Three tips for a successful, pain-free transition to natural refrigerants

By Tristam Coffin, Sustainable Facilities Coordinator, Northern California Region, Whole Foods Market

Did you know that an all-natural CO2 refrigeration application was available in the 1920s? Probably not. Thankfully, a 100-percent natural refrigerant grocery store is not only possible today, it can be easy — if you know how to make it so. We’ve reached a tipping point where industry knowledge and availability of technology make natural refrigeration a realistic and achievable goal for any size end user, from independent family-owned stores to national chains. Here are three tips for ensuring a successful, pain-free transition to natural refrigerants.

Seek Out Industry Best Practices

Many people are still under the impression that natural refrigeration programs are difficult to adopt and implement. Quite the opposite is true. Along with support and best practices from organizations like NASRC, today’s natural refrigeration OEMs are eager to work with end users to develop a design concept that meets their unique needs. As more natural refrigerant-based stores enter the market, the opportunities to learn from the best practices (and mistakes) of others are readily available.

The NASRC’s member library of resources will soon be available offering, among other helpful documents, natural refrigeration system equipment and installation specifications, case studies from across the industry, and training materials for end users and refrigeration contractors alike. Authored by NASRC member organizations and experts including the nation’s leading engineers in the refrigeration space, this library will be a one-stop shop for all the information you need to go natural. Stay tuned!

Get Bids from Multiple OEMs

Even if you think you know which OEM you want to provide your natural refrigeration system, solicit bids from others. The market for natural refrigeration technology is fast moving and you never know what new innovations or pricing models you could be missing out on. And you might be surprised who comes to the table.

Perhaps you aren’t even considering a natural refrigeration system. Regardless, there is no harm in asking your OEMs for an alternative price to go natural. Be sure to request a payback analysis. The energy, material, and refrigerant cost savings will no doubt have you thinking twice.

Engage Installation and Maintenance Contactors Early

As new natural refrigeration solutions come to market, installation and maintenance contractors are working to keep up with changing technologies. If you’re worried about whether your contractors are fully prepared to work with a new technology, involve them early in the process. Allow them to provide design feedback and let them visit the OEM’s factory. Contractors are eager for this information. And collaboration between rack OEMs, control vendors and maintenance partners will ensure the long term success of your program.