Hands with planet and hands with tree for earth day and commercial refrigeration

The link between your refrigeration equipment and the environment

As seen in DairyFoods.com – Earth Day is April 22, and dairy brands could mark the day by ensuring their refrigeration footprint is climate-/earth-friendly.

We’ve come a long way in protecting our planet, but still have a long way to go.

Like the dairy production process, where minor variances in temperature or methods can make a huge difference in the final product, the same could be said for the earth’s ecosystem. Daily choices can have a lasting environmental impact, and even your refrigeration equipment plays a significant role in your energy usage and carbon footprint.

Here are some of the ways you can make sure your refrigeration and freezer units are part of the solution:

“ACT” to make sure airflow, cleanliness and temperature are in check

One thing you can do immediately is make sure that your refrigeration equipment is properly maintained. Well-operating units use considerably less energy and prevent spoiled product — which is also wasted energy. The ACT (airflow, cleaning and temperature) acronym is helpful to remember what to look for.

Airflow: when equipment can “breathe,” it’s more efficient

The last thing you want is a blocked condenser, which can lead to breakdowns, spoiled product and higher electrical costs. You can ensure optimal airflow by keeping your unit away from the surrounding walls as per the installation instructions (with its own dedicated electrical outlet and away from other equipment that radiates heat), doing regular inspections to check for blockages and not overstocking or “stuffing” the cabinet with product.

Cleaning: find and eliminate the energy leaks

In addition to ensuring sanitary conditions, cleaning your equipment regularly gives you a chance to inspect for damage that could affect its functionality. For example, when wiping down the doors, look for gaps or tears in the gaskets, which can cause air leakage leading to wasted energy. If you’re not able to snap them back into place easily, they need to be replaced.

If your unit has a conventional condenser, it should also be cleaned monthly as per the manufacturer’s instructions to prevent excessive energy consumption and breakdowns caused by an overworked motor. Some units, like those we manufacture at Minus Forty, are built with low-maintenance condensers, which require regular visual inspections and much less frequent cleaning than conventional condensers.

Temperature: keep product from spoiling

When you know what went into producing it, spoiled product is the ultimate waste of energy. Temperature variations are a serious threat to food safety. Plus, the short lifespan of dairy products means exposure to even mild temperature elevation is something to avoid.

That’s why maintaining optimal temperatures within the unit is crucial. Dairy products like milk should be kept within the 37 degrees Fahrenheit to 41° Fahrenheit range. (Short spikes, not exceeding 30 minutes, above 41°F are acceptable.) If you do not have a temperature malfunctioning safeguard, you should aim to monitor temperatures frequently to make sure they are within the healthy range.

Cabinets are also better able to maintain a stable temperature if they’re stocked with products (but not overstocked) versus empty, since the thermal mass of the refrigerated or frozen products helps to maintain the interior temperature.

Shed some light on efficiency with LEDs

Considering that most refrigeration units run 24/7, upgrading to LED lighting in both your units (and your establishment) can give you energy savings that really add up. High-quality LEDs have an operational life of up to 100,000 hours, are up to 85% more efficient than other bulbs (such as incandescent) and can last up to 20 years.

Upgrade and do both your bottom line and the planet a favor

If you have older freezer or refrigerator units, replacing them with modern efficient models not only will give you tremendous energy cost savings, but also will help be benefit the environment and fight climate change. Most older models use R404A refrigerant, which contains harmful HFCs and is known to have a significant impact on global warming due to a greater carbon footprint. Today’s models use R290 refrigerant, which has much lower greenhouse gas emissions, no ozone depletion potential (ODP) and a very low global warming potential (GWP).

If you compare pre-R290 units to post-R290 units, there’s a 55% average drop in energy usage. Today’s models also have better door sealing and insulation, and some use foam insulation with no volatile organic compounds, no ODP or GWP.

Good for business, too

Leading by example is good for business, too. Environmentally-friendly policies can be a big influencer, which is why equipment upgrades that actively reduce your carbon footprint is a worthwhile endeavor that can be highlighted to shareholders and customers. Some jurisdictions also offer energy-efficiency incentives, so replacing a freezer or refrigerator might qualify for a grant or subsidy from your local energy provider.

Other measures you can take include purchasing products from a manufacturer that uses green renewable energy sources such as solar power generators or that has a commitment to saving trees and other natural resources.

From maintenance measures to full-on upgrades, every watt that can be saved is “win-win” and worth it. Together, we’re taking steps toward a greener planet, one watt at a time.

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