Efficiency and low cost are the major reasons ammonia is the preferred industrial refrigerant in the food processing industry. Ammonia is often a natural refrigerant and has no ODP/GWP. However, ammonia is a dangerous substance and there are several advantages to lowering the overall amount of ammonia used at a facility.
Numerous substances used in industrial refrigeration are believed to be responsible for ozone depletion, especially a common low-temperature refrigerant – R-22. While R-22 is widely used in numerous food plants and cold storage facilities, an international treaty, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, calls for a halt in the production of R-22 and other chemicals damaging to the atmosphere.
Your team relies on HMI screens to monitor real-time performance of your refrigeration control systems. But if your dashboards are not presenting that information in a clear, usable format, you’re not getting a clear picture. Your HMI should present performance metrics in a format that’s customized for your system to allow your team to effectively diagnose, analyze and manage your systems.
Your HMI screens should include an overview of the entire plant in addition to a single view of the machine room. Each piece of equipment can be animated and color-coded to show operational status, capacity, pressures, communication errors and other functions. Alarms and other critical issues are easily recognizable with pop-ups and red animation.
The ability to remotely monitor your refrigeration system can have a significant impact on your bottom line, reducing energy, maintenance and overall operating costs. If you’ve recently upgraded your refrigeration controls system or are in the process of upgrading, it’s important to ensure your new system offers remote access. This will allow for speedy diagnostics, offsite troubleshooting capabilities, and constant monitoring, all with a “big picture” view of the entire system.
There are three key benefits of remote monitoring:
Remote access allows your team or an outsourced consultant to monitor the system 24/7 for alerts such as refrigerant leak detection, high liquid levels, high product temperatures, high system pressure, and more. Outsourced consultants who offer a higher level of specialized expertise than your in-house team can view your entire system in real time and offer advanced insight and support.
Modern refrigeration controls systems have truly come of age. If your controls system is more than a few years old, you might be surprised at the benefits that newer systems provide:
1. Ethernet architecture — Unlike older serial networks with slower, linear structure, new control systems operate via your existing Ethernet. These networks are non-proprietary so in-house IT teams can easily troubleshoot issues, and repair and replace parts.
2. Improved compressor and VFD communications — Hard-wired serial control systems are slower to communicate with your compressors and VFDs. With an Ethernet platform, the system can pull data much quicker and more efficiently.
3. A single integrated platform — Old systems are often disjointed, with input/outputs, PLC hardware, VFDs, communications protocols and automation controllers all operating independently or requiring customized interfaces. Newer systems are integrated, providing you with a single, unified platform with standards-compliant methods for configuring, operating and maintaining a range of instruments and equipment.
4. Increased data availability — With a single, integrated platform, you’ll have increased access to energy, production, and utility cost information, leading to better decision-making at the management level. You can generate trend analyses, alarm logs, energy management data, and runtime reports in real-time to make the necessary changes and modifications to ensure your refrigeration system is running at optimal efficiency.
While new refrigeration control systems are significant capital investments, their value far exceeds their cost. In large food processing or cold storage facilities, refrigeration typically accounts for more than half of the facility’s total electric energy use. And with unplanned downtime costing many facilities tens of thousands of dollars per day, an aging refrigeration control system can put your business at significant risk.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, it may be time to upgrade or replace your existing system:
- Is your current control system more than 10-15 years old?
- Have you experienced unplanned facility downtime due to refrigeration failures?
- Are the individual components of your refrigeration controls system operating as islands, meaning they work independently and don’t “talk” to each other?
- Are you still operating on a serial network that’s linear, making it difficult to expand your capabilities?
- Do you have unstable suction and head pressures? Are you unable to trim fans and pumps via VFD control?
This April, we’re taking a look at refrigeration controls systems. While they represent a significant capital investment, automation components, software and systems are critical to the success of any food processing or cold storage facility. But no technology—no matter how innovative—can last forever.
In our series of articles, we will explore signs that it’s time to replace your refrigeration controls system, the benefits of newer systems, remote monitoring, and HMIs.
Stellar provides state-of-the-art automation services to help clients achieve maximum efficiency for their refrigeration systems. We are the only approved Rockwell Automation Solution Partner for refrigeration controls.
We look forward to your thoughts and questions on the information in this series.