The challenges that drive refrigeration system requirements in supermarket and restaurant applications have evolved significantly over the past several years. As operators respond to changing consumer behaviors and a shifting regulatory environment, multiplex refrigeration systems — where one condensing unit services multiple fixtures — are emerging as a refrigeration system of choice. In an article recently published in RSES Journal, I discussed the many advantages that multiplex refrigeration systems offer, including lower operating costs, improved temperature control and greater potential to satisfy environmental initiatives.
Building the business case for multiplex systems
In today’s ever-expanding selection of refrigeration technologies and architectures, supermarkets and restaurants have no shortage of options to choose from. However, not all strategies are created equal. As operators confront new and dynamic competitive pressures, their business requirements need to be carefully paired with a refrigeration strategy that can best meet their current and future needs.
System reliability will always be a primary requirement for any refrigeration system. But changing consumer behaviors are putting pressure on profit margins and driving demand for greater flexibility. And environmental regulations, combined with corporate sustainability goals, are creating urgency for greener technologies.
Multiplex refrigeration systems are rapidly emerging as a leading option that can satisfy all of these requirements. Multiplex systems are refrigeration systems that use minimal outdoor condensing units (OCUs) to provide cooling for multiple fixtures, including display cases, walk-in coolers, freezers and ice-making heads. Instead of the traditional one-to-one relationship of OCUs to refrigeration fixtures, multiplex systems expand this relationship to one-to-many, providing operators with greater flexibility in terms of system design.
Emerson’s Copeland™ digital outdoor refrigeration unit, X-Line Series is designed to allow operators to multiply the advantages of multiplex architectures. Many operators experience a variety of refrigeration challenges that multiplex systems are particularly well-suited to address, including:
- A need to scale back refrigeration fixtures and/or refrigeration loads
- Refrigeration units or loads that are oversized for the application
- Excessive compressor cycling that negatively affects system performance
- The imperative to improve food quality and extend shelf life by maintaining tighter temperature control
- Constraints that prevent the installation of multiple fixed-capacity OCUs
And when the multiplex system is designed to use digital compression technology — like the Copeland™ digital scroll compressor — these advantages quickly add up:
Greater energy efficiency: Digital compression technology allows for variable-capacity modulation to precisely match individual load requirements. Whereas traditional fixed-capacity condensing units run at 100% all the time, digital compressors regulate capacity from 20–100% to meet true energy demand. This is a tremendous energy- and cost-saving benefit for busy foodservice and grocery store applications, where demand can vary throughout the day.
Reduced refrigerant charge: In addition to improving energy efficiency, multiplex systems reduce a system’s overall refrigerant charge by as much as 50%. Modern systems also support the use of lower global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant alternatives. As a result, multiplex systems can help operators to reduce their total equivalent warming impact (TEWI), which is a plus for attaining regulatory compliance and bolstering corporate sustainability initiatives.
Improved temperature control: Digital compression technology allows for tighter control of suction pressures and eliminates large pressure swings while maintaining setpoint temperatures at a much tighter tolerance. Even with the frequent opening of refrigerator, freezer and case doors, temperatures remain constant, thus safeguarding food quality and safety.
Enhanced reliability and protection: With digital compression technology, variable-capacity modulation can take place without cycling the compressor on and off. This limits the in-rush of currents that drive up energy use while reducing the wear and tear of short cycling. With fewer OCUs to commission and maintain, operators can expect to make fewer service calls.
Advanced visibility: Building management and supervisory platforms have become foundational to maintaining operational efficiency and reducing the risk of food loss. Modern multiplex systems have built-in controls to seamlessly connect with these platforms to enable real-time monitoring, remote diagnostics and supervisory functions. In addition to simplifying commissioning, this gives operators and contractors the ability to make system changes (such as changing a setpoint or accessing fault codes) on any web-enabled devices, rather than on the face of the controller.
Smaller footprint, bigger savings
The ability to support multiple fixtures with fewer OCUs provides operators with greater flexibility to do more within a smaller physical and environmental footprint. And with digital compression technology, operators can reduce the risk of catastrophic system failure and extensive food loss.
Emerson is committed to helping food retailers and restaurants get more from their refrigeration strategies. From our next-gen Copeland digital X-Line series to our Lumity™ E3 supervisory control, we provide the technologies to optimize operations, increase equipment uptime, safeguard food quality and safety, achieve sustainability goals, and decrease operational and maintenance costs.
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