Commercial Refrigeration Equipment Upgrade

7 steps to save money when upgrading coolers and freezers

Commercial refrigeration unit upgrades represent a significant capital investment for convenience and grocery stores, that are reassessing the equipment needed in order to adapt to shoppers changing needs, as well as transition to low-impact refrigerants.

The current commercial refrigeration systems, which rely on high global warming potential ( GWP) hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), are the biggest energy user within supermarkets, accounting for about 40 to 60 percent of electricity consumption, according to the US EPA.  In addition, studies have shown that for a typical US supermarket, GHG emissions more than double when the impact of refrigerant leaks is added to that of electricity consumption.

The 2020 American Innovation and Manufacturing Act (AIM ) was passed and directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate the transition to alternative refrigerants by phasing down the production and consumption of HFC refrigerants. The EPA has published a proposed rule that will prohibit the manufacture of equipment containing HFCs by 1/1/2025 and prohibit the sale of those products by 1/1/2026.

In addition to the EPA’s regulations, there is also a growing consumer desire for fresher, pre-prepared items that will require more refrigeration units and display space. Either way, you look at it, commercial refrigeration equipment updates are in full force – but that doesn’t mean that the process of those upgrades needs to break the bank.

While the cost of commercial refrigeration units equipped with next-generation refrigerant has significantly decreased over the past few years, they remain more expensive than traditional units.

By following the 7 steps below, retail operations can upgrade their commercial refrigeration equipment and maintain significant savings throughout the entire upgrade cycle.


Step 1: Reduced Energy Consumption

New units operate quietly and efficiently, and they use far less energy than older units.  New refrigeration units also have:

  • Smart boxes that identify increases in temperature outside the normal range, or sudden increases in energy consumption that could be linked to a leak.
  • Sensors that automictically close the doors and ensure complete contact between the seals.
  • LED lights do not produce much heat, keeping temperatures consistent.
  • Nightshades that help food displays stay cold without needing high energy use during off-peak time.
  • New units are not as prone to leakage as old units, which accounted for up to 25% of the energy consumption of the old units based on an EPA study.


Step 2: Improved Fresh Food Quality and Durability

Next-generation refrigeration units prevent expensive losses from food spoilage. They do this by:


  • Utilizing smart alerts that let convenience store facility management know that a unit’s energy consumption is too high or too low, that a door may be open, or presence of an irrigation leak. This allows management to quickly react and prevent equipment failure – which prevents food spoilage.
  • Units leverage sensors, anti-sweat detectors, nightshades, and other features to operate at a consistent temperature. That consistency keeps produce fresh longer and reduces spoilage. Less spoilage overall translates into reduced costs in losses and the need to recycle food waste.
  • While much of the current food waste issues arise due to food not being sold quickly enough, large refrigeration outages can also lead to catastrophic food spoilage events. These food spoilage events cost thousands of dollars in lost inventory.


Step 3: Create a Better Shopping Experience

  • Upgraded refrigeration units operate with less noise and better lighting which is conducive to repeat purchases and increased sales.
  • Appeal to consumers’ desire for a better in-store shopping experience as well as an expectation that retailers pursue environmentally friendly operations.


Step 4: Remain Compliant with Regulations and Prevent Fines

  • New units use next-generation refrigerants (CO2, ammonia, and other innovative natural refrigerants) that represent 1000X lower GWP than HFC refrigerants. Transitioning to lower-emission refrigerant help retailers remain in compliance with the 2020 AIM Act and new strict state regulations.
  • Coolers, freezers, and displays are maintaining the proper temperature throughout the day, which prevents any potential food safety violations.


Step 5: Remarket Old Commercial Refrigeration Equipment

  • Retailers implementing a multi-year, multi-state store remodeling program are faced with a complex and time-consuming effort. While it may be easier to rely on a waste management company to dispose of or recycle the old equipment, doing so ends up being extremely costly and quickly adds up to the retailer’s carbon footprint.


Step 6: Keep Commercial Refrigeration Equipment Clean and Regularly Maintained

  • A recent EPA study showed “Even a fine layer of dust on the condenser coil reduces its efficiency: as little as 0.042” of dirt on condensing coils will cause a 21% drop in efficiency and can increase refrigeration energy use by 35%.”
  • Conducting regular cleaning of the condenser coils at the top or bottom of the units will ensure the units operate efficiently throughout the lifecycle of the units and prevents the units from wearing out sooner than normal – and costly repairs.
  • Checking the unit for any tears, or leaks (door seal gaskets, hinges) and completing repairs, as needed, will help maintain an even temperature and prevent costly repairs.


Convenience stores and retailers that are embracing next-generation refrigeration units are able to partially offset the cost of the commercial refrigeration equipment upgrade thanks to lower energy consumption, lower repair costs, reduced fines or penalty risks as well as by re-marketing old units.

To re-market your old units and potentially save millions of dollars year after year, contact the 1GNITE team today.


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