German OEM TEKO, a leader in producing transcritical CO2 (R744) refrigeration systems for commercial and industrial uses, has introduced a new device, called FridgiWise, that monitors the performance of plug-in, self-contained commercial display cabinets.
FridgiWise optimizes the cleaning schedule for condensers and evaporators in plug-in cabinets. An intelligent algorithm evaluates the contamination level by examining each cabinet’s operational duration and power usage.
After being shown at the EuroShop trade show in February, the FridgiWise device was officially launched at the ATMOsphere Europe Summit 2023, held September 19–20 in Brussels. Andreas Meier, Managing Director of TEKO Refrigeration, explained how it works in a presentation at the conference with Ruben De Vos, Engineering and Energy Manager of Delhaize, a food retailer based in Belgium that has corporate and franchised stores in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (Benelux). (Delhaize received the Best in Sector/Retail award at the event, organized by ATMOsphere, publisher of R744.com.)
ATMOsphere conducted a video interview with Maurice Robinson of TEKO regarding the FridgiWise at the conference; the video can be found here.
Historically, refrigerated display cabinets have not been closely monitored, leading to potential inefficiencies and decreased lifespan. With FridgiWise, users can actively track energy consumption and determine when cleaning is needed. Regular, targeted cleaning, as suggested by the tool, enhances efficiency, prolongs the cabinet’s life, reduces power consumption and can prevent product losses due to equipment malfunctions, according to Meier.
FridgiWise is “a game-changer in air-cooled plug-in operation, energy savings, predictive maintenance and energy monitoring,” said Meier.
In a trial at a Delhaize store in Willebroek, Belgium, FridgiWise cut store energy usage by 23%, increasing the lifespan of cabinets by 40% and delivering a return on investment of about one year, according to Meier. This could potentially reduce the carbon footprint of the store by 2,937kg (6,475lbs) per year, he added.
“We are happy that this device is an important tool to lower the carbon footprint, saving energy costs,” added De Vos, adding that the cost savings with the device was calculated to be almost €1,000 (US$1,050.50) per year per cabinet.
European supermarkets typically use a central refrigeration system connected to store cabinets. Meier estimated that in addition to those cabinets there are between five to 40 self-contained plug-in cabinets of different types per store, excluding oil and gas stations, with an average of about 15 plug-ins. He noted that TEKO supplies up to 1,000 propane plug-in cabinets to European retailers annually.
Delhaize Benelux stores have over 4,000 plug-in cabinets – typically propane (R290) units – “to accommodate diverse needs,” said De Vos, adding that each Delhaize store usually houses around seven plug-ins. Of these, 3,000 are air-cooled cabinets with fan-driven evaporators and condensers and are dthus suited for the FridgiWise device.
The average Delhaize cabinet possesses a capacity of approximately 818W (0.23TR), and the cumulative energy expenditure of powering these cabinets has been approximately €5 million ($5.25 million) per year, said De Vos. This expense indicates the substantial energy requirements necessary to maintain operational efficacy within the stores, he added.
“Considering 3,000 cabinets of Delhaize stores use the FridgiWise, the [annual] energy cost saving would be €1.5 million [US$1.6 million], along with a reduction of 1.7 million kg [3.75 million lbs] of CO2e,” he said.
The ‘black sheep’
De Vos explained that at Delhaize’s corporate stores, the plug-in cabinets are under a maintenance contract and monitored on electricity costs. But at Delhaize’s affiliated (franchised) stores the cabinets are “the black sheep” that are not looked after and often neglected by store managers.
“Nobody knows how many and where plug-ins are,” said De Vos. “If they don’t know where they are, they do not know how to clean inside the fan-driven evaporator or condenser. Hence, to clean it correctly and observe the performance of equipment, FridgiWise plays a vital role.”
Meier also highlighted that plug-in refrigerated cabinets are often neglected and inadequately monitored. Polluted condensers can lead to overworked cabinets, shortened lifespan, declining efficiency and increased power consumption. Due to this, the service technicians are overloaded by 10 times more than usual, especially in summertime.
“Reducing these drawbacks, this gadget saves maintenance time and helps to maintain scheduled maintenance before the cabinet’s failure,” said De Vos. “This device can give an alarm if the fan breaks down, or you can set the alarm when the clogging is 30% or any other range, depending on the choice to perform scheduled maintenance and plan accordingly,”
“Knowing the energy consumption of the total refrigeration system in all stores is a huge advantage,” added De Vos.
After implementing FridgiWise, the Delhaize-owned shop based in Willebroek experienced complete control over energy consumption, cleaning needs, maintenance costs, fast setup and configuration, and no stock loss due to cabinet failures, said De Vos.
TEKO Refrigeration was the first company to receive the natural refrigerant label from ATMOsphere. ATMOsphere (formerly shecco) launched the label in June 2022 as a global gold standard highlighting best-in-class manufacturers of natural refrigerant systems and components worldwide.
The certificates and logos of the label were handed out during ATMOsphere Europe Summit 2023.
“Considering 3,000 cabinets of Delhaize stores use the FridgiWise, the [annual] energy cost saving would be €1.5 million [US$1.6 million], along with a reduction of 1.7 million kg [3.75 million lbs] of CO2e.”Ruben De Vos, Engineering and Energy Manager of Delhaize