Unlike most other indoor environments, supermarkets have freezers and cold storage, as well as warm areas where baking occurs. Add to this the open-air layout of grocery stores, and increased control of the HVAC — heating, ventilation, air conditioning — system is an ongoing issue for food retailers.
So says Andrew Karl, manager split system products at Goodman Manufacturing Co. in Houston, which builds HVAC systems under the Goodman and Amana brand names. “We currently manufacture a wide variety of heating and cooling products that are used in supermarkets,” he says. “These include duct-free mini splits, central air conditioning split systems up to fi ve tons, and packaged air conditioners/heat pumps/gas-electric packaged products up to 20 tons.”
Karl says humidity control can be a challenge for supermarkets, given the wide variety of fresh produce that might be available in a store, and that “shoppers are more likely to react favorably when the indoor comfort levels are pleasing, and, conversely, when the comfort is not at an acceptable level, shoppers often buy less and do not return to the store on a regular basis.”
Depending on the overall construction, location and floor plan, packaged air conditioners, heat pumps and gas-electric units are the most popular Goodman products for supermarkets, Karl says. “These units offer up to 20 tons of cooling performance,” he notes. “The heat pump and gas-electric units offer both cooling and heating from one self-contained unit.”
The popularity of the packaged unit, Karl says, rests on the ease of installation and reliability, and that for offices and subleased departments within a supermarket, HVAC needs may require either a ducted split system or a duct-free split system.
Green is Hot
Green-wise, according to Karl, energy-efficiency ratings for packaged HVAC products are indicated by a SEER or EER number — SEER being the Seasonal Energy Effi ciency Rating, which measures the peak performance of the unit, and EER the Energy Efficiency Rating, measuring the effi ciency on a consistent overall basis. The higher the number, the more efficient the unit, he explains.
Environmentally, chlorine-free R-410A refrigerant is now required in new air conditioner and heat pump products, replacing R-22 or freon.
“Remote or blended monitoring of the entire HVAC system represents a growing opportunity in the future of supermarket HVAC systems,” Karl concludes.
At Trane, a Piscataway, New Jersey-based division of Ingersoll Rand, Greg DuChane, director of retail-restaurant vertical market, says: “To help meet customer demands, grocers require store systems that are compliant with regulations and offer excellent energy performance. In addition, shoppers are becoming more environmentally conscious, which is driving grocers to implement sustainable practices and install efficient systems.”
DuChane says Trane offers a broad range of light and large commercial rooftop solutions to help meet these needs, including Voyager, Precedent and Intellipak, which offer humidity control and variable air fl ow to handle dehumidifi cation while maintaining a comfortable environment.
“More and more grocery stores are working to proactively track and manage energy, using remote monitoring, dashboards and Trane Intelligence Services,” DuChane says. “Using advanced technology and analytics, Trane Intelligence Services will continually collect, interpret and act upon data compiled from building systems and other sources. If operating anomalies are detected, Trane automatically responds or recommends steps the store can take to keep the building operating efficiently and within the predetermined performance parameters.”
DuChane continues that there’s an increase in using dedicated outsideair control ventilation solutions in the commercial kitchens often found in supermarkets. This greatly reduces operating costs while keeping employees comfortable. The importance of maintaining indoor air quality has gained significant attention from owners, as it can directly impact the shopping Experience.
“Because the average grocery store spends two-thirds of its electric bill on heating, ventilation and air conditioning, as well as refrigeration, it is important that they find efficient solutions while keeping expenses down,” DuChane emphasises. “Owners and enterprises that have multiple locations are employing corporate-wide energy management practices aimed at reducing their total spending on energy.”
He adds, “We also anticipate complete integration of refrigeration and HVAC systems for optimised efficiency.”