Ian Wood, MD of Adande’s parent company Applied Design & Engineering, has voiced the company’s support for the campaign to reduce the food retailing industry’s energy consumption, pointing out that there is more than one way to achieve this objective.
For decades, retailers and shoppers have preferred the open front multi deck cabinet as the solution for the display of chilled goods. It provides high visibility of merchandise, as well as free and unfettered access for browsing, shopping and restocking.
However, the main problem associated with conventional open front chillers is that dense cold air spills from the cabinet into the store aisle. This factor, combined with warm air infiltration, means that greater duty is placed on the refrigeration plant to maintain operating temperature, resulting in increased energy consumption.
Some retailers are retrofitting shelf edge technology to cabinets, but this solution is claimed not deliver the level of energy savings which will be required to make a significant impact on the retail industry’s electricity consumption, or address the issue of accurate holding temperatures for food quality and safety.
A number of manufacturers, retailers and lobby groups believe that hinged or sliding doors are the answer, but they have not been widely adopted in supermarkets, especially in high footfall stores. Furthermore, plastic strip curtains are seldom used in the UK.
However, Applied Design & Engineering has adopted what it feels is a more radical approach to the problem of cold air spillage with the development of Aircell, which has been designed to be incorporated within newly built equipment.
It works by dividing the refrigerated display case’s merchandising envelope into separate air flow managed cells with low pressure air columns. Each cell has its own air curtain, which is said to be more efficient than a full case height air curtain on a conventional multi deck case. The net result is reportedly less pressure on the air curtain of each cell and a reduction in cold air spillage, creating energy savings of over 30% compared with conventional open front cabinets.
Aircell should also maintain accurate operating temperatures, within a tighter bandwidth, to keep food at optimum appearance, safety and quality over extended periods – while maintaining the preferred open front format.
Wood explained: “Understandably, many OEMs have engineered glass door cabinets to meet the BS EN ISO 23953 specification of 10 door openings per hour. However, the evaporators specified are not capable of dealing with the higher infiltration loads associated with more frequent door openings. This results in iced evaporators and a loss of temperature control or more frequent and harsher defrost cycles with increased energy consumption.
“Our tests clearly demonstrate that glass doors cabinets, designed for 10 openings per hour, experience significant loss of temperature control at an opening frequency of 30 openings per hour or more.”
Doors on cabinets are regarded by some as visual and physical barriers to shoppers, acting as deterrent to browsing and impulse purchases. There are also cleaning and maintenance costs associated with doors, which can add to retailers’ overheads.
Wood added: “Refrigeration is a key element of the food chain, maintaining food at optimum quality and appearance. As an industry, we need to be developing technology, which demonstrates more accurate and stable holding temperatures, for longer product shelf life and a reduction in food wastage, which has become a major issue for environmental campaign groups.”