The Simply Air cabinet appears to be the answer to a refrigeration manager’s prayers. Is this the future of shopfloor refrigeration? Andrew Gaved reports.
The Italian café in Hassocks serves a pretty fine bacon sandwich. Good job too, because in the past few weeks the eaterie has been playing to host a veryknowledgeable clientele - the cream of Britain’s supermarket refrigeration specialists.
The café happens to be next door to Budgens, which has quickly become a must-visit for the future-watching fridge man, as it houses a cutting-edge installation that has been touted as the future of shopfloor refrigeration.
Budgens Hassocks owner Peter Knights is host to a world first: the refrigeration cabinet without drains. Or evaporators Or pipework. Or fans.
The Simply Air cabinet concept may be familiar to regular readers, since its potential was rewarded with an Environmental Pioneer title at the last Cooling Industry Awards.
But the theory, says Simply Air inventor Paul Scammell, is to take the concept of the remote cabinet further to make the whole refrigeration system remote - put all the refrigerant in the plant room and duct in the cold air to the cabinet - and at a stroke you eliminate a whole heap of headaches for the fridge technician.
For a start, ducting cool air in, rather than piping around liquids provides a compelling solution to refrigerant leaks, in that it removes the refrigerants from the shopfloor. Add to that the fact that ducting means there is no call for a coil, for a condenser or for a drain (apart from for washdown) and the number of elements to go wrong is drastically reduced - the number of moving parts is cut by 60 per cent for a start. Mr Scammell estimates that maintenance costs will be reduced by a minimum of 30 per cent. “The vast majority of callouts are leaks, and blocked condensate drains, which are now both avoided.”
That’s not all, he says: “There’s no umbilical connection, no electrics on the cabinets, and thus no need for a power supply and no control panel. In fact, once we change over the cabinet lighting to LEDs, we think we will be able to offer a lifetime guarantee on the cabinets.”
Simply Air is a three-way collaboration, proof of the fact that innovation needs the meeting of minds. Former Sainsbury’s man Mr Scammell has provided the technical concept, which has been turned into store level reality by cabinet specialist SPG and contractor Ultra Refrigeration, in the person of Steve Shipp who has provided the installation and ductwork expertise. Ultra has also provided the element that has accelerated the Simply Air concept further, with a bespoke control system by fellow director Anthony Lomas.
The real advantage of Simply Air is not just that it avoids the pipework and drains, but that it harnesses free cooling, promising end users not just far less hassle but far lower fuel bills too.
The whole package promises energy efficiency gains from a not exactly unhealthy 40 per cent to an eye-watering 60 per cent, by using the outside air when it is cold enough to augment the refrigeration system and thus saving on running costs. Mr Scammell devised the free-cooling concept after a visit to Finland, when he noted that despite the subzero temperatures, the refrigeration system was still being deployed at full efficiency.