large role in overall efficiency.
This section will discuss improved part-load operation for:
! Evaporators
! Compressors
! Condensers

Improving Evaporator Part-Load Performance

Introduction
In the simplest and least efficient scenario, evaporator fans operate non-stop at full speed except during
defrost. All evaporator capacity control (and hence, space temperature management) is achieved by
controlling the refrigerant with liquid solenoids (in recirculated or direct-expansion systems) or pressure
regulators (in flooded systems). Energy use of the evaporator fan is constant ultimately ending up as a heat
load on the refrigeration system. Because of this, any reduction in fan energy use through improved part-
load operation has the added benefit of reducing space refrigeration load. This can be done with fan
cycling, two-speed fans, or with VFDs.

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Fan Cycling Best Practices:
Evaporator Fan Control
Computer controls for refrigeration systems can
allow evaporator fans to cycle—that is, turn off
and on periodically. The most common strategy is ! Evaporator fan VFDs are the most efficient fan
to cycle all evaporator fans off when the desired control option.
space temperature is reached. Another strategy
! Use VFD-rated motors or protect existing
(used, for example, in controlled-atmosphere fruit
storage) is to schedule fan cycling; for example, the motors with filters.
fans are on for two hours and off for two hours.
! Install temperature probes at worst-case
Some systems even use an alternating strategy,
where every other evaporator fan operates for a set locations to ensure uniform temperatures.
period of time, and then the remaining fans ! Tailor minimum speeds to the specific
operate for the same duration. This is used in
some fruit storage with the idea that the scheme application.
provides diversity in air flow patterns while saving
energy. Benefits Beyond Energy
Another strategy is to cycle fans off a few minutes ! More stable storage temperatures than with fan
after shutting off refrigerant flow with the liquid
solenoids. And some systems use a “swirl” strategy cycling.
where the evaporator fans operate periodically— ! Lower moisture losses for exposed products.
say, 5 of every 30 minutes—to move air around.
! Flexibility associated with continuous fan speed
In some situations, entire coils or zones are
manually turned off by the system operator. An adjustment.
example is a refrigerated dock in a food ! More comfortable working environment when
distribution center, where dock cooling is not
needed for a season. A similar approach is to
loads are low (lower air movement and
manually turn off one (or more) of several fans quieter).
(often using overloads or by pulling fuses). An
example is a fruit storage facility in holding mode.
With any form of fan cycling, savings are maximized by operating as few fans for as little time as is
necessary to maintain the required space temperature. This is usually best accomplished using computer-
control systems that operate evaporator fans strictly as needed.
Note that fan cycling should be avoided in refrigerant-heated zones (e.g., food distribution centers) where
the control system temperature probe is located in a rooftop penthouse. In this situation, cold air may
settle at the floor and the control system will not register the need to heat the room. This may result in
excessive stratification and possibly damage sensitive products.

Two-Speed Fans
Two-speed fans can operate at three conditions—off, half speed, and full speed—and require special two-
speed starters. They offer a level of control between fan cycling and VFD control. At half speed, fan
power obeys the affinity (or cubic) laws and draw about 1/8 the power needed to run at full speed while
still moving about one-half the air.
Computer-control systems can optimize operation to prioritize half-speed operation, particularly with
multiple coils serving a single zone or room. For example, with two evaporators in a room, it is better to
operate both fans at half speed than to turn one off and operate the other at full speed.
In addition, liquid solenoids should be kept on, and suction-pressure regulators at 100% capacity as long as
possible when running fans at half speed, as the evaporators are ideally four times more efficient (1/2
capacity for 1/8 power) than at full speed. As much heat as possible should be removed during half-speed
operation before switching to full speed.

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Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) Fan Control
VFD control is the most efficient form of evaporator capacity control. With a full range of speed control,
VFDs let you achieve the closest match of delivered capacity to refrigeration load, compared to fan cycling
and two-speed fans. VFD control also minimizes the variations in room temperature associated with the
discrete capacity steps of the other control methods.
The number of VFDs required by a particular
application depends on the number of evaporator
coils and zoning. Where each evaporator coil is a
control zone, each evaporator has one VFD.
Where a single zone has two or more coils, a single
VFD can manage all fans in the zone. Typical
applications require VFDs of 1–40 hp. Most are
between 5 and 20 hp.
Figure 56 shows a VFD installation in a food
distribution center.
A common misperception is that controlling
evaporator fans with VFDs causes unacceptable
stratification or “warm spots” within a cold-
storage space. Although the temperature gradient
throughout the room does increase somewhat, it is
usually within acceptable tolerances. Temperature
probes should be placed at the far end of zones to
monitor temperatures and manage VFDs
Figure 56: VFD installation in a food distribution
accordingly.
center

Optimum Evaporator VFD Control and Set Points


Optimal control algorithms and set points are critical to maximize the performance and energy savings of
evaporator fan VFDs. Given the effect of the affinity laws, simultaneous speed control and minimum
speed set points should be carefully implemented.
Minimum Fan Speed Minimum-speed set points can range from 30% to 70%, but are usually between
40% and 50%. With the affinity law, there is little benefit in operating below 40% speed, since fan shaft
power is only about 8% of full load at that speed. 1
In refrigerated warehouses and food distribution centers, minimum-speed set points of 40% are
reasonable. In applications such as controlled-atmosphere fruit storage, or those containing sensitive
products, higher minimum speeds may be desired.
Maximum Fan Speed Maximum-speed set points of 90% to 95% are typical. At 95% speed, the coil is
providing close to full capacity due to improved effectiveness, but is only drawing 87% of full load power.1
Grouped Control Operating as many evaporators as possible at the same speed within a given room
maximizes energy savings. An example is the common penthouse configuration, where four coils are
located in a back-to-back configuration in a rooftop “room.” Since these coils all see a common return air
temperature, the coils should be operated as one until a particular zone temperature probe calls for
additional speed from a coil.
Rate of Change It is more efficient to change speeds slowly and operate at a midrange speed than to
overcorrect and bounce between minimum and maximum speeds, which essentially mimics two-speed
control.

1 Field measurements, which include motor and VFD losses, indicate that the “real-life” affinity-law exponent is
about 2.7 (instead of the theoretical 3.0). That is, fan power= (fraction of speed)2.7.

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Swirl Cycle When minimum-speed set points are particularly low, or when temperature gradients are a
concern, a swirl cycle can ramp fans up to full speed temporarily, as discussed under fan cycling.
Optimal VFD Parameters Particularly with evaporator fans, the internal control parameters of the VFD
can dramatically affect input power. Critical parameters include the type of torque load (selecting “square”
or “variable” is better than “constant” or “linear”) and carrier or switching frequency. In addition, any
energy-saving features such as motor optimization should be enabled. Finally, VFDs tend to be more
efficient with the lowest carrier frequency setting. Since each VFD is different, experimenting with a three-
phase RMS power meter on the input to the VFD will let you identify the combination of parameters that
will minimize power.
Liquid Solenoid and Pressure Regulators Fan speed should be used as the first stage of reducing coil
capacity. The fan should be reduced from full to minimum speed while the liquid solenoid or pressure
regulator calls for full cooling from the coil. When the fan is at minimum speed, then you can reduce
capacity further by reducing refrigerant flow. (It may be tempting or easy to vary fan speed along with
regulator position, but doing so squanders savings since maximum savings comes from reducing speed
while keeping the regulator wide open.)

Proper Evaporator VFD Implementation


Evaporator fans are one of the most challenging applications of VFD technology. Three aspects of the
technology are particularly difficult for a satisfactory implementation:
! Multiple motors
! Small motors
! Long lead lengths

Some of the key design and implementation issues for a successful installation are discussed below.
Multiple / Small Motors A VFD can drive from two to more than thirty motors. In applications with
many small (<1 hp) motors, the total impedance seen by the VFD output circuitry can be very high.
Harmonics and Input Reactors To limit harmonic feedback into the system and to protect the input
circuitry of the VFD, a 3% input reactor should be considered for all VFD applications. Some VFDs offer
built-in reactors or harmonic filters.
Wiring Practices Carefully review the input and output wiring guidelines from the VFD manufacturer.
Unfortunately, some manufacturers have extremely stringent guidelines, including no mixing on any input
or output leads in a common conduit or gutter. This may be possible in new construction projects,
although it adds cost. For retrofit projects, the wiring layout is pre-determined. Consult with the
manufacturer for the best compromise between optimal wiring practices and practical considerations of
cost and existing layout.
Motor Protection with Output dV/dt Filters Because of the square-pulse waveform of the drive
voltage output and the fast switching of VFD transistors, the VFD and the motors it controls exhibit a
reflected-wave phenomena. This reflected wave can have voltage spikes above the rated capacity of the
motor insulation system. The increased potential between motor windings results in corona that can break
down winding insulation. Over time (anywhere from hours to years), the breakdown will result in a ground
fault within the motor. For evaporator fans, an output reactor or dV/dt filter should always be installed to
reduce or eliminate this danger. Again, consult the VFD manufacturer.
Inverter-Rated Motors Standard motors operating on 480 volts have winding insulation rated for 1200
volts. Most motor manufacturers now offer inverter-rated motors that have insulation that complies with
the NEMA MG1-Part 31 standard of 1600 volts. In new installations, you should specify motors for
evaporator coils that meet this standard. Note that simply specifying “premium” or “inverter-rated”
motors may be insufficient; be sure to specify the MG1 Part 31 standard.
Custom and 56-Frame Motors Some evaporators use small 56-frame motors from 1/3 to 1.5 hp. These
1200- and 1800-rpm motors are very frail, and their windings may fail even with proper dV/dt filtering. In
some cases, a retrofit with inverter-rated replacements may be required. One complication is the belly-
band design, where the fan shroud wraps around and cinches down on the motor body. These motors are

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often custom OEM designs. In some cases, these manufacturers can provide replacements that comply
with NEMA MG1-Part 31.
Bypass Feature A bypass feature may be
necessary where a VFD failure or trip can cause
operating problems. A bypass feature is usually
built into the VFD package from the factory, and
allows the motors to run directly across the line
when needed.
Figure 57 shows a VFD control for an evaporator
fan.
Excessive Temperature Difference A rare
phenomenon has been seen in applications where
an extreme evaporator temperature difference
(>20°F to 25°F) exists in a freezer warehouse
application. At reduced air flow, the extreme
temperature difference can cause “snowing,” Figure 57: VFD with input reactor and output dV/dt
where the moisture in the air doesn’t freeze to the filter
evaporator coil, but rather freezes as it flows
across the evaporator surface. This application may require elevated minimum speed set-points, although
the excessive temperature difference should be addressed prior to applying VFD control.

Improving Compressor Part-Load Performance

Introduction
The efficiency of all industrial refrigeration compressors degrades as they operate at a fraction of full
capacity. Figure 58 shows the relationship of power input and part-load fraction for a screw compressor.
In general, the following
Sample Screw Compressor Part Load
strategies improve the efficiency
of the compressor system: 100%

1 Limit part-load operation. 90%

80%

2 Use compressors with the 70%


most efficient part-load 60%
performance as trim.
Power

50%

3 Improve part-load 40%

performance of the 30%


trimming screw 20%
compressor. Slide Valve
10%
Ideal

Also, keep these part-load 0%


0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
characteristics in mind:
Capacity
! Reciprocating compressors
with cylinder unloading Figure 58: Typical part-load power for a constant-speed screw
have excellent part-load compressor
performance
characteristics.
! Screw compressors have poor part-load performance characteristics, but can be improved with VFD
control.

These criteria can help you configure equipment and select control algorithms to operate your
compressors efficiently.

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Improved Compressor Sequencing Best Practices:
Compressor Sequencing
Basic control systems often stage compressors in a
fixed order. Although this method is popular
because it is simple, it virtually guarantees that at ! Use computer control to manage compressor
least one compressor operates at partial capacity sequencing.
(and therefore inefficiently). For example, consider
a bank of three compressors of 100, 200, and
! The control-system programmer must address
400 hp. Unless the system operator manually load variations in a way that avoids excessive
selects compressors or stages the control system,
the larger compressors could run significantly
motor starts and stops.
unloaded. This situation is even worse for systems ! Use a mix-and-match compressor sequencing to
with identically sized compressors. best meet the load.
An alternative is to “mix and match” the ! Keep base-load compressors fully loaded.
combination of compressors that operate to meet
the varying load, as shown in Table 9. In this ! The trim compressor on each suction system
strategy, each increment of required compressor should be a VFD-driven screw or reciprocating
capacity is met as closely as possible with the best
combination of available compressors. compressor.
Compressor capacity is added in 100-hp
increments—1/7 of the total capacity. The penalty Benefits Beyond Energy
for part-load inefficiencies is significantly reduced.
! Less compressor run-time means less frequent
Screw compressors benefit much more from
improved sequencing than reciprocating maintenance and lower maintenance costs.
compressors which have excellent part-load
performance characteristics.
In systems with both screw and reciprocating compressors, a good strategy is to use screw compressors
(operating continually at full capacity) for base loads, and use reciprocating compressors to meet
fluctuating loads as the trim compressor.
System operators often hesitate to have screw compressors (particularly large units) turn on and off
throughout the day. A compressor in disrepair may fail to restart when instructed by a control system, or
there may be anti-recycle issues that limit the effectiveness of the mix-and-match strategy. Any barriers to
implementing this mix-and-match strategy should be addressed.

Table 9: Mix-and-match compressor staging

Stage Number
Unit
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
100 hp ' ' ' '
200 hp ' ' ' '
400 hp ' ' ' '

Reciprocating Compressor Unloaders


Reciprocating compressors use cylinder unloading to control capacity, although some have little or no
unloading capability as delivered from the factory. In these situations, capacity is controlled by suction
pressure which is problematic, and the system may thus operate at a lower average suction pressure
because of these control limitations. Additional cylinder unloaders let you consistently maintain the highest
possible suction pressure. Improving reciprocating compressor unloading can reduce average lift and
thereby reduce energy consumption.

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Screw Compressor VFD Control Best Practices:
Screw Compressor VFD
As shown in Figure 58 (page 59), screw
compressors perform poorly at partial loads, and
can draw 30% to 50% or more power when fully ! Apply one screw compressor VFD per suction
unloaded. One way to improve the part-load system.
performance of screw compressors is to upgrade
! Allow VFD-driven screw compressors to slow to
from a standard motor starter to VFD control.
Figure 59 shows a VFD application. minimum speed before unloading slide valves.
VFDs for screw compressors in industrial ! On a suction system with different compressors
refrigeration systems are typically between 100 and sizes, consider applying a VFD on the larger
500 hp. Choosing the proper compressor for VFD
control in a multicompressor system is key to compressor. This approach simplifies
optimal economics and smooth system operation. compressor sequencing and minimizes slide
One additional benefit of VFD control is the valve unloading.
ability to maintain economizer performance.
Economizers allow screw compressors to mimic
two-stage performance and improve efficiency. Benefits Beyond Energy
Unfortunately, economizer performance degrades ! VFDs provide the same soft-start capabilities
and eventually disappears as a screw compressor
unloads. VFD control better maintains the and benefits as solid-state motor starters.
economizer port function. ! VFDs provide smoother suction pressure control.

Optimizing Screw Compressor VFD Control and Set Points


Some important issues for screw compressors under VFD control are:
Proper Speed vs. Slide Operation When using VFD control, capacity is controlled first by slowing the
compressor from 100% (3600 rpm) to 50% (1800 rpm) speed, while the slide valve remains at 100%
capacity. (One manufacturer offers a minimum speed of 20%, and another a maximum speed up to 4500
rpm). At minimum compressor speed, capacity is controlled further by adjusting the slide valve. Applying
VFD control to the previous example yields the improved part-load curve shown in Figure 60. (This graph
shows compressor shaft power. A VFD will impose a 2% to 4% efficiency penalty due to VFD and motor
losses.)
VFD as Trim Compressor It is important to
always use the VFD-driven compressor as the
dedicated trim machine, and other compressors
for base load.
Selecting a VFD Compressor Selecting a VFD-
driven compressor should be based on the relative
sizes of the compressors on a given suction
system, and the typical magnitude of refrigeration
load swings. The compressor should be large
enough to prevent rapid-cycling of the remaining
compressors and should be capable of handling
typical load variations with speed.
Minimum and Maximum Speed In retrofit
applications, the compressor manufacturer should Figure 59: VFD application to screw compressor
be consulted about minimum and maximum speed
capabilities. Overspeeding the compressor can push the equipment beyond its intended capacities.
Underspeeding the motor and compressor can thermally damage the motor but, more importantly, may
damage the compressor because of insufficient lubrication or other issues.

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Factory-Authorized Control
Sample Screw Compressor Part Load
Note that with the emergence 100%
of VFD control as a factory
90%
option, several manufacturers
insist on retaining full control of 80%

the slide valve and VFD speed 70%

within the compressor-mounted 60%


microprocessor package. In

Power
50%
systems with a computer
40%
control system, the control
system asks for a change in 30%

compressor capacity, and the 20% Slide Valve


microprocessor determines 10%
VFD
Ideal
whether speed or slide valve
0%
position is adjusted. 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%

Capacity

Proper Screw
Compressor VFD Figure 60: Comparison of constant speed and variable speed part load
power
Implementation
Some important design and installation issues are summarized below.
Factory Option Most major screw-compressor manufacturers now offer VFD control as a factory-
provided option. Some manufacturers are experimenting with increasing maximum speed and reducing
minimum speed for increased flexibility. A factory-configured VFD has been optimized for efficiency and
equipment longevity.
Retrofit vs. New Construction VFD control can be retrofitted to existing compressors, but is most
cost-effective in new construction where the additional cost is only the incremental cost of the VFD
control above that of a basic solid-state starter. It is very important to consult the compressor
manufacturer in any retrofit application.
Inverter-Rated Motors Due to the limited speed reduction (2:1), virtually all existing ODP (open drip-
proof) and TEFC (totally enclosed fan-cooled) motors can be used for VFD control of screw
compressors. To be safe, contact the motor or compressor manufacturer for written authorization to
operate at 2:1 speed reduction with a constant-torque load. If the motor normally operates into the service
factor, note that motors are often down-rated from 1.15 to 1.0 service factor with VFD control. One
manufacturer currently offers 5:1 speed reduction, which requires a blower-cooled motor and utilizes a
liquid-cooled VFD.

Improving Condenser Part-Load Performance

Introduction
In the simplest configuration, the capacity of evaporative condensers is controlled by using simple pressure
switches or computers to cycle the pumps and fans of this equipment. This section discusses ways to
improve fan control and control-system algorithms.

Two-Speed Fans
Manufacturers have offered two-speed fans for condensers for some time. One variation is a half-speed
pony motor driving the same shaft. In either configuration, the fans can be operated at full or half speed,
adding an additional discrete operating point that is highly efficient due to the affinity laws. Because of the
advantages of VFDs, the use of two-speed motors with new condensers is uncommon and will likely
disappear.

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VFD Fan Control
VFD control for condenser fans has become very popular. In addition to energy savings, advantages
include improvements in belt wear, pressure control, reduced water drift, reduced noise, and other
operational advantages.

Optimal Condenser VFD Control and Set Points


Some important control issues are summarized
below.
Best Practices:
Minimum Condenser Fan Speed Minimum fan Condenser Control
speed can be set as low as 0% to 10%. Due to the
affinity laws, there is virtually no torque load on
! VFD control is the most efficient choice for
the motor at these low speeds, and cooling the
motor is not necessary. However, optimum condenser fans.
control of multiple condensers may actually call
! Avoid dry operation. Operate condensers wet
for minimum speeds of 20% to 40%.
except in extreme cold weather.
Maximum Condenser Fan Speed A maximum
condenser fan speed of 90% to 95% provides ! Avoid pump-only operation.
nearly full capacity with a significant reduction in ! Operate multiple condenser fan VFDs at the
power, because of the affinity laws. However,
optimum control of multiple condensers may same speed.
actually call for maximum speeds around 80%. In ! Target mid-range VFD speeds for peak system
systems where condenser capacity is limited, the
maximum speed should be set to 100%. efficiency, between 30% and 80%.
Stage Condensers in Order of Efficiency
! Use a wet-bulb approach algorithm.
Condensers should be staged so that the highest ! Stage condensers so that the highest efficiency
efficiency units (for example, axial-fan units with
integral sump or minimal scaling) come on-line
units operate first.
first.
Benefits Beyond Energy:
Operate Condensers Wet with Fans Running Condenser Fan VFD
Avoid operating a condenser “wet” (that is, with
pumps running) without running the fans, because Using VFDs on condenser fans:
condenser efficiency is poor. Similarly, avoid
operating a condenser “dry” (that is, with pumps
not running) with the fans running. (For more on ! Produces more stable condensing pressures and
dry condenser operation, see Wet vs. Dry operating conditions.
Operation on page 64.) Remember that
condenser efficiency peaks when the condenser is ! Reduces belt wear from fan cycling.
operating wet with fans at mid-range speeds. ! Runs quietly when at reduced speed.
Simultaneous Control It is best to operate a ! Allows for simplified control system set-points,
group of condensers wet and with the fans
running in the highly efficient mid-range speeds.
with a single target pressure rather than
This means operating multiple VFD-driven multiple on/off values for multiple pump & fan
condensers at the same speed.
stages.
Optimal Control Algorithms—Single Condenser
A system with a single condenser should have a
very low minimum fan speed (0% to 10%), and a maximum speed of 90% to 95%. The pump should be
turned on first (before fans) unless frigid weather dictates an alternative strategy.
Optimal Control Algorithms—Multiple Condensers Optimal control algorithms for multiple
condensers will include all of the previous recommendations in a single strategy. Only the first condenser
in the staging sequence will be allowed to operate at very low speeds (for example, 0% to 10%), and only
when all condensers are running should the maximum speeds be allowed to rise to 100%. At all
intermediate stages of capacity, the condenser fans will operate between about 30% and 80% of full speed.

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In addition, as each condenser comes online, its fans and pumps will be running. These strategies ensure
that condensers only operate wet, and in their most efficient speed range.
Wet-Bulb Approach Algorithm Instead of using a simple target condensing pressure, use an integrated
wet-bulb approach algorithm to prevent “overcondensing,” that is operating much more condenser
capacity than is needed to reject heat. (An example would be a processing facility that drops to one
compressor on the weekend, but has a large assembly of condensers trying to drive condensing pressure
down). A wet-bulb approach algorithm adds a user-input approach value (typically 12°F to 15°F) to the
ambient wet-bulb temperature, and converts this to a target condensing pressure.
Proper Ambient Probe Locations If you use a wet-bulb approach algorithm, the placement of ambient
dry-bulb and wet-bulb (or humidity) sensors is critical. Placing a temperature sensor where it receives
direct solar radiation, or a humidity sensor near a process exhaust steam outlet, produces false readings and
will result in improper control operation. Periodically calibrating the probes and cross-checking with local
weather stations are also important for the same reason. The computer control algorithm should have
safeties that prevent an unreasonable or false wet bulb reading from creating a high target condensing
pressure.
Optimal VFD Parameters The internal parameters of the VFD can dramatically affect input power. (See
Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) Fan Control on page 57.)

Proper Condenser VFD Implementation


Some important design and installation issues are summarized below.
Fan Resonant Frequencies Consult the condenser manufacturer to ensure that there are no resonant
frequencies in operating speed between 0% and 100% of speed. If there are, be sure to lock the resonant
speed ranges out of the VFD (this is a standard VFD feature).
Bypass Feature In systems with only one or two condensers, a bypass feature is a good backup strategy.
In systems with many condensers, a bypass feature is less critical because an individual VFD failure will
have less of an effect.
Grouping Fans On condensers with multiple fan motors, it may be more cost-effective to control two
or more motors with a single VFD. The specific grouping arrangement will depend on the number of
condensers and complications associated with retrofit wiring.
Harmonics and Input Reactors Input reactors help limit harmonic feedback into the system and
protect the input circuitry of the VFD. (See Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) Fan Control on
page 57.)
Motor Protection with Output dV/dt Filters An output reactor or dV/dt filter should be installed to
limit or eliminate the possibility of damaging motor insulation. (See Variable Frequency Drive (VFD)
Fan Control on page 57.)
Inverter-Rated Motors In new installations, use condensers that meet the NEMA MG1 Part-31
standard. (See Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) Fan Control on page 57.)

Wet vs. Dry Operation


Because condensers are very inefficient when operated dry (fans only), avoid any manual or automatic
control strategy that causes dry operation except when required to protect against ice damage.
Ice can damage fan blades, fan shrouds, or other components of a condenser. In climates susceptible to
frigid conditions, frost can accumulate on those components and on the inlet grates of forced-draft units.
Because this ice must be removed manually, condenser pumps are, in most cases, retired during the winter.
With computer control, ambient-temperature sensors can be used to turn off pumps in frigid conditions,
usually from 20°F to 28°F. This would minimize dry operation.
One rarely used feature of condenser-fan VFDs is the ability to operate fans in reverse. You can use this
strategy with units that accumulate frost on the inlet grates. The VFDs can be gently operated in reverse to
melt or sublimate frost from the grates, using heat from the condenser tube bundle. However, operating a

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fan in reverse at high speed for extended periods can damage the fan; consult the manufacturer before
doing so.

Best Practices:
Upgrading Equipment Evaporator Selection

! Oversize evaporator coils by adding surface


Introduction area rather than higher fan power.
Major refrigeration components, including ! Choose flooded or liquid recirculation controls
evaporator coils, compressors, and condensers,
can all be ordered or retrofitted with features or over direct expansion evaporators.
options that improve efficiency. This section
discusses the available options that improve Benefits Beyond Energy
efficiency independent of operating conditions or
part-load considerations. Note that system- ! Oversized evaporators minimize moisture loss
equipment considerations are also important in for exposed food products.
achieving energy efficiency. We discuss those in
Improving System Design on page 71.

Evaporator Coil Efficiency

High-Efficiency Coil Selection


Although refrigeration capacity is the primary consideration when choosing an evaporator coil, many coil
options affect coil efficiency. Design parameters such as the number of rows, the number of fins per inch,
air velocity, and others can all affect the fan power load. Ultimately, the goal is to select a coil with a high
TR/BHP (tons of refrigeration per horsepower) rating.
In general, fan power is proportional to the product of total air flow volume (cfm) and air pressure drop
(in. H2O). Since air flow and velocity depend on the surface area of the evaporator coil, more surface area
often reduces fan power requirements (and sometimes increases suction pressure as discussed earlier). The
tradeoff for lower air velocity is increased coil cost.
Most evaporator manufacturers provide coil-selection software that generates a list of coils that meet user-
defined criteria. The data in Table 10 was generated by such a program when asked to list coils with a
capacity of about 50 TR at 10°F temperature difference.

Table 10: List of coils with a capacity of about 50 TR at 10°F temperature difference

Surface Air
Capacity Fan Total Efficiency
Option area Velocity
(TR) Configuration BHP (TR/BHP)
(sq ft) (fpm)
#1 52.3 15,627 595 4 ! 2 hp 8 6.54
#2 48.7 11,313 647 4 ! 2 hp 8 6.09
#3 49.8 14,650 615 4 ! 2 hp 8 6.23
#4 49.5 12,503 632 4 ! 2 hp 8 6.19
#5 51.1 12,067 625 4 ! 2 hp 8 6.39
#6 47.5 11,722 655 4 ! 2 hp 8 5.94
#7 47.6 15,627 595 4 ! 2 hp 8 5.95
#8 51.5 11,722 733 5 ! 2 hp 10 5.15
#9 52.8 11,313 725 5 ! 2 hp 10 5.28
#10 54.3 14,650 682 5 ! 2 hp 10 5.43

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Plotting this data (Figure 61) reveals the relationship between fan power and air velocity.
In general, coils designed for higher air velocity are less efficient, but also less expensive. Since coil design
affects other installation costs (for example, weight, electrical, etc.), you should also take these attributes
into account when assessing the life-cycle cost of a coil selection.

Coil Efficiency vs Face Velocity


Refrigerant Feed
7.0
Liquid overfeed or flooded
evaporators are more efficient 6.5

than direct expansion (DX)


evaporators. There are three 6.0

reasons to avoid DX coils. First,

TR/HP
DX coils are derated since some 5.5

of the coil surface area is not


internally wetted. Second, DX 5.0

coils can limit the reduction of


condensing pressure. Third, 4.5

evaporator fan VFDs are


difficult to implement on DX 4.0
580 600 620 640 660 680 700 720 740
coils. Face Velocity (fpm)

Efficient Fan Blades Figure 61: Graph of coil efficiency versus face velocity

Some evaporator coils, particularly those with small (less than 1 hp) fans, may have stamped-steel fan
blades of an older, inefficient design. Modern alternatives provide the same fan performance (in terms of
air flow and pressure) but require less shaft power.
In Figure 62, the fan blade on the right is the
original four-blade version provided with the coil.
The fan blade on the left performs nearly
identically, but uses about 1/3 less shaft power. (In
this example, the fan blade was teamed with a
premium-efficiency motor and VFD control for a
package upgrade.) Purchased in bulk, the new fans
cost about $10 to $15 each. (It is important to get
a fan-performance curve for the existing fan blade.
If none is available, a testing lab can generate one.)

Penthouse Applications
Figure 62: Newer efficient fan-blade design (left)
Locating evaporator coils in a penthouse (Figure 8, and older less efficient design (right)
page 14) offers many advantages, including
simplified maintenance. However, a penthouse design can be energy intensive for several reasons,
including:
! Additional nozzles or ductwork increases pressure drop and fan power.
! The coils are centrally-located, requiring additional air flow and velocity for proper air movement.
! The coils may discharge air perpendicular to aisles, requiring higher air velocity for air movement.

For these reasons, you should evaluate penthouse designs by comparing them to ceiling-hung evaporators
based upon all quantifiable life-cycle costs. If you implement a penthouse design, use fan-control strategies
(for example, VFD control, simultaneous speed control) to minimize energy use.

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Evaporator Fin Design Best Practices:
Screw Compressor Options
Choose coils with a fin spacing of four fins per
inch (fpi) or less with evaporator coils that frost.
This will reduce the number of defrosts required. ! Thermosiphon oil cooling is the most efficient
Consider a variable-fin-spacing design where fin cooling option.
spacing is wider at the air inlet to the evaporator
! Specify automatically variable VI for
coil and narrower at the middle and back of the
evaporator coil. applications where suction or discharge
pressures will vary.
Compressor Efficiency
Benefits Beyond Energy

Efficient Compressors Thermosiphon oil cooling:


One common misconception is that one type of
compressor (for example, reciprocating versus ! Lowers compressor maintenance costs compared
screw) is inherently more efficient than others.
This is simply not true. Given the same suction
to liquid injection cooling.
and discharge conditions, the full-load ! Does not require cooling circulation pumps like
performance of reciprocating, rotary-screw, and
rotary-vane compressors are very similar. Rather, it
water- or glycol-cooled compressors.
is the options available for screw compressors that ! Sometimes produces a small increase in
affect their full-load efficiency. These primary compressor capacity.
options are cooling, volume ratio, and economizer.

Screw Compressor Cooling


The lowest-cost form of screw-compressor cooling is simple liquid injection. Compressor oil is cooled by
injecting high-pressure liquid refrigerant directly into the midpoint of the rotors during compression. Not
only does this inflict power and capacity penalties, but liquid injection can impose an artificial limit on
minimum condensing pressure.
Thermosiphon and other external (for example, water or glycol) cooling not only eliminate the efficiency
penalty and the artificial limit on minimum discharge pressure, but in booster compressor applications they
allow all rejected booster-oil heat to bypass the high-stage compressors and go directly to the condensers.
This reduces refrigeration load on the high-stage compressors, increasing energy savings.
The emerging use of direct cooling of oil by liquid ammonia in the separator offers the same improvement
in power and capacity ratings, but not the booster-heat benefit.

Screw Compressor Volume Ratio


All screw compressors are characterized by internal volume ratios, or VI. In a fixed-VI application,
selecting the proper VI is critical to maximize efficiency. In some cases, an automatic VI adjustment
feature constantly matches VI to the external pressures seen by the compressor.
Table 11 shows compressor capacity and power ratings at a condensing temperature of 85°F and various
suction temperatures for ammonia.
The VI with the highest efficiency at each pressure ratio is highlighted. Figure 63 shows the relationship
between efficiency and overall pressure ratio.
This figure shows that, for pressure ratios from about 4 to 6, different values of VI have little effect on
efficiency. But outside that range, the wrong VI can significantly reduce efficiency. In applications where
the pressure ratio is steady (for example, a booster), a properly selected fixed-VI compressor is fine.
However, in applications where pressure ratio can vary significantly, such as a high-suction application
with floating condensing pressure, a variable-VI feature can be a valuable option. If it is determined that
the incorrect fixed VI exists, a compressor can be modified to the correct VI.

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Table 11: Compressor capacity and power ratings at a condensing temperature of 85°F and various suction
temperatures for ammonia

Brake Horsepower (BHP) BHP/TR


Suction Pressure Tons of
Volume Ratio Volume Ratio
(°F) Ratio Refrigeration
2.2 2.6 3.7 4.8 2.2 2.6 3.7 4.8
-28 11.2 94.4 309.8 280.8 243.4 231.1 3.28 2.97 2.58 2.45
-10 7.0 155.3 314.2 291.5 267.9 266.1 2.02 1.88 1.73 1.71
0 5.4 199.7 314.2 296.7 284.5 291.7 1.57 1.49 1.42 1.46
10 4.3 253.2 313.0 301.8 304.0 322.7 1.24 1.19 1.20 1.27
20 3.4 317.1 310.5 307.5 327.0 359.8 0.98 0.97 1.03 1.13
30 2.8 392.6 306.8 312.8 353.9 403.8 0.78 0.80 0.90 1.03
40 2.3 481.4 301.9 319.0 385.4 455.6 0.63 0.66 0.80 0.95

Screw Economizers
Screw compressors used in
BHP/TR vs Pressure Ratio
applications with low suction
pressure can benefit 2.6

dramatically from an 2.4


economizer or “side port” 2.2
feature. In the simplest of
2.0
economizer configurations,
liquid refrigerant leaving the 1.8
BHP/TR

condenser is subcooled in a 1.6

flash or shell-and-coil 1.4

economizer. The purpose is to 1.2 2.2 VI

send colder liquid refrigerant to 1.0


2.6 VI
3.7 VI
the evaporator coils, increasing 4.8 VI
0.8 Var. VI
overall system capacity.
0.6

You can think of an economizer 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Pressure Ratio (Discharge/Suction)


as a “poor man’s” two-stage
system (see Multistage
Compression on page 71). Figure 63: Graph of efficiency versus pressure ratio

Condenser Efficiency Best Practices:


Efficient Condenser Selection

High-Efficiency Condenser ! Choose a condenser with a high nominal


Selection efficiency (MBH per fan hp).
Evaporative condensers are usually selected after ! Induced draft (draw-through) axial-fan
the heat-rejection capacity at design conditions has
been determined. There are many condenser
condensers are more efficient.
designs to choose from, including forced-draft, ! Specify high-performance, self-cleaning
induced-draft, axial-fan, and centrifugal-fan. condenser spray nozzles.
All evaporative condensers are rated relative to
nominal conditions. Plotting the efficiency of

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several condensers at these nominal conditions can help you identify high-efficiency units. Figure 64 is an
example of such a graph.
The vertical lines in this chart
represent points of nominal Sample Condenser Series Efficiency
heat-rejection capacity where 400

the surface area of the tube


350
bundle (or ammonia volume)
increases. Within each band,

MBH per Fan/Pump HP


300

surface area remains almost 250


constant, and higher capacities
(at the right end of the band) 200

are achieved by higher air flow. 150

Ammonia Charge
This chart shows that condenser
efficiency is highest at the left 100

side of each band, where heat 50


transfer is dominated by surface
area rather than high air flow. 0
5,000 10,000 15,000 20,000 25,000 30,000
As you move left-to-right within Nominal Heat Rejection (MBH)
each band, capacity is increased
by increasing air flow, and the Figure 64: Variation of condenser efficiency within frame sizes
condenser efficiency steadily
drops. The lowest efficiencies occur at the maximum air flow for a given tube bundle size.
It also helps to plot, on a single graph, the condenser efficiencies of a variety of basic designs from a single
manufacturer. Figure 65 shows an example of such a graph that compares forced- and induced-draft
designs, as well as axial- and centrifugal-fan designs.
In general, centrifugal-fan
Evaporative Condenser Efficiency Comparison
condensers are least efficient.
The forced and induced axial- 400

fan units are both more 350


efficient, but the induced-draft
MBH per Fan/Pump HP

design is slightly more efficient 300

than the forced-draft design. 250

The following rules will help 200

you select high-efficiency


150
condensers:
100
! Axial fans are more Forced Draft - Axial
efficient than centrifugal 50 Induced Draft - Axial
Forced Draft - Centrifugal
fans. 0
- 5,000 10,000 15,000 20,000 25,000 30,000
! Induced-draft designs are Nominal Heat Rejection (MBH)
slightly more efficient than
forced-draft designs.
! A tube bundle of a given Figure 65: Comparison of the efficiencies of various condenser types
surface area is more
efficient with a low air-flow rate than a high air-flow rate.

When low-efficiency condensers are installed, the reason is usually that they cost less. The condenser cost
(in $/MBH) is the lowest at the greatest capacity for a given tube bundle size range (that is, at the right end
of the bands on the graph). Increased air flow is a relatively low-cost method of adding capacity, albeit at
the expense of efficiency.
It is important to compare condenser models or manufacturers at the same wet-bulb and condensing
temperatures. Some manufacturers use different nominal conditions, making direct comparison difficult.

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Integral versus Remote Sump Best Practices:
Design Condenser Application

Condensers can be installed with either integral ! Avoid creating a warm humid “microclimate”
(built-in) sump pumps, or they can be piped to a
large remote sump tank, often located in the near condensers (confined spaces, inadequate
engine room. Integral sumps are the most efficient spacing, and proximity to steam or humid
design, because pump head and the associated
power are minimized.
exhaust sources).
! Use integral sumps instead of remote sumps in
Remote sumps are popular for water treatment,
freeze protection, and pump backup. temperate climates.
Unfortunately, pump head in remote sumps is ! Install an automatic non-condensable gas
commonly doubled or tripled, and requires a
proportional increase in pump size. In addition, purger for systems that operate under vacuum.
these pumps are often selected with excess flow ! Use modern high-performance spray nozzles.
capability, and a discharge butterfly valve is
frequently throttled to maintain the target 2–4 psig
of water pressure at the spray header, further
reducing efficiency.
Unfortunately, it is often difficult to convince a refrigeration designer or operator that integral sumps are
worth the inconvenience, particularly for water treatment or freeze protection. Creative solutions such as
hybrid integral/remote sump design can often be implemented. Also, using computer control to
automatically operate condensers dry during freezing weather can help.

Improved Spray Nozzles


Traditionally, evaporative condensers have relied
on very simple spray nozzle designs. These metal
or plastic nozzles were equipped with a small hole
for 180° water spray, and would clog easily. This
would cause poor water distribution, dry tubes and
scaling, and poor condenser performance and
efficiency. These nozzles required manual cleaning,
which is a time-consuming and often-neglected
task. Courtesy of Frick

Recently, condenser manufacturers have begun


Figure 66: High-performance spray nozzles
offering innovative spray nozzle designs
(Figure 66) that offer both better water
distribution and immunity to clogging.
Unlike standard 180° nozzles, the modern designs provide improved 360° spray patterns and greater
resistance to plugging . These modern nozzles are available on new condensers from all major evaporative
condenser vendors, and can also be retrofitted to older condensers.

Premium-Efficiency Motors
All major pieces of refrigeration equipment can be ordered with premium-efficiency motors. Most
evaporator and condenser manufacturers offer two or three brands of motors, each available with a
premium-efficiency line. You can ask manufacturers about their current products, and select the motor
with the highest efficiency.
Compressors are treated somewhat differently. Most motor manufacturers offer a premium-efficiency
series through the largest NEMA frame size (400 to 450 hp). Anything above this size is considered
custom and often built to order. Premium-efficiency motors cost more, so you should specify them with
care; the energy savings from the increased efficiency may not outweigh the higher initial equipment cost.

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Many motor manufacturers offer their premium Motor Efficiencies - 1800 rpm
line as their recommended inverter-duty line. For 100

many applications, the designation of “NEMA 98

Premium” indicates a motor meeting a certain 96

efficiency standard. Most motors achieve their 94

Efficiency (%)
92
improved efficiency through a higher loaded rpm. 90
In some fan and pump applications this may 88

slightly increase energy use because of the affinity 86

law. 84
ODP-Highest Available
82
ODP-EPACT
80

Motor Sizing 0 50 100 150 200 250


Power (hp)
300 350 400 450 500

It is important that a screw compressor motor be


Figure 67: Motor efficiencies – 1800 rpm
adequately sized to prevent current-limiting.
Current-limiting occurs when a motor exceeds its full-load amps (FLA) rating, and operates into the
service factor. Virtually all modern screw compressors use forced unloading to protect the motor from
overheating. A compressor that is current-limiting is inefficient (since it is unloaded), and may cause
another compressor to start to satisfy the load. You should carefully assess both maximum discharge
pressure and suction pressure to prevent current-limiting.

Improving System Design


Introduction
In addition to selecting individual refrigeration system components, you need to consider the overall
system design. Multistaging, subcooling, heat recovery, defrost, and gas pressure pumping are design
elements that play a prominent role in achieving
energy efficiency.
Best Practices: System Design
In this section, though we do not address the
details of system design, we do address some ! Install a two-stage or single-stage economized
common high-level issues. Two topics already
covered in this chapter—reduced lift and system for low temperature loads.
improved part-load performance—are important ! Avoid aggregating loads with dissimilar
system-design considerations.
temperatures on the same suction system.
! Subcool the liquid for all low temperature loads.
Multistage Compression
! Avoid system constraints on condensing
Compression is more efficient if done in stages.
The more stages, the better, particularly for low- pressure imposed by gas pressure recirculation
temperature or multiple-temperature systems. In systems.
low-temperature industrial refrigeration
applications, this often means two-stage
compression. For ammonia systems, two-stage
compression is typically considered when operating in a vacuum, below 0 psig (-28°F). The efficiency
improvement of two-stage operation increases with overall system lift, and is particularly effective in deep
suctions of -50 to -60°F (20" vacuum).
Figure 68 shows the thermodynamic process associated with two-stage compression.
Energy savings occurs on both sides of the process. The use of an intercooler between stages reduces the
energy consumption of the high-stage compressor. Also, subcooling the liquid refrigerant between stages
of expansion increases system capacity, as colder liquid refrigerant is expanded to serve low-temperature
loads.

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Two-stage systems are popular when multiple
suction levels are required for a processing or
storage facility. For example, a warehouse may
have coolers on an intermediate suction, and a
freezer on a low suction. Food processing facilities
with multiple production and storage requirements
may have three, four, or even five suction levels,
such as an ice cream factory with loads served at
-65°F, -45°F, -35°F, +5°F, and +35°F. In this
example, the -65°F, -45°F, and -35°F systems
would be served by “booster” compressors
discharging to the +5°F system. The +5°F suction
would be served by “high-stage” compressors, and
the +35°F system would be served by dedicated
single-stage compressors. This arrangement is Figure 68: Thermodynamic process associated with
shown in Figure 69. two-stage compression
Compared to single-stage systems, multistage
systems are more complex and expensive. Additional vessels, controls, and engine room space, and more
compressors may be associated with a two-stage system.
In many applications, a screw compressor with an economizer can substitute for a two-stage system. This
is a good compromise in systems where suction pressure is not too low, and the number of suction levels
is limited.
In deciding between a single-stage system (with or without an
economizer) and a multistage systems, you should weigh long-term
energy savings against the increased initial cost.
Some screw compressor packages are provided with two
compressors on a single oil separator. In some cases, one compressor
is a booster and one a high-stage, with the booster discharging
directly into the high-stage with no intercooling. Avoid this design
because the lack of intercooling reduces efficiency.

Liquid Subcooling
Liquid subcooling is a process of cooling liquid refrigerant below the
saturated condensing temperature for the purposes of increased
capacity and efficiency. Whenever multistaging or economizers are
applied, subcooled liquid is available. Serving loads with subcooled
liquid increases efficiency by reducing the total amount of refrigerant
that must be supplied and compressed from evaporator loads. Hence,
additional stages of subcooling, and using subcooled liquid whenever
possible are two methods of increasing efficiency.
In the previous example of five suction levels, the +35°F system
could serve liquid to the +5°F system. The +5°F system could then
serve the -65°F, -45°F, and -35°F systems. These lowest suctions
would benefit from two stages of subcooling, substantially increasing
efficiency. Figure 69: Two-stage system
In applications with single-stage economized screw compressors, the with multiple temperature levels
economizer port on an unloaded screw compressor will become
inactive as the compressor slide valve unloads (for example, at 70% capacity). Unless there are other
operating economized compressors or a stand-alone subcooling system, efficiency will suffer due to
diminished or eliminated liquid subcooling.

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Gas-Pressure Recirculation Systems
A gas-pressure recirculation system design relies on gas pressure rather than mechanical pumps to move
liquid ammonia through the system. The systems are often referred to as “pumper drum” designs, and are
characterized by components such as controlled-pressure receivers, liquid transfer units, floats and timers,
and other unique features. 2
There are many arguments for and against these systems. Intuitively, moving cold liquid refrigerant by
pushing it around with hot compressor discharge gas would seem to be inefficient. In addition, the systems
require sensitive balancing, timer setup, and other tuning to operate properly. However, proponents argue
that a gas-pressure system that is properly designed and tuned can be as or more efficient than a standard
recirculation system. Unfortunately, thermodynamic analysis of these systems is complex. We present three
positions on pumper drum design.

Proper Design of Pumper Drum Systems


If you intend to install a pumper drum system, make sure it is efficient. Many published technical papers
address the efficient design of liquid transfer units and other components. However, one of the most
frequent inefficiencies encountered is the need for high minimum condensing pressures. These systems
rely on a controlled-pressure receiver (CPR) in lieu of a standard high-pressure receiver. Unfortunately,
systems are often designed and installed with CPRs set for 80, 90, or even 100 psig pressures. This
increases the required minimum condensing pressure, compromising system efficiency. Designing for CPR
pressure of 65 to 75 psig will prevent barriers to reduced condensing pressure, and reduces the hot gas
required to pump liquid return from accumulators to the CPR.

Proper Control and Operation of Pumper Drum Systems


Pumper drum systems are typically recirculated or overfeed designs. These systems typically operate
evaporator coils at a 3:1 or 4:1 overfeed rate. In standard mechanically pumped systems, excess overfeed
rates affect efficiency minimally. However, in a pumper drum system, efficiency drops rapidly as overfeed
rates climb, either as the result of diminishing loads or improperly adjusted hand expansion valves.
Excessive overfeed rates cause unnecessary transfer cycles and poor overall efficiency. It is important to
tune these systems frequently to ensure optimum overfeed rates.

Conversion to Standard Liquid Circulation


In some cases, it is cost-effective to convert a pumper drum design to standard liquid circulation using a
mechanical pump. Doing so can increase energy savings and reduce system complexity and maintenance.

Hot-Gas Defrost
In the Reducing Lift section of this chapter (page 46), we addressed the importance of avoiding high
condensing pressures for defrost. Four other basic tenets apply to energy-efficient defrost:
1 Use free sources of heat for defrost (hot gas or water). Avoid any form of electric resistance heating.
2 Only defrost when needed.
3 Only defrost for as long as needed.
4 Return hot gas defrost to the highest available suction system.

Hot-gas defrost can have a significant effect on system efficiency. Proper initiation, gas management, and
termination are all key to efficient hot gas defrost.

2 Detailed explanations of these systems are beyond the scope of this guide.

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As discussed in the Basics section, defrost can be Best Practices:
initiated with frost sensors, cumulative liquid run
Hot-Gas Defrost
time, or by a simple fixed schedule, the first being
the most efficient and the last the least. Frost
sensors have met with moderate success, and ! Only defrost when needed.
require proper setup and maintenance to operate ! Only defrost for as long as needed.
properly. If a frost sensor fails or is not adjusted
! Return hot gas defrost to the highest available
properly, the evaporator coil can defrost more
frequently than needed. Liquid run time is a solid suction system.
intermediate solution that avoids fixed schedules
and initiates defrosts somewhat in proportion to Benefits Beyond Energy
anticipated frost buildup. Fixed initiation schedules
should be avoided if at all possible. ! Reduces system loads, which frees compressor
Defrost duration is nearly always fixed via a time capacity and reduces compressor run time.
clock or computer control system. In some ! Results in more stable operation.
instances, suction line temperature can be
monitored by a control system, and the defrost is
terminated when the returning gas temperature
exceeds a target value for a specified time period.
Ideally, all hot gas entering the evaporator coil would condense and return to the engine room as liquid to
be used in the refrigeration cycle. In practice, hot gas passes through the coil and defrost pressure regulator
toward the end of the defrost cycle, returning to a compressor suction line. This gas must be recompressed
in the engine room, often placing a significant load on the compressors.
One important design issue is the defrost return piping. Defrost gas should be returned to the system with
the highest available suction. This is often possible in multistage systems where piping for multiple
suctions are available for defrost return. This will minimize the energy consumption of any compressor
that receives gas returning from the defrost system.
One major opportunity to optimize hot gas defrost is the use of liquid condensate traps or drainers on the
hot gas return lines. This would ensure no refrigerant vapor returns to the engine room. Although the use
of drainers is an outstanding opportunity to improve efficiency, only a handful of applications have been
observed in the field. The cause of this disparity is likely tradition, cost, and a lack of familiarity within the
design and contracting community. This is one of the greatest untapped efficiency opportunities.
Water defrost has relatively little effect on system efficiency provided that it does not impose a high
minimum condensing pressure requirement. Since the evaporator coils are heated during every defrost,
minimizing the frequency of defrosts will maximize efficiency.

Heat Recovery
Heat recovery, particularly for food processing facilities, is popular. Many systems use hot compressor
discharge gas for underfloor heating (using glycol), boiler makeup water, or plant cleanup water. The
greatest opportunity to recover heat is through a desuperheater, where water can be heated as high as 100
to 120°F in a circulating loop. Unfortunately, about 10% or less of total compressor heat rejection is
superheat, so the total heat (Btus) available for recovery is limited.
If a condensing heat exchanger is installed, water temperature is limited to the condensing temperature
which, at 90 psig for ammonia, is only 58°F. Although most of the total rejected compressor heat is
released in condensing, the quality of the heat recovery is limited by saturated condensing temperature. In
this case, the water could not be heated higher than the 58°F temperature of the condensing ammonia.
The economics of heat recovery often depend on the relative costs of electricity and natural gas or other
fossil fuels. In some situations, it may be cost-effective to operate at elevated discharge pressure to
increase heat recovery. In most cases, however, the energy cost savings from reduced condensing pressure
outweighs the savings afforded by increasing heat recovery. In addition, any analysis should include the
effect on compressor energy of the pressure drop on the ammonia side of the heat exchanger.
In some multicompressor applications, one or more compressors can be operated at increased discharge
pressure to act as heat pumps. An example would be a large vegetable processor that uses steam or other

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sources to heat defrost water. In this case, heat recovery from the refrigeration system may be cost-
effective, because compressor heat pumps can
produce water temperatures up to 85 or 90°F.
Best Practices:
Non-condensable Purger
Purgers
Refrigeration systems operating with a suction ! Install an automatic purger for systems that
pressure below atmospheric pressure inevitably operate in a vacuum some or all of the time.
pull air into the system. The air ultimately ends up
! As a non-condensable gas check, the computer-
in the condenser, where, as an ideal gas, it drives
up condensing pressure (due to partial pressures of control system should monitor the temperature
the mixed air and ammonia vapor) and therefore
of the high-pressure liquid ammonia draining
decreases efficiency. One way to gauge the effect
of air in the system is to measure the pressure from the condenser.
within the condenser, and measure the liquid
temperature leaving the condenser. With no air in Benefits Beyond Energy: Effective
the system, the condensing temperature and liquid Non-condensable Gas Purge
temperature should be the same. An increasing
difference between these two values indicates the ! Effective purging helps avoid overloading or
buildup of air in the system. current-limiting the compressor motors, which
The effect of air in the system is increased can reduce production or product quality.
condensing pressure during summer months, and
possibly increased condenser fan and pump energy
during winter months.
Automatic purgers can be installed to remove air from the system. Even if the air adds only a few pounds
to condensing pressure, the entire compressor system discharging to the condenser is penalized. Purgers
are almost always a good investment in systems that operate at vacuum suction pressures.
Purger piping (and condenser piping) are essential for proper purger operation. Foul-gas piping is the term
for piping that runs from the condenser circuits to the purger. Each condenser circuit should have a
separate foul-gas line. The foul-gas piping should have no low points that can trap liquid condensate.
Even positive-pressure systems can benefit from manual or automatic purging. Although the system does
not operate in a vacuum, air can enter the system
during maintenance.
Best Practices:
Reducing Loads
Reducing Refrigeration Loads Benefits Beyond Energy
! Allows smaller components and less expensive
Introduction refrigeration systems.
Although an efficient refrigeration system is ! Reduces equipment run-time and maintenance
important, reducing refrigeration loads is equally
important. On new construction projects, reduced
expense.
loads can result not only in energy savings, but in
reduced installation cost (such as smaller or fewer
compressors). This section discusses ways to reduce refrigeration load.

Building Upgrades

Insulation
Increasing the insulation levels in the roof, walls, floors, piping, and vessels saves energy by reducing heat
flow into the refrigerated space or refrigerant piping. Increasing insulation is possible in both new
construction and retrofits, but is usually more cost-effective in new construction where the installation cost
includes only the incremental cost of higher insulation compared to a less efficient alternative. (In some

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cases, such as roof insulation, there may be costs associated with additional structural capacity to account
for additional weight.) In retrofits, on the other hand, installation costs include the full cost of all-new
insulation and the costs of removing and disposing
of the old insulation.
Best Practices:
Fast-Acting Doors
Doors
For coolers and freezers, air infiltration through ! Use fast-acting doors with floor loops or motion
main doorways can be a significant source of heat sensors.
gain and coil frost accumulation. These doors are
often 8 to 10 feet wide, and 10 to 12 feet high. In ! Select doors with little or no supplemental heat.
worst cases, a manual door is the only barrier, and ! Select doors that are robust and protect them
is left open during periods of heavy traffic. A strip
curtain (Figure 70, left) or air curtain is often used from damage.
in this situation, but strip curtains often fail or are ! Encourage traffic patterns that avoid false door
purposefully trimmed or bypassed by the staff to
minimize the bother of moving through the openings.
doorway. Air curtains only reduce infiltration
modestly, but are bothersome due to noise and the Benefits Beyond Energy
velocity of air blown on personnel.
Fast-acting doors can be effective in reducing
Properly managing doors and openings will:
infiltration. Among the available door designs are
bi-parting doors, roll-up doors, and horizontal ! Increase employee safety.
sliding doors. These doors open in only a few
! Reduce defrost requirements and frost buildup.
seconds or less, and ideally are controlled by
magnetic sensing loops in the floor, optical motion ! Create more consistent temperatures on both
detectors or remotely controller by forklift
operators. In some applications, a simple pull-cord
sides of the door.
is used to open and close the door. Unfortunately,
pull-cord systems without a closure timer allow a
door to be left open out of laziness, convenience, or indifference about energy. Fast-acting doors typically
cost $10,000 to $15,000 to install.

Figure 70: Strip curtain (left), fast-folding door (center), and vestibule-style door (right) for infiltration
control

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Fast-acting doors used in freezer applications are
often equipped with heating to prevent frost
accumulation and ensure clear sight through door
windows. One design places radiant heaters, from
3 kW to 20 kW or more, at the top of the
doorway. 3 Other designs use electric heating
elements and fans to blow warm air on the
doorway. Other designs use heat tape or heater
strips on or in the door. In many existing facilities,
the energy use of those heating elements is greater
than the infiltration load eliminated by the door
itself, and a retrofit to a more effective door can be
justified based simply on eliminating the heater
loads. Several manufacturers now offer innovative
door designs that require minimal heating. Figure 71: Infrared door heaters for frost control
Another type of doorway is the engineered
vestibule, with multiple air curtains, electric- or refrigerant-heated blowers, and no physical barrier. These
systems are quite expensive, ranging from $30,000 to $100,000 or more. They are popular because they
allow a clear line of sight through the doorway, a major productivity and safety advantage. Unfortunately,
some of these vestibules are installed with very high amounts of electric resistance (up to 60 kW), or they
use compressor discharge gas at high minimum pressures to heat the air. You can avoid these drawbacks
with careful design and equipment selection, but a careful assessment of the life-cycle economics is well
advised.
Following these guidelines when considering Best Practices:
energy-efficient door options:
Warehouse Lighting
! For fast-acting door applications, install
motion or loop sensor activators. ! Minimize connected lighting load.
! Avoid all door designs that require excessive ! Select efficient fixtures that focus foot-candles
electric-resistance heating.
where employees need to see.
! Avoid door designs that require high-pressure
(>90 psig) ammonia gas for heating, ! Use efficient fluorescent, pulse start metal
particularly in the engineered vestibule design. halide, or high pressure sodium.
! Protect the door hardware with “goal post”
! Install occupancy controls for automatic
structures or bollards and select doors that
can withstand forklift impact without dimming or on/off control.
incurring permanent damage. A damaged
! Use time clocks on lighting circuits in areas
door is generally an inefficient door.
! Encourage traffic patterns that avoid false with consistent schedules.
door openings.
Benefits Beyond Energy
! Fluorescent and pulse-start metal halide
Lighting
provide good color rendering and better lamp
Using efficient lighting in refrigerated spaces
reduces the refrigeration load. Most existing lumen maintenance.
refrigerated warehouses and distribution centers ! Efficient lighting improves safety and labor
use metal halide or high-pressure sodium fixtures.
There are now aisle-style fixtures that put out a efficiency.
narrow rectangular light pattern, allowing fixture
spacing to be increased. By selecting high-
efficiency fixtures and modern pulse-start metal halide ballasts, you can reduce total connected load.

3 These heaters use more energy than is wasted from infiltration through a fully open doorway.

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In addition, both metal halide and high-pressure sodium can be equipped with bi-level controls that allow
the fixture to immediately transition to and from a low-level light output and power condition. Motion
detectors are installed in one or more zones within an aisle, or each fixture can have its own motion
detector. Time clocks are another option that can be effective in areas with consistent schedules.
Increasingly, modern fluorescent lighting systems are being considered for refrigerated warehouse
applications. Both T8 and the emerging T5 lamps have high color-rendering qualities. They can be applied
at cooler (32°F) and freezer (0°F) temperatures provided they are integrated into enclosed fixtures.
Insulating or heating fixtures may be required in freezer applications. Often, one of the lamps within a
fixture is left on for safety, and the rest can be turned off with motion detectors.
In warehouses that still have incandescent or mercury vapor lighting, switching to a more efficient
alternative is very often cost-effective.

Process Upgrades
Clearly, any system improvement that reduces process refrigeration loads will be beneficial. The following
are some commonly encountered scenarios in food processing.

Cooling Towers, Ambient Coolers, and Regeneration


In food processing applications, a portion of product heat can often be removed with non-refrigerated
means to reduce refrigeration load. One example is to cool fluids such as milk or juice indirectly with
cooling tower water, which reduces the load on the chilled water or glycol system. Another example is
using ambient air to cool products like potatoes before freezing. Finally, a regenerative process, such as
using hot milk as it leaves a pasteurizer to heat entering cold milk, can reduce refrigeration (and often
heating) loads. In each application, you should assess the cost-effectiveness of installing or expanding the
alternative cooling system.

Best Practices:
Transfer Loads to Higher Suctions Multistage Cooling
Though it doesn’t actually reduce the refrigeration
load, you can cool or freeze a product in stages ! Remove heat from products in stages, using
with multiple suction systems. Consider cooling a higher suction pressure systems first, and lower
product in scraped-surface heat exchangers (such
as vegetable puree in a Contherm or Votator) suction systems for final heat removal.
before freezing. The heat exchangers often operate
at a higher suction pressure than a freezer.
Removing additional heat in the heat exchangers will ultimately reduce loads on the more costly freezer
suction, saving energy. Again, you should assess the cost-effectiveness of installing or expanding heat
exchangers to reduce freezer load.

Inappropriate Uses of Chilled Water or Glycol


Chilled water or glycol is often used in cooling applications where a cooling tower or other less costly
means could be used. A particularly inappropriate application is using chilled water to aftercool oil and air
for air compressors. Another inappropriate application is gearbox or oil cooling on production-line
equipment. In most applications, you can substitute a cooling tower or closed-loop fluid cooler for chilled
water or glycol with much lower operating costs.

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Computer Control—The Best Practices:
Computer Controls
Backbone of Efficiency Benefits Beyond Energy
This chapter has highlighted many energy- ! Better insight into system operation.
efficiency opportunities. A central element of
! Easier debugging of system problems.
many of these opportunities is improved control—
not just of individual components, but also of the ! Greater operation flexibility.
interaction between components. We consider a ! Safer operation.
refrigeration computer-control system to be the
backbone of these efficiency improvements. ! Remote system diagnosis.
A computer-control system: ! More consistent storage conditions.
! provides centralized management of all ! Better documentation of storage temperatures.
energy-efficient features associated with ! Better information to evaluate future capital
compressors, condensers, evaporators, and
VFDs. purchases.
! makes commissioning more effective.
! provides a window into the system that helps
operation and maintenance.

Chapter 3: Refrigeration System Basics outlines various control system types. We recommend that you
refer to that chapter to review the options. Although there are several variations on computer control, we
generally recommend that the control solution have these three attributes:
It is designed and built by a firm that specializes in industrial refrigeration control. These
systems consistently have the highest level of functionality. Their designers have typically already
encountered and addressed many issues that are specific to industrial refrigeration. Control systems put
together by generalists can work just as well, but the design process will likely be less efficient. If you use a
generalist, make sure a knowledgeable refrigeration consultant, either in-house or contracted, is on the
team.
It is designed and built by a control-system firms that is willing to customize the system for the
specific application. Every system is different and although most control solutions have already been
developed, there are almost always some control issues that are unique to a given project.
It has extensive trend-logging capabilities Extensive trend-logging, including the ability to export
data, are valuable for commissioning, O&M, and evaluating capital projects.

Efficiency Checklist
In this chapter, we have separated best practices into the several categories (listed under Energy
Efficiency—“The Big Picture” on page 6). However, most of these practices and the systems they affect
are interactive, so treating them separately may result in missed opportunities or in solutions that are less
than optimal. To foster a comprehensive approach, the following tables pull together all of the major
concepts related to compressors, evaporators, and condensers from the preceding sections. The tables also
preview the effects of proper maintenance procedures, which are addressed in the next chapter.

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Chapter 4: Best Practices for Equipment, Systems, and Controls
What Makes a Compressor Efficient?
Attribute Primarily Applies to The Issue in a Nutshell Page
Operating All ! Minimize lift. Operate at a high suction pressure and 46
conditions a low condensing pressure.
Oil cooling Screw ! Thermosiphon or direct-contact cooling are more 67
efficient than liquid injection at the same conditions
and does not limit condensing pressure.
Volume ratio Screw ! Optimal volume ratio minimizes power 67
requirements for a given set of operating pressures.
Sometimes, one volume ratio is all that is required,
provided it is the right one.
Variable volume Screws that operate ! Provides flexibility to operate at or near optimal 67
ratio control over a wide range of volume ratio over a wide range of conditions.
conditions.
Economizer Low temperature ! Improves BHP/TR performance for low 68
single-stage temperature loads by providing subcooling effect.
screws Essentially a poor man’s two-stage system.
Motor efficiency All ! Premium-efficiency motors reduce input power 70
from one to several percent.
Motor sizing All ! Adequate motor sizing precludes peak-load current- 70
limiting and can eliminate suction-pressure
constraints.
Oil circulation All ! Ideally, an oil circulation system will not preclude 54
“low-lift” compressor operation without adding
significant supplemental oil pumping hp.
Part-load All ! Many options: VFD-driven screws and cylinder 59
efficiency unloading of reciprocating compressors are the most
efficient.
Oil separator All ! Should be sized for the “lowest lift” set of 53
sizing conditions to be encountered.
Inefficient Various uncommon ! Avoid dual screw booster and high stage packages 25,
compressor models that do not support liquid subcooling or 29, 71
configurations intercooling.
! Avoid rotary vanes, and screw compressors with
suction throttle or poppet valve control.
Belt-drive Reciprocating and ! Belt drive increases input power about 3%. 85
rotary vane ! Belts in poor condition cost you much more.
Mechanical All ! Compressors in poor mechanical condition are less 84
condition efficient.

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What Makes an Evaporator Efficient?
Attribute The Issue in a Nutshell Page
Refrigerant feed ! Flooded or liquid recirculation are more efficient than direct 15, 54,
expansion and do not constrain condensing pressure. 66
Fin spacing ! Coils with four or fewer fins per inch help avoid excessive air 65
blockage from defrost.
Coil sizing ! 10°F temperature difference or less is the best. 47, 65
! Use surface area to achieve your sizing, not high fan power.
Face velocity ! 600 fpm or less is best. 65
Defrost method ! Hot gas or water are the preferred methods, depending on 73
application.
Defrost control ! Use computer control to perform defrosts only when required and 73
for the minimum duration.
Defrost regulator ! Regulator setting should be low enough to avoid limiting condensing 52
pressure.
Motor efficiency ! Premium-efficiency motors save several percent in this size range. 70
Motor selection ! Choose robust motor designs for VFD application. 58
Part-load efficiency ! Many options. VFD control is the most efficient. 57
Coil placement ! Strive for a layout that avoids long air “throws” as this may drive up 66
evaporator fan power.
! Before committing to penthouse configurations, consider their
energy intensive nature.
Regulators and hand- ! Proper settings are essential to achieve rated performance. 84
expansion valves
Suction line losses ! Generous sizing maximizes evaporator capacity 48
Evaporator maintenance ! Cleaning coils and fixing leaking valves are essential. 84

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Chapter 4: Best Practices for Equipment, Systems, and Controls
What Makes a Condenser Efficient?
Page or
Attribute The Issue in a Nutshell
Section
Capacity ! In the Pacific Northwest, ammonia at 85°F saturated condensing 50
temperature (152 psig) at design wet-bulb is an efficient level.
! Achieve capacity with surface area, not fan horsepower.
Configuration ! Axial-fan draw-through condensers are most efficient 33, 68
Sump location ! Integral is more efficient than remote, if your weather conditions will 70
allow it.
Location ! Strive for well-spaced condensers that are unaffected by steam sources 50
and adjacent structures at the air intake.
Fan control ! Simultaneous VFD-speed control while maintaining mid-range speeds is 63
the most efficient.
Pump and fan ! Pump first, then fan, starting with your most efficient condenser. 63
staging
Set point and ! Push condensers hard to achieve low-pressure set points that will reduce 49
control compressor energy use, while balancing compressor and condenser energy
use with a wet-bulb control algorithm.
Winter operation ! Minimize dry operation. 64
Piping issues ! Good piping practices minimize pressure drop, help rid the system of 50
non-condensable gas, and keep liquid from backing up in the condensers.
Operation and ! There are potential problems to address (scale, non-condensable gas, 85
maintenance water dispersion, belt maintenance, ambient sensor calibration)
Motor efficiency ! Premium-efficiency motors save several percent in this size range. 70

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CHAPTER 5

Best Practices for O&M and


Commissioning

Introduction
This chapter discusses best practices for achieving energy efficiency through the operation, maintenance,
and commissioning of refrigeration systems.
Operation and maintenance (O&M) can be defined as maintaining originally-specified equipment
performance through proper service at the specified intervals. Even the most efficient system design and
equipment can be rendered inefficient by inadequate O&M. It is important that proper O&M practices be
followed throughout the life of the system.
Commissioning can be defined as the inspection, review and adjustment of set points, control strategies,
and equipment features, to ensure that the system achieves the design intent and meets original
specifications in a way that maximizes performance and efficiency. Systems should be commissioned when
they are built (or modified) and should be periodically recommissioned.

Operation and Maintenance


Introduction
Without proper O&M there is a natural degradation in equipment capacity that will occur due to dirt
build-up, scaling, equipment wear, and drift or error in sensors or controls.
On a high level, best practices for O&M involves:
Practicing Preventive Equipment Maintenance Normally maintenance is equated with the reliability
and longevity of equipment. Energy performance is another factor. Without exception, equipment that is
in poor mechanical condition is less efficient than well-maintained equipment. In addition, leaky valves and
other low profile elements of the system that are not addressed can have a serious negative impact on
system performance.
Maintaining Evaporators and Condensers for Peak Performance These heat exchangers must be
cleaned. Metal conducts heat readily. Dirt, oil, and scale are impediments to effective heat transfer.
Eliminating non-condensable gas and assuring good condenser spray water coverage across the condenser
surface area are two related concepts that contribute to peak performance. When evaporator or condenser
performance is reduced, it can effect the system detrimentally as follows:
! Force the system to operate at less efficient operating pressures.
! Force fans or pumps to operate more frequently (or at a higher speed).
! Sacrifice space or process temperatures.
! Reduce system capacity.

Performing Periodic Calibration Calibration is primarily associated with maintaining process or space
temperatures at targeted levels. However, instrumentation and controls that are out of calibration can
negatively affect energy performance. Poorly calibrated pressure gauges, temperature sensors, and slide
valves can lead to:
! Overly conservative settings that compensate for the unknown.
! Faulty interpretation of problems with the system.

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! Less effective control algorithm performance.

Tracking Equipment and System Performance Best practices include establishing habits and
procedures that allow the emerging problems to be identified and fixed before they impact process or
energy performance. This includes maintaining daily engine room logs, trend-logging control points with a
computer-control system, and comparing performance over time.
Seeking Optimization The operators that attain the highest levels of efficiency make regular
adjustments to control system settings and adjustments to equipment. These adjustments are followed by
observation or measurement to see how the system responds.
Being Well-trained Knowledgeable maintenance staff and operators have a better understanding of all
of the items on this list. They also have a better conceptual understanding of the overall performance
goals. Plus, training often is used to satisfy PSM requirements as per federally mandated OSHA standards.
The following sections address some key O&M issues for evaporators, compressors, and condensers that
affect energy performance.

Evaporators
Clean Coils Clean evaporator coils regularly.
Pressure washing can remove dirt that accumulates
on evaporator fins and tubes. This is especially
true in dirty or dusty environments.
Fix Leaking Valves Rebuild liquid and gas valves
when leaking or other improper operation is
detected. For example, a leaking hot-gas defrost
valve will impart false refrigeration loads by leaking
gas into the suction line.
Calibrate Temperature Probes and Sensors
Calibrate temperature probes and sensors regularly
using a consistent and traceable standard (for
example, an ice bath).
Replace Failed Motors Failed evaporator
motors lessen total coil airflow (cfm) and capacity.
The failed motor also creates an alternate path for
air to flow back through the fan shroud on the
front of the evaporator Figure 72: Dirty evaporator coil

Check Air Temperature Drop Track or check air temperature drop across the evaporator coils. This
technique helps identify evaporators that are underperforming. Underperforming coils should be debugged
to identify and address the underlying problem. For example, a typical evaporator coil in a freezer
application should provide approximately ½ degree reduction in air temperature per degree temperature
difference (entering air minus refrigerant temperature).

Compressors
Calibrate Slide Valves on Rotary Screw Compressors Rotary or linear potentiometers are often used
to measure slide valve position (and for variable VI, the slide stop position) on a screw compressor
(Figure 73). The potentiometers eventually drift or wear, preventing the compressor from properly
determining slide valve position. Where slide valve position is used for sequencing or other advanced
control, accurate slide position is important.
Calibrate Pressure Transducers All screw compressors have built-in pressure transducers for
information, control, and safeties. Errors in these pressure readings can result in poor control of suction
pressure, and possibly operating at a lower suction pressure than desired.

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Maintain Belt Drives Many reciprocating or
rotary vane compressor applications use V-belt
drives. Slippage and inefficiency can result from
worn and improperly adjusted belts. Manufacturers
of reciprocating compressors normally
recommend allowing 3% BHP for belt losses.
Poorly adjusted belts will have higher losses.
Maintain Compressor Unloading Controls
Properly maintain the controls that manage
unloader operation on reciprocating compressors.
This allows correct control of suction pressure. In
the same way, make sure that screw compressors
are capable of fully loading and unloading with
their slide valve or other mechanism.

Condensers
Clean Water-Spray Nozzles and Strainers Figure 73: Slide valve potentiometer
Proper flow and water distribution to condenser
tube bundles is critical. Check for spray pattern and clean nozzles and strainers as needed to ensure full
flow and wetting of coil surface (Figure 74).
Clean Condensers Remove build-up of solids Best Practices:
and other foreign material from all condenser Condenser Maintenance
surfaces. In particular, a clean tube bundle is
critical to maximum heat transfer. Also, pressure-
wash drift eliminators regularly, as they accumulate
Stay on top of the three big threats to condenser
solids that can reduce air flow. performance with proper maintenance at correct
Maintain Belt Drives Adjust and replace fan intervals:
belts as necessary. A slipping belt is not only ! Non-condensable gases.
inefficient, but results in less air flow and heat
transfer in the condenser. ! Scale on the condenser tube bundle.

Prevent Recirculation and Saturation ! Poor spray water dispersion.


Normally located on building roofs, evaporative
condensers are susceptible to recirculation
between each other, where the warm, moist discharge air of one condenser enters the inlet of a
neighboring condenser. In addition, food processing facilities often have multiple sources of steam exiting
stacks or vents, such as blanchers, washers, and boiler blow-down. Preventing or correcting warm, moist
air from entering the condenser will ensure full performance.
Treat Condenser Water Treating condenser
water is critical to equipment performance and
long life and to control potential contamination.
Water treatment should be done in a proactive
preventative manner as opposed to reactively to a
problem. Condenser tube bundles are particularly
susceptible to solid build-up because of the
alternate wetting and drying of surfaces. In
addition, the warm water of a condenser is an
attractive environment for biological growth.
Check and Purge Non-Condensable Gas To
test for non-condensable gas, measure the
temperature of liquid condensate draining from
each condenser circuit and compare it to the
Figure 74: Plugged condenser spray nozzles
saturated condensing temperature. Ideally, the
refrigeration control system would measure the average liquid temperature draining from the condensers

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and check for the presence of non-condensable gas in real time. When problems are identified, manually
purge the system or check the performance of the
automatic purger and overall purging system.
Best Practices:
System Commissioning
Commissioning
! Develop a commissioning plan.
! Make sure all parties with a commissioning or
Introduction
start-up role are aware of energy performance
Refrigeration commissioning involves
methodically verifying that all elements of the goals.
refrigeration system operate as intended on both a ! Methodically address all key set points and
component level and a system level. This review
encompasses mechanical, electrical, and control equipment adjustments.
checks. The primary responsibility for this work ! Review system operation over time.
rests with the start-up or on-going refrigeration,
electrical, and controls technicians. The primary
objectives of these specialists are to ensure that
systems refrigerate effectively and operate reliably and safely. One objective of this Guide is to broaden
this perspective to include to optimizing energy performance. This chapter does not comprehensively
cover refrigeration commissioning, because the topic is too broad. Instead it focuses on energy
commissioning—a subset of the overall refrigeration commissioning.
Energy commissioning can be defined as the inspection, review and adjustment of set points, control
strategies, and equipment features, as compared to the design intent or original specifications, in a way to
maximize performance and efficiency. Energy specialists can provide these services, but progressive
refrigeration, electrical, and control contractors increasingly target energy performance as part of their
services.
This work focuses mostly on a period of review (typically a month or less) during which the performance
of the system is watched and adjusted An energy specialist leads this effort, but it is most effective when it
is a joint effort of all involved parties (energy specialist, refrigeration, electrical, and controls contractors,
and plant personnel who have the ongoing responsibility for the system.
To maximize and sustain performance, energy commissioning should start earlier and include some longer
term involvement beyond the month of intense review. This broader involvement should include:
! Reviewing the design prior to construction to make sure that problems and misunderstandings are
prevented.
! Reviewing system performance over time to see how control strategies react to varying system
operations.
! Educating operators and regular service technicians on the performance goals of the system and how
system settings and operations affect those goals.
! Documenting set-points and sequence of operations such that operators and service technicians have
helpful resources as time passes and operating personnel change.

Relationship Between Refrigeration Commissioning,


Energy Commissioning, and O&M
Refrigeration commissioning, energy commissioning, and operations and maintenance are all interrelated.
It is very difficult to energy commission a system that is not already “refrigeration commissioned.”
Consider the example of a liquid overfeed evaporator with a variable frequency drive. Energy
commissioning would likely focus on adjusting minimum and maximum fan speeds, and the control
algorithm that jointly manages VFD speed and refrigerant liquid solenoid operation. However, the system
would not necessarily benefit from the energy commissioning if there was an underlying refrigeration
O&M or commissioning problem that kept the evaporator from generating its rated refrigeration capacity.
For example, the control wiring for valve operations could be switched, the wrong valve could be installed,

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or the ammonia pump might generate insufficient refrigerant pressure. Without fixing the underlying
problem, the evaporator could underperform resulting in high fan speeds to compensate. Both the
investment in the VFD and the investment in energy commissioning would be unproductive due to the
lack of oversights in refrigeration commissioning.
A skillful energy commissioner will broaden his focus to identify refrigeration commissioning or O&M
problems that hinder energy performance.
The most common time to energy commission a system is after the initial new construction and start-up.
Sometimes, energy commissioning is required by utility energy efficiency programs pre-condition for
financial incentives. New construction is an excellent time to commission whether or not an outside party
requires it. Commissioning protects the investment in the system and in energy efficiency upgrades to that
system. Without commissioning, projected energy savings could merely be phantom savings.
Retro-commissioning can be an ongoing continuous improvement process or an intensive review of
system operations on a pre-existing system. Investment in retro-commissioning can produce significant
energy savings for systems where there has not been an on-going keen focus on energy performance. This
process can also identify underlying maintenance or (non-energy) refrigeration commissioning issues. The
return on investment for energy commissioning is usually less than a year, and in some cases can be a
matter of months or weeks.

Evaporators
Coil Overfeed Rates Adjust overfeed or recirculated evaporator coils for the specified overfeed rates.
Proper overfeed rates are typically 3:1 to 4:1 (rates that maximize overall heat transfer). This adjustment is
particularly critical in gas pressure recirculation systems where excessive overfeed rates can reduce system
efficiency.
Evaporator Pressure Regulators In some flooded or recirculated systems, evaporator coil pressure
regulators are manually set to limit refrigerant pressure and temperature within the coil. This means that
with the regulator operating at 100% capacity, the refrigerant pressure within the coil is well above the
compressor suction pressure. These limitations are appropriate to avoid excessive temperature differences
that cause evaporators to frost rapidly. However, excessively high regulator settings limit the capacity of
the evaporator coil, and limit savings from evaporator fan cycling or VFD control. Adjusting the pressure
regulator for maximum capacity will increase capacity and maximize efficiency.
Defrost Regulators Defrost regulators that are set too high can limit the minimum condensing pressure
of the refrigeration system. Defrost regulators that are set too low can result in ineffective defrosts. Most
efficient systems use a regulator setting in the 70 to 75 psig range.

Compressors
Adjust Economizers for Effectiveness On economized rotary screw compressors, the economizer port
should always be enabled when it is necessary for liquid subcooling of low temperature loads. Loss of
subcooling can reduce compressor efficiency by 5% to 10% or more. In addition, most economizer ports
are equipped with pressure regulators to maintain pressure in the subcooler or economizer vessel. Adjust
these regulators for the optimal intermediate pressure. Avoid part-load operation on economized screw
compressors that are necessary to serve a liquid subcooling load. The economizer is typically disabled or
ineffective below about 70% capacity.
Manually Adjust VI Properly For compressors with manually adjusted internal volume ratio, review
factory recommendations for proper setting at the given operating pressures. Improper VI adjustment can
reduce compressor efficiency, particularly after adjusting system pressures, or reassigning the compressor
to an alternative duty.
Investigate Current-Limiting Virtually all screw compressors implement a current-limiting feature into
the microprocessor panel. If motor load exceeds the nameplate capacity or the service factor, the
compressor can limit further loading or actually be forced to unload. This occurs most often when a motor
is undersized or a compressor is operating at elevated suction or discharge pressure relative to design
conditions. Since operating unloaded is inefficient, you may need to reassign the compressor or replace the

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motor. Also, ensure that the compressor microprocessor is properly set up with motor full-load current
value and factory-recommended limiting parameters, and that the current transformer (CT) is reading
properly.
Ensure Full Loading Some screw compressors have hardware, often called a “slide stop,” that limits
compressor loading or unloading. Consult the manufacturer to ensure the compressor is set to fully load,
and also to fully unload.

Condensers
Review Purger Operation Inspect automatic system purgers for proper operation and capacity. If a
system has increased in size and capacity over time, a purger may not be capable of handling all non-
condensable load. Make sure that the foul-gas piping from the condenser circuits to the purger does not
trap liquid.

System and Vessels


Review Crossover Piping and Valves Ensure that any crossover piping between various suction
systems is open or closed to best optimize energy efficiency. In general, every load should be served by the
highest possible suction unless part-load issues override the suction pressure advantage.
Adjust Liquid Feed Rates into Vessels Poorly adjusted hand expansion valves can result large
infrequent pulses of refrigerant into a low pressure receiver or intercooler. These pulses create large
volumes of flash gas which in turn leads to more variability in refrigeration load and more challenging
compressor sequencing.
Set Vessel Liquid Levels Excessively low liquid levels in a chiller or intercooler can leave some heat
exchange surface area dry and ineffective. Excessively high liquid levels can cause a system shutdown

Refrigeration Loads
Optimize Door Heating Adjust door and air curtain controls to minimize heating while maintaining
door functionality. Electric resistance heating, blowers, and even ammonia hot gas are often employed
with doors and air curtains. Several door controls have features that allows heating to be cycled rather than
operated continuously or only cycle on heating for a period after the door has been opened.
Minimize Door Cycle Times and False Openings Adjust closing delay timers to minimize open time
for doors that automatically close. Tune door motions sensors to eliminate “false openings” caused by
cross traffic or activity by the door that is not passing through the doorway.
Optimize Underfloor Heating The underfloor heating system should use the lowest possible air or
glycol temperature required to prevent frost heaving. Due to the slow thermal response of the slab and
underfloor system, you should experiment slowly and carefully.
Minimize Pressure Differences Between Rooms Exhaust systems, make-up air units, and positive
pressure requirements can all have create pressure differentials that force high levels of infiltration into a
refrigerated spaces. Commissioning can sometimes mitigate these effects while meeting plant
requirements.

Controls
Optimize Suction Pressure Set Point In some systems it is best to raise the set-point as high as
possible. In other systems, it is best to balance pick a set point that best balance compressor energy use
with evaporator fan energy. As part of the commissioning process, keen attention should be focused on
the limiting refrigeration load to make sure that it is performing consistent with its design rating.
Compressor Sequencing Carefully review and optimize compressor sequencing set points, including
order and criteria for starting and stopping compressors. Simultaneously unloading multiple screw

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compressors should be avoided. Operating large compressors in a highly unloaded fashion should also be
avoided. Compressors with good part-load efficiency should be used as trim machines.
Evaporator Fan VFD Control Commissioning focuses on minimum and maximum fan speeds, rates of
speed change, coordination of VFD control with liquid solenoid or BPR control, and grouping of zones to
share load.
Remote vs. Local Compressor Control Ensure that the computer is in full control of all compressor
functions, including start/stop and load/unload. Leaving compressor microprocessors in Local control
mode prevents centralized suction pressure control and compressor sequencing.
Minimize Condensing Pressure Set Point Set the minimum condensing pressure as low as possible,
until problems are encountered. Recognize that advice on condensing pressure from manufacturers,
contractors, and technicians is often very conservative. When a barrier is encountered, assess the cost and
energy savings that are possible by correcting it.
Optimize Condenser Staging Operate evaporative condensers wet as often as possible. In addition,
stage condensers in order of decreasing efficiency, using axial-fan and integral sump units first, before
other units without these features. Finally, stage condensers as entire units. That is, avoid the temptation to
stage all pumps online first, then all fans. Rather, implement a pump-fan-pump-fan strategy. If VFDs are
used, follow the staging recommendations discussed in Improving Condenser Part-Load Performance
on page 62.
Ambient Temperature Probe Location Locate ambient-temperature and relative-humidity probes in
locations that are unaffected by direct sun or humidity sources. Check temperature and humidity relative
to nearby weather stations. Accurate measurement of ambient conditions is important for successful
implementation of wet-bulb approach condenser control.
Maximize Zone Temperatures Set all freezer or cooler zones to the highest acceptable temperature set
point allowed by product, customer, or corporate temperature criteria.
Enable Fan Cycling If your computer-control system has an evaporator fan-cycling feature, enable it. If
there is an option to choose between scheduled cycling (for example, two hours on, two hours off), and
cycling on demand, the latter provides the greater savings. If a fan-cycling feature is not available, add it to
the control system.
Optimize Defrost Settings Defrost only when necessary, and for only as long as necessary.
Experimenting will help determine the necessary defrost schedule parameters. If the system uses time
clocks, a seven-day time clock is better than a 24-hour time clock, because often defrost is only necessary
at intervals greater than 24 hours. If the control system offers a more advanced method of initiating
defrost (for example, liquid run-time), take advantage of the feature and experiment with extended time
between defrosts.
Optimize Pumper Drum and LTUs In a pumper-drum design, set controlled-pressure receiver (CPR)
pressure at the minimum possible pressure to minimize the amount of high-pressure gas required to push
the liquid from liquid transfer unit (LTU) vessels. Verify that the transfer vessel float controls are
terminating the transfer process prior to the vessel being fully empty. This minimizes transferring high
pressure gas into the liquid receiver.
VFD Parameter Settings Confirm that VFDs for evaporators and condensers are set for variable torque
and that VFDs for compressors are set for constant torque. Also, VFDs should generally be set for low
switching frequency (4 kHz or less). Finally, confirm that the VFDs and control system are programmed
correctly for speed settings and speed conversions. We have seen many control systems where the
indicated speed and the actual VFD speed are different. These discrepancies must be addressed.
Utilize Setback Features If a time-of-use utility rate schedule provides low-cost energy during off-peak
hours, take advantage of scheduled suction pressure and zone temperature features to shift a portion of
refrigeration load to the off-peak periods, and “coast” during the on-peak periods. There may be a slight
increase or decrease in total energy use as a result, but the primary goal is prioritizing load during low-cost
periods.
Demand Limiting Features In some cases, a facility may operate under a rate schedule that charges very
high rates for demand (kW or kVA) during peak periods. Also, some rate schedules penalize the facility for

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the one or two highest peak demand values during the previous 12 months or calendar year. In these cases,
the control system can provide demand limiting and shedding features. With a connection to the utility
pulse meter or a secondary power transducer, the control system will follow a prescribed order of
equipment unloading or shutdowns to avoid target peak demand levels.

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CHAPTER 6

Tools for Implementing Best Practices


and Energy Management

Introduction
This chapter explains the benefit of incorporating a robust energy management strategy and provides a
variety of resources and approaches that can help you understand and control your refrigeration system
energy costs. An effective refrigeration energy management strategy strives to raise awareness of energy
use and operating costs. All plant staff should have full knowledge of the costs of running the refrigeration
system—from plant engineers, process operators, to maintenance staff. Owners and plant management
also need to see energy costs as a variable rather than a fixed expense. We believe that if you are aware of
your energy use, the related energy costs, and the options available to control them, you are more likely to
select efficient choices that minimize life-cycle cost and maximize profits.
This section includes the following:
! Examples of energy management strategies utilized at industrial facilities and key elements of
successful programs.
! An overview of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that can be employed on an industrial
refrigeration system to measure system performance and ensure that efficiency improvements are
sustained and improved over time.
! A self-assessment questionnaire that allows you to consider how all aspects of your refrigeration
system can influence operating costs. This includes equipment choices, control methods, system
design, operation and maintenance, and management techniques.
! An overview of life-cycle cost analysis.
! An example of how to estimate the annual energy cost of your refrigeration system.
! An overview of the techniques and benefits of refrigeration energy-efficiency studies.
! A discussion of energy-accounting practices and their benefits.
! A reference section that includes a variety of sources for information on industrial refrigeration
engineering and operation.

Why Improve How You Manage Energy?


Companies manage energy for the same reasons they manage labor, safety and raw materials: to improve
profitability by controlling and reducing costs. This guide has presented several opportunities to reduce
energy use in refrigeration systems ranging from
capital projects to improved O&M practices. The
return on implementing these opportunities will be How can you expect to sustain and improve energy
dependent on the strength of the company’s
energy management program. Ask yourself, how performance if you do not have designated
can you expect to sustain and improve energy leadership, clear goals, accountability, and
performance if you do not have designated
leadership, clear goals, accountability, and measurable results, and have not instilled a
measurable results, and have not instilled a continuous improvement philosophy?
continuous improvement philosophy?
Increasingly, companies are realizing the benefit of
a robust energy management program. For some, sharp increases in energy costs have led them to make
this change. For others, past cost reduction initiatives such as Lean Manufacturing have been pursued to

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the full extent. Energy represents the next layer of opportunity to reduce costs. The bottom line is that
increased global demand for energy, tightening environmental regulations, and growing threats such as
global warming will undoubtedly increase the cost and availability of energy in the future. Those
companies with an effective energy management program that have reduced energy costs and reinvested
savings in new energy projects will have a considerable competitive advantage.

Industrial Energy Management Strategies


A wide range of energy management strategies are employed at industrial facilities. For many, there may be
no formal energy management program. The monthly electric and gas utility bills are simply paid and filed
away. For others at the other end of the extreme, energy is an integral consideration in all aspects of
business decision-making. The strategies employed by companies generally fall into one of five categories:
1 Do Nothing Simply pay the utility bills. For some, energy may be perceived as a fixed cost that
cannot be affected. For others, the resources required to reduce energy costs is believed to outweigh
the potential benefit.
2 Price Management Seek ways to reduce the cost of energy such as fuel switching or finding lower
energy supply costs. Some facilities may view energy costs as the only variable that can be controlled.
For others, reducing the cost of energy is simpler than upgrading equipment or trying to change plant
culture.
3 Low-Cost, No-Cost Opportunities Try to do the best you can with what you have. Management
may set goals to “Reduce energy use by 10% without spending any money”. One-time efforts to tune
equipment and operating strategies can produce significant energy savings immediately. While this is a
good starting point towards assessing energy management opportunities and finding an immediate
“success,” these savings often erode over time if adequate procedures, measurements, and roles are
not created to sustain success.
4 Capital Projects Pursue equipment upgrades that improve efficiency. This is pursued by facilities
that feel that efficiency is primarily an equipment issue or want to avoid tackling efficiency from a
staff perspective. Energy cost savings can be significant but fall short of true optimization because of
the failure to address opportunities from the human perspective.
5 Strategic Energy Management Incorporate energy into all aspects of normal business operations.
A facility develops a formal energy policy, assigns leadership and sets goals. An energy plan enables a
facility to prioritize opportunities and assign roles and responsibilities for achieving goals; the next
step is to pursue capital projects and low-cost, no-costs methods to reduce energy use. By tracking
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), a facility can measure system performance and improvements in
energy productivity.

Clearly, a Strategic Energy Management program presents the best opportunity to fully optimize energy
efficiency. An energy management program is most effective when it is appropriately scaled to meet the
needs of a facility. In general, the greater energy costs are and the greater percentage of total operating
costs energy represents, the greater opportunity for a comprehensive energy management program.

Elements of a Successful Energy Management


Program
The fundamental elements of a successful energy management program are no different than you would
find for other initiatives. Establishing goals, tracking results over time, designating leadership, and
outlining roles and responsibilities, and education and training opportunities, are the fundamental building
blocks of any successful management strategy, whether it is energy or safety. Not surprisingly, companies
will often borrow from existing programs such as Six Sigma or Lean Manufacturing as the framework of
their energy management program.
Full energy savings potential comes from a corporate commitment to strategic energy management in four
key areas of organizational structure, people, manufacturing systems and measurement: The following are

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some of the attributes that are common to successful energy management programs within these four
areas:
1 Gain Upper Management Support The most successful energy programs are supported by upper
management, which provides clear goals and the resources for achieving them. Management must
convey that the energy program is real, is a long-term effort, and that staff will be held accountable for
its success.
2 Assign an Energy Champion Assigning an Energy Champion to oversee the energy management
program establishes accountability. An effective Energy Champion understands the technical aspects
of energy use and optimization, as well as the financial requirements to implement improvements.
The champion must be able to effectively manage and motivate staff whose actions affect energy use
as well as successfully secure necessary financial resources from management. An Energy Champion
may be also be selected for each major technical system in a facility, such as refrigeration or
compressed air. An Energy Champion is most effective when he/she establishes an energy team
which is represented by members from each technical system as well as each department. An energy
team meets regularly and helps the Champion lead activities and measure results.
3 Establish and Track Key Performance Indicators Establishing energy-focused Key Performance
Indicators (KPIs) allows a facility to track and benchmark the performance of individual energy-
related upgrades as well as a comprehensive energy management program. Employing appropriate
KPIs ensures that a facility will sustain and improve upon advancements made in the energy program.
4 Adopt a Continuous Improvement Philosophy At the onset of an energy management program, it
is likely that a few “low-cost, no-cost” opportunities will be discovered that provide dramatic energy
savings. At this point, it may be tempting to claim that the program was a success and move on. The
downside is that many other viable opportunities have not yet been realized and experience shows
that gains made in the past degrade over time. Significant energy savings can only be achieved with a
continuous improvement system that finds new opportunities, measures KPIs and each year evaluates
and increases goals.
5 Participate in Training Providing training for plant staff whose actions affect energy use is critical
towards success. Training for plant engineering staff and upper management as well as operators and
maintenance staff is vital because key decision makers and daily operators significantly impact the
overall direction and savings resulting from an energy management program.
6 Reduce the Cost of Energy Actively pursue options to reduce the cost of energy. Many utilities
offer reduced rates if a facility agrees to an interruptible power service option. As well, most utilities
offer free energy management software and training. This utility service will help you understand and
manage factors that affect energy costs such as time-of-day rate changes, peak demand charges, and
power factor penalties. You will be better able to optimize usage and reduce your overall electric
utility costs. Another method is to research whether alternate rate schedules are available from your
existing utility provider.
7 Conduct Proper Cost and Savings Accounting How project costs and savings are accounted can
help or hinder the results of an energy management program. To ensure a successful energy
management program, incentive must be provided to those responsible for making improvements and
meeting goals.
8 Document and Replicate Successes Ensure that the lessons learned and techniques from a
successful energy management program can live on as plant operations and staff evolve and change.
Companies with multiple facilities need to spread knowledge, best practices, and success stories
gained from site to site and department to department.

Industrial Refrigeration Key Performance Indicators


Industrial Refrigeration KPIs should provide quick, clear feedback on system performance that can be
interpreted with minimal effort. KPIs that require burdensome data collection or complex processing will
likely be abandoned over time. Effective KPIs allow a facility to develop a dashboard of system
performance and readily provide plant staff with the data necessary to determine whether performance is
in line with expectations at given conditions. With refrigeration systems, this often requires normalizing

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data, such as refrigeration energy, versus variables that strongly affect its use, such as production or
outdoor ambient temperature. By normalizing the data, plant staff can determine whether refrigeration
system energy use has been reduced because of efficiency improvements that were made or simply because
production dropped, for example. The following are just a few of the KPIs that could potentially be
utilized on an industrial refrigeration system:
! Refrigeration system power (kW)
! Refrigeration system load (TR)
! Refrigeration system power versus load (kW/TR)
! Refrigeration system power per unit production (kW/lb)
! Refrigeration system power per unit cold storage volume (kW/cu. ft.)
! Average condensing pressure (psig)
! Average suction pressure (in. Hg or psig)
! Average refrigeration load versus peak refrigeration load (TR/TR)
! Evaporator defrost duty (%)
! Cold storage door open time (hrs)
! Outdoor ambient dry bulb temperature (°F)
! Outdoor ambient relative humidity (%)

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System Assessment Questionnaire
This questionnaire covers most aspects of equipment and operations for industrial ammonia refrigeration
systems found in a “typical” food processing facility. Relative weighting has been assigned to various
questions as a rough approximation of their importance to overall efficiency and thus, their impact on
operating costs. Note: The questions do not cover every possible efficiency scenario.
To assess the efficiency or efficiency potential of your refrigeration systems, you can compare the subtotals
from each section of the questionnaire and also your total score to the table at the end. The first line in
each section of the questionnaire refers you to relevant pages of the Best Practices Guide for more
information. There’s more information on interpreting your score at the end of the self-assessment.

Section 1: Suction Pressure


See Reducing Lift, page 46.
1 The saturated suction temperature on your system is about how many degrees less than the lowest air
temperature or liquid temperature served? The scores acknowledge that closer temperature
approaches are practical for liquid loads than for air loads. Base your answer on the single lowest-
temperature load in your system.
For air loads: For liquid loads: Points
20°F or more ............................... 10°F or more ................................................................... 0
15°F to 20°F ............................... 7.5°F to 10°F................................................................... 1
12°F to 15°F ............................... 6°F to 7.5°F..................................................................... 2
10° to 12°F .................................. 5°F to 6°F ........................................................................ 3
10°F or less .................................. 5°F or less ........................................................................ 4

Score
2 The controls for our system allow space temperatures to pull down below the required temperature by
more than 2°F.
Points
Yes ............................................................................................................................................ 0
No ............................................................................................................................................. 1

Score
3 Which of the following descriptions best describes your system:
Points
We maintain our suction pressure below its design suction level to be
conservative and run all evaporator fans at full speed.................................................. 0
We maintain our suction pressure at its design suction pressure and
run all fan evaporator fans at full speed. ........................................................................ 1
We allow our suction pressure to float above the design suction
pressure while running all evaporator fans .................................................................... 2
We operate at the highest allowable suction pressure that still allows
some fan cycling or fan-speed reduction........................................................................ 3

Score
4 A small but colder load on our refrigeration system determines the suction pressure we run, while a
larger load on the same system could handle a higher suction pressure. (An example is an ice cream
room on the same suction as a main freezer.)
Points
Yes ............................................................................................................................................ 0
No ............................................................................................................................................. 1

Score

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5 We have expanded our system. After the expansion, we see noticeably more pressure drop in our
suction lines; or, sometimes we have trouble maintaining temperature in zones far from the
compressor room.
Points
Yes ............................................................................................................................................ 0
No ............................................................................................................................................. 1

Score

Points for Section 1: Suction Pressure 10 points possible

Section Score

Section 2: Discharge Pressure 4


See Reducing Lift, page 46.
6 In Spring or Fall weather, our refrigeration system allows condensing pressures to float as low as:
Points
150 psig or higher ................................................................................................................... 0
130 psig .................................................................................................................................... 2
110 psig .................................................................................................................................... 4
90 psig or lower ...................................................................................................................... 6

Score
7 Our peak summer condensing pressure is about:
Points
above 180 psig ........................................................................................................................ 0
170–180 psig ........................................................................................................................... 1
160–170 psig ........................................................................................................................... 2
150–160 psig ........................................................................................................................... 3
below 150 psig ........................................................................................................................ 4

Score
8 We have direct expansion (DX) evaporators or other DX loads in our system.
Points
Yes ............................................................................................................................................ 0
No ............................................................................................................................................. 1

Score
9 Our high-stage or single-stage compressors are forced to unload (current-limit) in the summer to
avoid overloading the motors because of high condensing pressures.
Points
Sometimes ............................................................................................................................... 0
Never ........................................................................................................................................ 2

Score

Points for Section 2: Discharge Pressure 13 points possible

Section Score

4 Questions in this section are geared toward the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.

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Section 3: Evaporator Part-Load Control
See Improving Evaporator Part-Load Performance, page 55.
10 Which of these statements best describes your evaporator fan control strategy?
Points
We run evaporator fans at full speed at all times except defrost. .................................... 0
We manually shut off some evaporator fans during low load periods. ........................... 2
Our control system cycles evaporator fans to maintain space
temperature. ...................................................................................................................... 4
Our control system uses two-speed or VFDs to maintain space
temperatures. ..................................................................................................................... 6
Our control system includes VFDs and employs “group control”
such that all zones in the same room to operate at the same speed
provided that space temperatures are reasonably uniform. ........................................ 8

Score

Points for Section 3: Evaporator Part-Load Control 8 points possible

Section Score

Section 4: Compressor Control and Sequencing


See Improving Compressor Part-Load Performance, page 59.
11 Which of these statements best describes your compressor sequencing?
Points
We run our compressors manually, and do not usually have an
opportunity to confirm that they are fully loaded. ....................................................... 0
We start and stop our compressors manually. Operating compressors
remain fully loaded, but these compressors sometimes pull the
suction pressure well below the required level. ............................................................ 2
We run our compressors manually, but are diligent about turning off
unloaded machines most of the time.............................................................................. 4
We use a control system to sequence compressors in fixed order. ................................. 6
We use a control system that automatically mixes and matches
compressor capacity and efficiency to best match the load. ....................................... 8

Score

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12 Which of the following best describes the typical unloading of our compressors?
Points
It is common to have two or more screw compressors operating at
less than 100% capacity on the same suction system. ................................................. 0
All operating compressors remain fully loaded, but operate at lower
than necessary suction pressures. ................................................................................... 2
Our control system fully loads our “base-load” compressors with one
screw compressor acting as “trim” compressor by unloading the
slide valve to maintain suction pressure at set point. .................................................. 4
Our control system fully loads our “base-load” compressors with
either a reciprocating compressor or VFD-driven screw
compressor acting as the "trim" compressor. ............................................................... 6

Score

Points for Section 4: Compressor Control and Sequencing 14 points possible

Section Score

Section 5: Condenser Control and Sequencing


See Improving Condenser Part-Load Performance, page 62.
13 Which of the following best describes our condenser sequencing?
Points
Our system cycles fans for condensing pressure control. Each
condenser fan stage has a distinct "cycle on" set point and "cycle
off" set point. The set points for successive stages are staggered
such that all condenser fans are not on-line until the system
pressure is above the minimum allowable discharge pressure. .................................. 0
Our system cycles fans for condensing pressure control. There is a
single set point for all condenser fan stages. When the pressure
climbs above the set point, another fan stage is brought on-line. ............................. 1
Our condenser fans are controlled with two-speed fans or VFDs.
There is a single set point for all condenser fan stages. The system
ramps one VFD to full speed, prior to bringing the next VFD-
driven fan on-line. ............................................................................................................ 2
Our condenser fans are controlled with two-speed fans or VFDs.
There is a single set point for all condenser fan stages. We ramp
all fans at the same speed. ............................................................................................... 3

Score
14 We operate our condenser fans first and our pumps second.
Points
Yes ............................................................................................................................................ 0
No ............................................................................................................................................. 2

Score

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15 We run our system dry for several months each winter, which often includes a month or more when
the weather is above freezing.
Points
Yes ............................................................................................................................................ 0
No ............................................................................................................................................. 2

Score

Points for Section 5: Condenser Control and Sequencing 7 points possible

Section Score

Section 6: Equipment and System-Design Choices


See Upgrading Equipment on page 65.
16 When we have purchased evaporators or condensers in the past, we have compared and selected units
based upon fan (and pump) horsepower per ton of capacity.
Points
No ............................................................................................................................................. 0
Yes ............................................................................................................................................ 3

Score
17 Our screw compressors are cooled with liquid injection.
Points
Yes ............................................................................................................................................ 0
No ............................................................................................................................................. 3

Score
18 Our system has no suction systems below -10°F saturated suction temperature that are not either
single-stage economized or two-stage.
Points
True .......................................................................................................................................... 0
False .......................................................................................................................................... 3

Score
19 Our system has no suction systems below -30°F saturated suction temperature that are not served
with a two-stage system.
Points
True .......................................................................................................................................... 0
False .......................................................................................................................................... 3

Score
20 We have refrigeration computer-control system.
Points
False .......................................................................................................................................... 0
True .......................................................................................................................................... 3

Score

Points for Section 6: Equipment and System-Design Choices 15 points possible

Section Score

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Section 7: Defrost Control
See Improving System Design on page 71.
21 Which of the following best describes our evaporator defrost schedule?
Points
We initiate defrost with a time-clock. We do the same number of
defrosts for the same duration throughout the year. .................................................... 0
We initiate defrost with a time-clock. We vary the interval and timing
of the defrost as we see moisture loads change............................................................. 1
We initiate defrost based upon evaporator cooling run-time. We use
the same run-time interval and duration throughout the year..................................... 2
We initiate defrost based upon evaporator cooling run-time or some
other means or measuring or inferring frost build-up. Defrost
intervals and durations are changed manually or automatically
throughout the year........................................................................................................... 3

Score

Points for Section 7: Defrost Control 3 points possible

Section Score

Section 8: Operation and Maintenance


See Best Practices for O&M and Commissioning, page 83.
22 Our condenser water treatment program is effective and our condensers are free of scale.
Points
False .......................................................................................................................................... 0
True .......................................................................................................................................... 2

Score
23 We measure the liquid ammonia temperature returning from our condenser. It is normally within 2°F
of the saturation temperature corresponding to the discharge pressure.
Points
False .......................................................................................................................................... 0
True .......................................................................................................................................... 2

Score
24 We check, clean, and replace condenser nozzles, water distribution trays, and strainers such that the
system is clog-free and our water spray coverage is complete.
Points
False .......................................................................................................................................... 0
True .......................................................................................................................................... 2

Score
25 We calibrate temperature sensors, pressure sensors, and slide valves at least once a year.
Points
False .......................................................................................................................................... 0
True .......................................................................................................................................... 2

Score

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26 We routinely clean our evaporator coils and condenser tube bundles.
Points
False .......................................................................................................................................... 0
True .......................................................................................................................................... 2

Score
27 We practice preventive maintenance on our compressors including regularly scheduled oil changes,
filter changes, oil analysis, vibration analysis, and clearance checks.
Points
False .......................................................................................................................................... 0
True .......................................................................................................................................... 2

Score
28 We routinely inspect our hot gas solenoid valves to confirm that no gas is leaking through to the
suction system.
Points
False .......................................................................................................................................... 0
True .......................................................................................................................................... 2

Score
29 Which of the following statements best describes how you manually record and track variables that
have a significant energy or process impacts (examples include space or process temperatures, system
pressures, compressor motor current, slide valve positions, compressor hour meter readings, etc.).
Points
We don't formally track these variables................................................................................ 0
We manually record engine room and space temperature logs on at
least a daily basis. This technique allows us to recognize problems
early, but we seldom refer back to previous logs for comparison. ............................. 1
We record engine room logs on at least a daily basis. We use this for
early recognition of problems and we periodically compare
performance over time to identify emerging problems................................................ 2

Score
30 Which of the following best describes our use of our computer-control system for control?
Points
We either don't have a computer-control system or we have
overridden and disabled most/all of its control functions. ......................................... 0
Our control system provides most/all of the control for our system,
but we largely rely on the original settings. .................................................................... 1
We consider the control system a tool for active use. We routinely
make control changes with a particular emphasis on minimizing
energy use. ......................................................................................................................... 2

Score

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31 Which of the following describes the use of our computer system for "trend-logging"? Trend-logging
is defined as storing important system variables (space temperatures, system pressures, etc.) that can
be reviewed in graphs or tables.
Points
We either do not have a control system, or we have a control system
that we do not use for trend-logging. ............................................................................. 0
We use the trend-logging capability of our computer on an occasional
basis. .................................................................................................................................... 1
We review trend-logging on a regular basis and trend most/all of the
control points that the system allows. ............................................................................ 2

Score

Points for Section 8: Operation and Maintenance 20 points possible

Section Score

Section 9: System Commissioning


See Best Practices for O&M and Commissioning, page 83.
32 After our system was built or last expanded, we commissioned our system to assure that all major
equipment was operating consistent with design specifications. This included examination of control
algorithms, checking for appropriate system set points, and ensuring that all process needs and any
energy goals were being met.
Points
False .......................................................................................................................................... 0
True .......................................................................................................................................... 5

Score

Points for Section 9: System Commissioning 5 points possible

Section Score

Section 10: Energy Management


See Chapter 6: Tools for Implementing Best Practices. page 91.
33 We track our refrigeration energy use on a macro basis (for examples, kWh versus unit of product, or
kWh versus average ambient temperature) and compare plant to plant or year to year.
Points
No ............................................................................................................................................. 0
Yes ............................................................................................................................................ 1

Score
34 We have installed electrical submetering of our refrigeration system and we use it as a tool to optimize
energy use and identify emerging trends.
Points
No ............................................................................................................................................. 0
Yes ............................................................................................................................................ 1

Score

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35 During the course of our plant construction or last expansion, we had contractors provide bids on
energy efficiency upgrades and evaluated incremental investments in energy efficiency. We selected
options with low life-cycle costs that met our return on investment criteria.
Points
No ............................................................................................................................................. 0
Yes ............................................................................................................................................ 3

Score

Points for Section 10: Energy Management 5 points possible

Section Score

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Summary of All Sections

Section Possible Points Our Score

Section 1: Suction Pressure 10

Section 2: Discharge Pressure 13

Section 3: Evaporator Part-Load Control 8

Section 4: Compressor Control and Sequencing 14

Section 5: Condenser Control and Sequencing 7

Section 6: Equipment and System-Design Choices 15

Section 7: Defrost Control 3

Section 8: Operation and Maintenance 20

Section 9: System Commissioning 5

Section 10: Energy Management 5

Total 100

Interpreting Your Score


Your Total Score Interpretation
85–100 Excellent
Your system and your maintenance are outstanding in terms of energy efficiency.
70–84 Good
Your system and maintenance standards are very good.
50–69 Fair
Your system is working well, but some upgrades might be examined.
Below 50 Opportunity for Improvement
Your system has good potential for efficiency improvement.

This self-assessment tool is intended to give you an initial idea of your refrigeration system’s energy
efficiency and potential. You’ve probably noted that more expensive or complex options are represented
by higher scores. In most circumstances, this also indicates greater energy efficiency. But there are many
operation-and-maintenance options for reducing energy costs with minimal investment.
This self-assessment tool was developed with a “typical” refrigeration system at a cold storage warehouse.
Remember that your refrigeration system is customized and unique to your situation. If you have
significant process loads for fluid cooling or freezing, or your system is older, some of the scoring choices
may not apply well to you.

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Take some time to assess your score for each section individually and for your total score. Even if your
score is ranked “excellent,” there are likely still options for controlling costs. The only way to keep a
refrigeration system in top condition is by regular and comprehensive maintenance and thoughtful
operation.
Also note, that the efficiency of some systems ranked “Fair” or with “Opportunity for Improvement”
could be increased at little or no cost. Many industrial refrigeration systems will have a chance to become
more efficient when undertaking a major renovation or new construction. During these times, try to
consider various options in an energy study that includes a life-cycle cost analysis.

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An Overview of Life-Cycle Costing
Life-cycle costing is an evaluation method that helps management make the best purchasing decisions
when making a capital investment. Life-cycle costing accounts for initial, ongoing, and future costs, and
the value of future benefits of an investment, typically over the life of a project. It lets you compare
alternative systems based on the differences between their respective initial costs, operating costs (including
energy savings), and maintenance costs over their lifetimes. To achieve this, each alternative project is placed
on the same economic footing, and the cost of capital over time is considered.
The basic equation for life-cycle cost is:
LCC = CostInitial + CostOperation + CostMaintenance – ValueBenefits – ValueSalvage
where:
LCC = total life-cycle cost in current dollars
CostInitial = initial project cost in current dollars
CostOperation = operating costs over the project life, discounted to current dollars
CostMaintenance = maintenance costs over the project life, discounted to current dollars
ValueBenefits = the value of any project benefits over the project life, discounted to current
dollars (this could include things like production rate, product quality, or labor
productivity)
ValueSalvage = the salvage or resale value of the project (if any) at the end if its life, discounted
to current dollars
Many of these items are straightforward, but because several components of the life-cycle cost are spread
over many years, they must be converted to comparable units of cost—usually current-year dollars. This is
done by “discounting,” which accounts for things like inflation (or deflation) and depreciation (or
appreciation).
To determine which alternative project is the most economically attractive, you should determine and
compare their life-cycle costs. The alternative with the lowest life-cycle cost is usually the most
economically desirable. Life-cycle cost analysis lets you determine which alternative project with the lowest
overall cost to the organization over the life of the project.
In practice, life-cycle costing can be complex when it accounts for the effects of things like inflation, taxes
and tax credits, escalation of energy costs, and system components with different economic lifespans.
In summary, a life-cycle cost analysis involves converting all project costs and benefits, initial and future,
into current dollars, comparing each project alternative, and selecting the one with the lowest total cost.
Often, the project with the lowest total cost is not the project with the lowest initial cost, thus performing a
life-cycle cost analysis can be justified.
The U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Information
Resources Center online has a Life-Cycle Cost Analysis Program and Tool
(www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/program/lifecycle.html) which offers a free download of the Building Life-
Cycle Costing Software, a resource for any energy manager.

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Estimating the Annual Energy Cost of Your
Refrigeration System
One of the first steps toward assessing refrigeration energy efficiency in terms of life-cycle costs is
determining how much energy your system uses per year and the resulting energy costs.
Calculating energy costs is very straightforward for facilities where the refrigeration system is by far the
largest electrical load. This would occur, for example, in some refrigerated warehouses. In these cases, an
analysis of electric utility billing history is all that’s required.
For systems where refrigeration represents only a fraction of the total electrical consumption, estimating
energy use is a little more challenging. Below a sample calculation for a hypothetical refrigeration system.
The calculation points out several suggested sources for data and suggests some analytical shortcuts. With
reasonable data, you should be able to estimate energy use and cost within about +/- 15%.
It is more difficult to make these estimates while planning new construction. However, it is even more
important to try to estimate annual energy costs in those situations. Planning and design provides by far the
best opportunity for evaluating life-cycle costs, assessing efficiency potential and implementing measures
found cost-effective in terms of energy and other benefits. Detailed energy studies (see Using an Energy
Study as a Management Tool on page 109) involve more rigorous estimates of energy use and cost, and
are an excellent idea when planning new construction or major renovation.
An energy estimate also helps explain which pieces of equipment in your system are the largest
contributors to total energy use. In some systems (controlled atmosphere facilities for one), the large
compressor motors are not the largest energy users (since energy use is the product of both horsepower
and operating hours). This insight can help you concentrate your efforts on the equipment with the most
potential and get the biggest impact for the least effort.

Compressor Energy Estimate


Typical
Motor Motor Typical
Compressor input Hours per Annual Energy
nameplate Full Load motor
Number power year (kWh)
(hp) Amps amps
(kW)
1 300 330 250 182 7,000 1,272,727
2 300 330 275 200 4,000 800,000
3 200 220 180 131 3,000 392,727
4 200 220 175 127 2,000 254,545
5 200 220 180 131 2,000 261,818
Total 2,981,818

From motor nameplate kWh are simply


kW x hours

Possible data sources would include manually


recorded engine room logs, refrigeration control
Engine room logs that
system history, or amp measurements at typical
include hour meter readings
operations.
are an excellent source for
estimating hours per year.

Technically:
kW = motor shaft power x .746 / motor efficiency
but a decent approximation is:
kW = Motor Nameplate hp x typical motor amps / motor full load amps * 0.8

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Chapter 6: Tools for Implementing Best Practices and Energy Management
Evaporator Energy Estimate
Typical Average
Fan Total Fan Input Annual
Evaporators Fans per Duty Shaft Hours per
Zone Motor Power Control Power Energy
per zone evaporator Cycle or Power year
hp (hp) (kW) (kWh)
speed (hp)
1 1 4 3 12 Constant 100% 12.0 9.6 8,000 76,800
2 1 4 3 12 Constant 100% 12.0 9.6 8,000 76,800
3 1 4 3 12 Constant 100% 12.0 9.6 8,000 76,800
4 1 4 3 12 Constant 100% 12.0 9.6 8,000 76,800
5 2 3 2 12 Fan Cycling 40% 4.8 3.8 8,000 30,720
6 2 3 2 12 Fan Cycling 50% 6.0 4.8 8,000 38,400
7 2 3 2 12 Fan Cycling 60% 7.2 5.8 8,000 46,080
8 2 5 4 40 VFD 70% 13.7 11.0 8,000 87,808
Total 124 79.7 63.8 510,208

Average shaft power should address control type (constant, fan cycle, or speed control).

A rough estimate is: kW = shaft power x 0.8

Condenser and Ammonia Pump Energy Estimate


Avg Avg
Condenser Condenser
Annual
Pump Fan Duty Fan/Pump Fan/Pump Hours per
Load Pump hp Fan hp Energy
duty cycle Cycle Shaft Input year
(kWh)
Power Power
(hp) (kW)
Condenser #1 5.0 20 100% 50% 15 12.0 8,760 105,120
Condenser #2 7.5 15 100% 30% 12 9.6 8,760 84,096
Ammonia Pump 5.0 0 100% 5 4.0 8,760 35,040
Total 32 25.6 224,256

Total System Energy Use for Major Components


Compressors 2,981,818 kWh
Evaporators 510,208 kWh
Condensers 224,256 kWh
Total 3,716,282 kWh

Annual Energy Cost


Energy Rate: $0.04 per kWh
Estimated Ballpark Cost: $148,651

You can use either an average rate inferred from your


energy bill (total $ / total kWh) or look up your
energy rate from your utility rate schedule.

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Chapter 6: Tools for Implementing Best Practices and Energy Management
Using an Energy Study as a Management Tool
Minimizing the life-cycle cost of refrigeration is one of the goals of best practices. We consider it a best
practice to conduct an energy study whenever there is major refrigeration-system renovation, new
construction, or there are financial incentives to pursue a capital project. The energy study should look at
the full range of technology, component, and operational options to determine those options with an
attractive return on investment in terms of life-cycle cost.
In this Guide, many best practices for energy-efficient equipment, system design, and controls are listed.
Some, but not all, of these upgrades will yield an adequate return on investment. To reiterate, a very high
level of efficiency is attainable and likely warranted under the following conditions:
! The refrigeration system operates continuously
! Energy costs are high
! Substantial incentives are available from your electric utility or other public source
! Measures are included incrementally as part of new construction (as opposed to retrofits)

A lower level of efficiency is cost-effective when one or more of the above conditions are not met. In such
a scenario, an energy study is the best tool for addressing the specific case and helping define what is
economically feasible.
An energy study defines the capital costs and energy cost savings associated with various upgrades (in the
case of new construction) or retrofits (for existing systems). It also summarizes any utility incentives or tax
benefits that may be available, and provides the proper rigorous analysis and documentation required to
obtain them. If possible, the study should list or quantify non-energy benefits and/or costs. Financial
results are presented in terms of simple payback, return on investment, or annual net cash flow, depending
on the preferences of decision makers.
An energy study should be conducted by someone with expertise and experience in refrigeration and
energy analysis. A lack of refrigeration knowledge will result in missed opportunities and poor
recommendations. A lack of energy experience will miss the big picture in terms of energy baseline, utility
rate schedules, and incentives. Limited analytical experience will result in dubious savings estimates.
Some larger food-processing facilities have developed (or may want to develop) energy-study expertise in-
house. More commonly, energy studies are contracted out to energy-efficiency specialists. Often, energy-
efficiency programs of electric utilities will provide partial or full funding for these studies. However, even
if the customer pays for the study, this investment is small relative to the capital cost of the equipment and
the lifetime energy costs of the system. In other words, it is a “best practice” to invest in high-quality
decision-making information.
At a more detailed level, an energy study includes the following:
An engineering model of the energy use of the refrigeration system This model would represent
the loads, equipment, and control of the system. Such models can be constructed for both existing systems
and for proposed new construction.
! A baseline model is constructed that represents either “as-is” conditions (for an existing system) or a
“baseline design” model (for new construction).
! Modified versions of the model are created to represent alternate system configurations. The
difference in annual energy use between the baseline and alternate models represents potential energy
and cost savings.
! These models can be quite complex, due to a combination of factors including seasonal variations in
weather and production, interactions between energy-using equipment, nonlinear equipment part-
load, and control subtleties. To be an accurate representation, a comprehensive model should address
both full-load and part-load equipment operation and the full range of load levels and ambient
conditions. It is a mistake to concentrate strictly on worst-case design loads that occur for only a small
fraction of the time.
! For existing systems, we advocate monitoring the system for a representative period of time to
observe how the system actually operates. The monitored loads and equipment control are then

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Chapter 6: Tools for Implementing Best Practices and Energy Management
integrated with the refrigeration model. This monitoring typically includes compressor motor current
or true power, system pressures, equipment on/off status, and slide valve positions. As an alternative
to monitoring, many newer refrigeration computer-control systems record these variables into a
database that can be accessed and analyzed.

Estimates of the cost of efficiency upgrades These costs can be estimated based upon similar
projects, but a better approach is to obtain contractor costs based upon the specific case. It is an excellent
management practice to ask contractors for cost estimates for efficiency alternates as part of the bidding
process for new construction.
Design details The study should provide enough detail on specific design details, necessary set points,
and control algorithms to ensure that the energy-efficiency goals will be achieved.
Measurement and verification plans It is a good idea to describe how the system will be
commissioned and how savings will be verified at this early stage, particularly if incentives are at stake.

Table 12: Example summary of savings and cost from an energy study

Savings and Cost Summary


Annual Energy Pre-
Include Installed
EEM Energy Cost incentive
Description in Cost
Number Savings Savings Payback
Package? ($)
(kWh/yr) ($) (years)
1 Engine room computer control, Yes 483,786 $26,608 $93,608 3.5
condenser fan VFDs, thermosiphon oil
cooling
2 Freezer evaporator zones computer Yes 295,204 $16,236 $37,882 2.3
control
3a Retrofit upgrades to compressor #3 No 290,744 $15,991 $90,090 5.6
(economizer, VFD, alternate VI)
3b New single-stage compressor No 293,499 $16,142 $180,391 11.2
(economizer, variable VI, premium
motor, VFD)
3c Compressor 3 upgrades and new Yes 452,261 $24,874 $224,259 9.0
single-stage compressor
Total for recommended package: 1,231,251 $67,719 $355,749 5.3
Cost of Energy: $0.05500 /kWh

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Chapter 6: Tools for Implementing Best Practices and Energy Management
Energy Accounting
Another step toward energy efficiency is to manage whole-plant energy costs using energy accounting.
Energy accounting is a system for recording, analyzing, and reporting energy consumption and cost
regularly. Just as financial accounting is used to effectively manage the costs of a business, energy
accounting can be used to manage energy systems.
Energy accounting provides feedback on how much energy your facility uses and can help you
communicate energy-use information that facility staff and management can use to control energy costs. If
submetering is available, it’s also possible to perform energy accounting by cost center or sometimes by
end-use. Energy accounting can help you with the following:
! Record and assign energy consumption and related costs. Compare energy use and cost among
facilities and look at changes over time. With electrical submetering for your refrigeration system or
other major production centers, or real-time monitoring, you can gain further insight into plant
energy. One excellent idea is to track energy use normalized to some particular index such as
production, average ambient temperature, or other key variable, as shown in Figure 75.
! Troubleshoot energy-use problems and billing errors. By consistently tracking energy use, you
can identify problems in plant equipment or operation. A sudden unexplained increase in
consumption, for instance, means it’s time to investigate and identify the cause.
! Provide a basis for prioritizing energy capital investments. Find out which facilities have the
highest energy costs, and consider giving additional attention to those systems.
! Evaluate energy-efficiency success and promote the results. Clearly identify actual cost savings
and compare it to predicted cost savings. Without energy accounting, it’s very difficult to answer this
question accurately.
! Create incentives for energy management. Energy accounting can help measure and establish
incentives for those staff who implement energy management. Providing incentives by sharing energy
cost savings with the maintenance department is an example of an incentive structure that could not
be done without energy accounting.
! Increase budget accuracy. Energy accounting gives a historical look at costs to create realistic
budgets.

Electrical Energy vs Production Electrical Energy vs


Average Ambient Temperature
3,000,000

1.90
2,500,000
1.85
2,000,000
1.80
kWh

1,500,000
kWh

1.75

1,000,000 2000
1.70
2001
2002
500,000 1.65
2003

- 1.60
- 2,000 4,000 6,000 8,000 10,000 12,000 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80
Production (lb/month) Average Monthly Ambient Temperature (°F)

Figure 75: Examples of tracking energy use normalized to production (left) and temperature (right)

Energy accounting can help your facility staff understand how and where energy is used in your plant, and
can help motivate people to take actions that can significant reduce utility costs. To get the most benefit
from energy accounting, allocate sufficient staff resources to set up and maintain the system, and to
develop a system of communication with owners, managers, facilities staff, and others whose decisions
affect energy use.
Energy accounting can’t save energy on its own. But when used as a tool for energy management, it can
help you make changes in operation or equipment that will reduce energy costs. Energy accounting will

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Chapter 6: Tools for Implementing Best Practices and Energy Management
also contribute to accurate budgets and resource allocation. It can be used to evaluate capital investments,
and most importantly, verify the results of all energy-management investments and programs.

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Chapter 6: Tools for Implementing Best Practices and Energy Management
Information Sources for Industrial Refrigeration
For more detailed engineering guidance on refrigeration system energy efficiency, consult any of the
following excellent resources. Sources will differ on what represents “best practice,” but all will add to
your understanding of industrial refrigeration systems.
! We consider the best overall engineering manual for industrial refrigeration to be:
Industrial Refrigeration Handbook by Wilbert F. Stoecker (McGraw-Hill, 1998, ISBN 0-07-061623-X).
! The International Institute for Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR) is a member association that promotes
the use of ammonia refrigeration. IIAR holds an annual conference and publishes proceedings with
valuable information related to system design, operation, and maintenance.
www.iiar.org
! The Industrial Refrigeration Consortium (IRC) at the University of Wisconsin provides engineering
guidance on industrial refrigeration systems. The IRC is a collaborative effort between the University
of Wisconsin Madison and industry. Their goal is to improve the safety, efficiency, and productivity of
industrial refrigeration systems and technologies. Energy efficiency is heavily emphasized in their
newsletters and documents.
www.irc.wisc.edu
! The Refrigeration Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA) is dedicated to the professional
development of industrial refrigeration operators and technicians. RETA particularly emphasizes
operation, maintenance, and safety issues.
www.reta.com
! For more information on energy accounting, refer to:
Energy Accounting: A Key Tool in Managing Energy Costs, California Energy Commission
www.energy.ca.gov/reports/efficiency_handbooks/400-00-001B.PDF
! The Green Motors Practices Group, a newly formed non-profit organization, promotes energy
efficient systems—not just motors—while sustaining efficiency, in order to differentiate our member
service center’s delivered finished products and services within the market.
www.greenmotors.org

These two software tools can help you determine the economics of premium-efficiency vs. standard
motors. They also include other features, such as a database of plant motors, calculation of motor
operating costs, and tracking of motor maintenance.
! MotorMaster+:
www.oit.doe.gov/bestpractices/software_tools.shtml
! em2 Solutions, Electric Motor Management Software
www.em2solutions.com

Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide 113


Chapter 6: Tools for Implementing Best Practices and Energy Management
CHAPTER 7

Case Studies
This section contains short case studies that were selected to show how some of these Best Practices have
been implemented in the Pacific Northwest.
! Henningsen Cold Storage
! Oregon Freeze Dry
! SYSCO Food Services
! WestFarm Foods

114 Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide


Chapter 7: Case Studies
BEST PRACTICES IN INDUSTRIAL REFRIGERATION CASE STUDY
Henningsen Cold Storage
PROJECT SUMMARY
Benefits
! Reduced energy cost
! Less wear of equipment
! Improved temperature control
Financial Overview
Incremental Installation Cost
$410,000
Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit
$143,500
Portland General Electric Incentive
~$70,000
The Project Energy Savings
58% of base energy use
The Henningsen family has been in the cold-storage business 1,140, 000 kWh/year
since 1923. When you have been in the business for more Energy Cost Savings
than eighty years, you take the long view, and one way to $51,000/year (1996 rates)
do that it is to look at life-cycle costs.
Resources
Headquartered in Hillsboro, Oregon, Henningsen Cold Project Owner
Storage Co. is a full-service, public, refrigerated warehousing
Henningsen Cold Storage
company that offers over 36 million cubic feet of frozen and
(503) 531-5400
refrigerated warehousing space and has locations in Idaho,
North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and www.henningsen.com
Washington. Energy Consultant
In 1996, Henningsen built a state-of-the-art cold-storage Cascade Energy Engineering, Inc.
warehouse in Gresham Oregon. After nearly a decade of (509) 529-8040
operation, it is still an outstanding example of Best Practices Marcus Wilcox, P.E.
in energy-efficient industrial refrigeration. marcus.wilcox@cascadeenergy.com
Business Energy Tax Credit
Oregon Department of Energy
1-800-221-8035 (inside Oregon)
Energy Use Comparison (503) 378-4040
400,000

Baseline
www.energy.state.or.us
350,000
Improved Electric Utility
300,000
Portland General Electric
Energy Use (kWh)

250,000 (Incentives are now available through the


200,000 Energy Trust of Oregon)
150,000
1 (866) 368-7878 (inside Oregon)
(503) 493-8888
100,000
www.energytrust.org
50,000

0
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Month
BEST PRACTICES IN INDUSTRIAL REFRIGERATION

The Gresham Warehouse Story


During the summer of 1995, planning was nearing
completion on the new Henningsen Cold Storage facility in
Gresham, Oregon. The 50,000-square-foot facility would
provide food-storage and blast-freezing services to their
customers. According to Paul Henningsen, great-grandson of
the company’s founder and director of corporate
development, the goal for the facility was to provide high-
quality services at a fraction of typical operating cost.
Cascade Energy Engineering, Inc. was brought in to
recommend cost-effective energy-efficiency measures.
Because this was a
new construction
project, a Energy Efficiency
“baseline” design
was developed that
included standard Energy-efficiency improvements include:
facility design, ! 6 inches extruded polystyrene wall insulation
equipment, and ! 6 inches extruded polystyrene floor insulation
controls. This was ! 15 inches extruded polystyrene ceiling insulation
compared to a ! Three fast-acting warehouse doors serving dock
system design that ! 400W Bi-level HPS lighting fixtures
included state-of-the-art equipment and controls, along with ! Oversized condenser at 85°F design
extra insulation and efficient lighting. The new facility ! Axial condenser fans
opened in June of 1996 and was built with all recommended ! VFD condenser and evaporator fan control
efficiency improvements. ! Evaporators sized for 10°F temperature difference
After a rigorous commissioning and verification process, ! Three diversely sized screw compressors
annual energy savings of 1,140,000 kWh, worth $51,000, ! Thermosiphon compressor cooling
were documented—a 42% reduction compared to the ! Premium-efficiency motors
baseline design. ! Computer control system
! Automatic non-condensable gas purger
The incremental cost of the upgrades in design, equipment, ! Coordinated VFD and slide-valve control on trim
and controls was $410,000. These additional costs were compressor
partially offset by efficiency incentives from the serving
utility, Portland General Electric and by state tax credits
offered by the Oregon Department of Energy. These
incentives brought the effective payback down to about four
Continued Success
years (at 1996 energy rates).
At the time, Paul Henningsen said “This project reduces our The energy-efficient system design proved its worth to the
power bill and improves our bottom line, and since we company’s bottom line, so when Henningsen more than
know more about what’s going on in our facility, we make doubled the size of the facility in 1998, efficient design,
better decisions. My advice is that since power rates never equipment, and controls were again specified. This brought
seem to get cheaper, installing efficient equipment will help an additional 660,000 kWh per year in energy savings and
you offset likely increases.” reduced operating
costs by $30,000
These words proved to be prophetic. The four-year payback annually.
may have been a bit of a stretch at the time, but the
Henningsen team’s foresight was rewarded when energy
rates surged upward in 2000.
BEST PRACTICES IN INDUSTRIAL REFRIGERATIONCASE STUDY
Oregon Freeze Dry
PROJECT SUMMARY
Benefits
! Reduced energy use
! Less wear of equipment
! Minimal employee training
! Improved system control
Financial Overview
Incremental Installation Cost
$241,777
Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit
$81,535
Pacific Power Incentive
The Project $115,042
Energy Savings
Oregon’s Willamette Valley with its mild climate, 40 inches 34% of base energy use
of annual rainfall and fertile soil is one of the largest food 1,939, 000 kWh/year
production centers in the nation. It was the perfect home in Energy Demand Savings
1963 for a small firm that processed dried fruit for breakfast 160 kW/month (results are highly variable)
cereals. Over the years, the firm developed military rations Energy Cost Savings
and private-label food brands. It also perfected the freeze-
$77,700/year
drying process that combines the freshness, color, and aroma
of frozen foods with the shelf stability and convenience of Resources
canned and dehydrated foods. Today, Oregon Freeze Dry, Project Owner
Inc. in Albany is the largest custom processor of freeze-dried
Oregon Freeze Dry, Inc.
products in the world and a technological leader in the
(541) 926-6001
freeze-drying process.
www.ofd.com
Oregon Freeze Dry has three manufacturing plants on its 35- Energy Consultant
acre site. Its manufacturing process is energy-intensive,
especially the two-stage ammonia-based industrial
Cascade Energy Engineering, Inc.
refrigeration system that serves 14 freeze-dry chambers and (503) 287-8488
several cold rooms. Rob Morton, P.E.
rob.morton@cascadeenergy.com
The company’s engineering staff initiated a study, with help
from Pacific Power and an energy-engineering firm. The Business Energy Tax Credit
study revealed several energy-saving opportunities that the Oregon Department of Energy
company implemented. 1-800-221-8035 (inside Oregon)
(503) 378-4040
In March 2003, Oregon Freeze Dry completed installation
www.energy.state.or.us
of variable-frequency drives (VFDs) on each of four screw
compressors of its refrigeration system. These allow the Electric Utility
compressor motors to vary speed to match refrigeration Pacific Power (For Oregon customers, incentives are now
loads. The company also replaced an undersized 8-inch available through the Energy Trust of Oregon)
suction line with a 12-inch line. The energy savings of the Inside Oregon: 1 (866) 368-7878,
VFD and suction line were substantial—nearly 2 million www.energytrust.org
kilowatt-hours annually or 34% of the refrigeration system’s Outside Oregon: 1 (800) 222-4335
base energy use. In addition, the VFDs require minimal energy.expert@pacificorp.com
employee training and reduce motor and compressor wear.
BEST PRACTICES IN INDUSTRIAL REFRIGERATION

Background
The engineering staff at Oregon Freeze Dry believes plant
energy use is their responsibility. In 2002, they decided to
look at the ammonia-based refrigeration system, one of their
most energy-intensive systems. They invited Al Leake of
Pacific Power to discuss energy-efficiency projects and
available incentives.
Pacific Power arranged for Cascade Energy Engineering to
perform an energy study to find specific ways to improve
the efficiency of the refrigeration system. Their report
suggested three efficiency measures: 1) installing variable- Features
frequency drives (VFDs) on four of the eight compressors;
2) adding a new suction line between two plants, and ! ABB variable frequency drives were installed on four
3) expanding computer screw compressors (two high stage and two booster
controls to manage the compressors). The remaining four compressors are now
VFDs. used for base loading and back-up.
The existing compressors ! A Techni-Systems computer-control system manages
inefficiently varied capacity which compressors run and at what speeds to meet the
with slide valves. The VFDs refrigeration load with maximum efficiency.
would instead allow the ! A 12-inch-diameter suction line supplements the old 8-
compressor motors to vary inch line.
speed to match refrigeration
loads. The existing
undersized suction line
created a large pressure drop
Replication
which required a lower (and
less efficient) system suction ! In industrial refrigeration systems, VFDs are often cost
pressure. effective for screw compressors, evaporator fans, and
condenser fans. Generally, VFDs are useful where
Oregon Freeze Dry
equipment operates for long hours in systems with
management reviewed the
variable loads or light loads.
report, found the financial
! If a compressor operates at or near full speed most of the
payback and incentives
time, adding an adjustable speed drive will not be cost
attractive, and approved the
effective.
installation.
! A VFD may not always be the best way to control
capacity. Sequencing of multiple compressors or the use
Benefits of a reciprocating
compressor for trim are
other possibilities.
! VFDs and control system efficiently vary the capacity of ! The use of VFDs is only
the refrigeration system with speed control rather than one way to save energy
with the less efficient slide valves. in industrial refrigeration
! Energy savings of 1,939,000 kilowatt hours/year (34 systems. Other ways
percent of base energy use) with no reductions in include refrigeration
production. computer control,
! Energy cost savings of $77,700/year. thermosiphon oil
! Reduced wear on motors and compressors due to soft cooling, high-speed
starts and fewer operating hours. energy efficiency doors,
! The VFDs and control system require minimal and bi-level lighting.
employee training.
BEST PRACTICES IN INDUSTRIAL REFRIGERATION CASE STUDY
SYSCO Food Services
Energy Management Strategy
To achieve their energy efficiency goals, SYSCO implemented an
energy management program at each facility:
! Energy Champion: An Energy Champion was assigned at
each facility. The Champion is accountable for achieving
SYSCO’s energy reduction goals and manages all energy
related aspects at the facility. The Champion also manages
key resources such as facility maintenance staff, vendors and
contractors, and the local utility in order to implement
energy efficiency improvements.
! Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): A website tool was
developed to track facility energy use and to establish KPIs
which track and benchmark improvements. KPIs include
tracking current facility energy use versus historic
performance and plant energy use per warehouse storage
volume.
The Program ! Commissioning: A rigorous commissioning was conducted
by Cascade Energy Engineering at each facility to identify
low- or no-cost opportunities to reduce energy use.
SYSCO has long been a market leader in the highly competitive ! Capital Projects: Each facility was tasked with identifying,
North American food-service distribution industry. At the heart prioritizing, and implementing capital projects to reduce
of the company are over eighty broadline distribution facilities energy use in an effort to meet SYSCO’s energy reduction
spread throughout the United States and Canada. These facilities goals.
provide ingredients needed to prepare meals as well as other ! Performance-Based Incentives: A system was put in place
services for restaurants, hotels, schools, cruise ships, and other to tie compensation of the energy champions and upper
food-service locations. management to achieving and sustaining SYSCO’s energy
efficiency goals.
In 2006, SYSCO established energy goals for each broadline
facility to reduce use by 10% in the first year and by 25% after In regards to establishing comprehensive energy KPIs, Richter
three years (by 2009). “Energy represented the next layer of our commented, “SYSCO has always been a data driven company.
operating costs that could be reduced,” noted Pete Richter, We recognize that extending this philosophy to energy is critical
SYSCO Corporate Project Manager. “We had some past towards achieving and sustaining success.”
experience implementing energy projects at a few of our
facilities. The ROI for these projects was always excellent. We
knew that a corporate-wide effort could yield tremendous cost
savings.”

Energy Use Comparison


35,000
Before Commissioning
30,000 After Commissioning
Energy Use (kWh/day)

25,000

20,000

15,000

10,000

5,000

0
Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar
Month
BEST PRACTICES IN INDUSTRIAL REFRIGERATION

PROJECT SUMMARY
Changes Made
Refrigeration
! Increased suction-pressure setpoint of freezer
system
! Increased suction-pressure setpoint of cooler
system
! Lowered condensing pressure setpoint
! Improved sequencing order of condenser pump
and fan
! Optimized defrost frequency and time for each
evaporator zone
! Reduced heating intensity and duty cycles of cold-
storage door
! Tuned hot-gas defrost regulator East Wisconsin Commissioning
! Lowered temperature setpoint of underfloor
glycol heating
In April 2006, the SYSCO East Wisconsin facility was one of
Lighting the first broadline facilities commissioned. The purpose of the
! Reduced delay times of occupancy sensors on bi- commissioning was to identify low or no-cost opportunities to
level lighting reduce energy use through improvements in the refrigeration,
! Relocated poorly positioned occupancy sensors on lighting, HVAC, and battery charger systems. Potential capital
bi-level lighting upgrades to reduce facility energy use were also identified.

HVAC The commissioning team consisted of the Tom Raimer, Energy


! Lowered HVAC heating setpoints and raised Champion for the SYSCO East Wisconsin Facility, the facility
cooling setpoints maintenance staff, and an energy engineer and technician from
! Optimized HVAC return-air setpoints Cascade Energy. A list of action items to reduce energy use was
developed and the facility implemented each over the course of
Financial Overview the next several months.
Energy Savings The SYSCO East Wisconsin facility realized immediate energy
17% of total facility savings after the commissioning was performed. “A number of
1,700,000 kWh/year areas were identified where improvements could be made,”
Energy and Demand Cost Savings commented Raimer. “The energy savings from the changes that
$100,000/year were made were immediately noticeable on the following
month’s utility bill.”
Resources
Project Owner One year after the commissioning, energy use was reduced by an
SYSCO Food Services of East Wisconsin average of 17 percent and peak demand was reduced by 17
(262) 677-1100 percent versus the previous year, reducing energy and demand
www.syscoeast.com cost savings by over $100,000.

Energy Consultant
Cascade Energy Engineering, Inc.
(509) 529-8040
Marcus Wilcox, P.E.
marcus.wilcox@cascadeenergy.com
CASE STUDY
BEST PRACTICES IN INDUSTRIAL REFRIGERATION

WestFarm Foods
PROJECT SUMMARY
Benefits
! Reduced energy cost
! Increased system capacity
! Improved control
! Improved trending and alarming
! Reduced evaporator fan noise
! Reduced condenser fan noise
Financial Overview
Incremental Installation Cost
$310,000
Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit
The Project $108,000
Portland General Electric Incentive
$127,000
WestFarm Foods is one of the largest dairy manufacturers in
Energy Savings
the nation, with 1,200 employees at 11 processing plants in
Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California. In early 1996, 40% of base energy use
WestFarm Foods began planning for an expansion and 2,000,000 kWh/year
modernization of their Portland, Oregon creamery. Energy Cost Savings
WestFarm engineers were designing a new Extended Shelf
$75,000/year
Life (ESL) processing line and the associated cooler space. Resources
Increased loads from the ESL process and cooler would Project Owner
require adding a 350-hp compressor to supplement the
WestFarm Foods
existing 350-hp and 600-hp screw compressors. This in turn
(206) 281-3456
would require another condenser.
www.WestFarm.com
WestFarm and their Portland General Electric account
Energy Consultant
representative arranged for Cascade Energy Engineering to
perform a detailed energy study, starting with data logging Cascade Energy Engineering, Inc.
of the existing refrigeration system. The data collected (503) 287-8488
included suction pressure, condensing pressure, and Rob Morton, P.E.
compressor slide valve position. Hour meters recorded run rob.morton@cascadeenergy.com
time for the liquid solenoid valves and power measurements Business Energy Tax Credit
were made on the primary refrigeration compressor. Oregon Department of Energy
Data logging revealed three major issues with the existing 1-800-221-8035 (inside Oregon)
systems. First, compressors operated unloaded much of the (503) 378-4040
time because they were sequenced manually, not by www.energy.state.or.us
computer control, to meet the wide range of plant loads. Electric Utility
Second, the high minimum condensing pressure of 140 psig,
which was required to ensure proper liquid ammonia flow
Portland General Electric (Incentives are now
throughout the sprawling plant, resulted in increased available through the Energy Trust of Oregon)
compressor power, particularly during the winter. Third, 1 (866) 368-7878 (inside Oregon)
the evaporator coil liquid solenoids in the milk cooler were (503) 493-8888
off much of the time, resulting in excessive fan power. www.energytrust.org
BEST PRACTICES IN INDUSTRIAL REFRIGERATION

Efficiency Opportunities Efficiency Measures


A review of the baseline refrigeration bid specification Implemented energy-efficiency measures include:
revealed several opportunities to increase energy efficiency.
! Refrigeration computer control system
First, the baseline design condensing temperature of 90°F
! Screw compressor VFD control
would unnecessarily increase summer compressor energy
! Evaporator fan VFD
use. Second, the heat
control in ESL cooler
rejection rate of the baseline
! Evaporator fan VFD
condenser was a relatively
control in milk cooler
inefficient 225 MBH/hp.
! 90 psig condensing
Efficiencies of 300 MBH/hp
pressure
or higher are possible. Third,
! Oversized/efficient
the baseline design included
evaporative condenser
neither computer control
! Condenser fan VFD
nor variable-frequency drives
control
(VFDs).

Example Hourly Refrigeration Profile


Features Including Existing & New ESL Loads

800

A computer control system was installed to provide 700


New Loads
Existing
Regrigeration Load (TR)

improved compressor sequencing, tighter control of 600

condenser fan set points, and more importantly, a 500


“backbone” for VFD control.
400

A 350-hp VFD was installed on the new compressor, 300

working in conjunction with its slide valve to provide load


200
trim. The other compressors are now either off or at 100%
100
capacity.
-
VFDs were used on the evaporator fans in the milk cooler Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon

Day
and the new ESL cooler. The
computer reduces fan speed
whenever space temperature
is satisfied.
Results
A new high-pressure Implemented measures reduced annual energy consumption
ammonia receiver with a at the WestFarm facility by more than 2,000,000
booster pump was installed kWh—nearly 40% of the
to ensure adequate liquid total refrigeration energy
pressure to sensitive loads. use. Annual operating costs
This allowed the minimum were reduced by about
condensing pressure to be $75,000.
reduced from 140 psig to 90
psig. The entire package of
improvements cost $310,000.
A larger, more efficient Although this represented an
condenser was specified, and attractive 4.2-year payback,
all condenser fans were incentives from Portland
equipped with VFD control General Electric and a 35%
to manage condenser tax credit from the Oregon
capacity with speed rather Department of Energy
than cycling. reduced the final customer
payback to one year.
Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide 123
Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide
December 2007 (2nd revision)
ISBN: 0-9721077-9-7

124 Industrial Refrigeration Best Practices Guide