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European retailers could save millions with the right refrigeration

Emerson has worked with the independent institute of air handling and refrigeration ILK Dresden to analyse the long-term cost implications of different refrigeration systems using low GWP refrigerants.

The study was conducted as European F-Gas regulation and the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol are forcing retailers to re-evaluate their refrigeration systems and transition to more environmentally sustainable technologies.

The analysis compared the two leading low GWP refrigeration technologies: remote rack CO2 systems and integral display cases, which utilise propane refrigerant (R290). It concluded that, due to the simplicity of integral display cases, compared to larger and more complex remote rack systems, store operators could achieve significant savings of over €50,000 per system. Any operator with 10,000 stores could therefore achieve potential savings of more than €500,000,000 over a ten year lifespan of their refrigeration systems.

The study focused on a typical European discounter store with 10 display cases per store and a vending area of approximately 1,000m2. It found that retailers could make the following savings in each of their stores through a range of factors:

  • Reduced capital investment - 29,204 euros
  • Lower energy consumption - 9,093 euros 
  • Lower service, maintenance and insurance costs - 6,429 euros 
  • Simpler decommissioning - 2,014 euros
  • Reduced store closure time during installation - 1,800 euros
  • Reduced cost of store shutdown during refurbishment - 1,800 euros
  • Loss of performance due to leaks - 715 euros
  • Total savings over 10-year lifespan - 51,055 euros

Refrigeration is integral to the European food retail sector, which is undergoing a fundamental transformation as global and European targets to phase-down the use of high GWP HFC refrigerants come into force. As the industry makes the transition, it faces a choice of technology which could have significant operational and cost implications.

Eric Winandy, director of integrated solutions, Emerson Commercial and Residential Solutions, said: “The environmental impact of refrigeration is significant, and recent international agreements are forcing operators to rethink the systems they use. As the retail sector makes this once in a generation transition, it’s presented with a major challenge but also an opportunity to select the right technologies which can maximise long term environmental, operational and cost benefits.”

He added: “Our analysis shows that the choice of a refrigeration system entails far more than just a need to move to a low GWP refrigerant. It has major implications for the operations of stores, for maintenance and upkeep and for the overall running costs of facilities. Integral display cases won’t be appropriate for every store, but the significant cost benefits they can deliver highlight the fact that retailers should consider every option and all of the implications of the choices.”

Background on Integral Refrigeration Systems

So far, most supermarkets seeking to drastically phase-down HFC refrigerants have chosen CO2 systems, and only a handful have opted for water-cooled hydrocarbon integral systems, likely due to the fact that the architecture is less familiar.

‘Integral’ refrigeration describes stand-alone display cabinets and freezers that each contain their own cooling system – similar to a domestic fridge. They predominate in drinks vending machines and ice cream freezers found in corner shops worldwide. Most supermarkets have some integrals, even if their main system is remote. But integrals can also be used to provide refrigeration for entire stores provided the heat generated is removed to an external chiller or heat exchanger through a simple pipe containing water or brine. These are referred to as water cooled integral systems, and need no plant room.

Additional information about the comparative lifecycle analysis can also be found at

Emerson also recently partnered with the University of Birmingham to produce a research report on the implications of the transition from HFCs to low GWP alternatives for food retailers. To access the full complimentary white paper, Retail Refrigeration: Making the Transition to Clean Cold, visit


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