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Test cases

Foodservice manufacturers are undertaking huge testing programmes to meet the European Ecodesign rules. Andrew Gaved hears how the customer will benefit

The foodservice refrigeration sector is in the midst of some of the most significant changes it has ever faced, thanks to the attentions of the policymakers in Brussels, which have landed manufacturers with the Ecodesign directive for refrigerated storage and display cabinets and the F-gas Regulation within a couple of years of each other.

But while it is meaning quite a lot of pain for the suppliers, as they have had to rush to get their equipment tested according to Ecodesign standards – in many cases requiring investment in additional and/or more comprehensive testing facilities – many in the industry are hopeful that the end result will be good news for best practice in the sector.

If all goes to plan, the requirement for Minimum Energy Performance Standards, whereby manufacturers have to publish A-G energy ratings for their cabinets, should not only see the most efficient equipment naturally succeed (for who is really going to specify a low-rated cabinet unless there is a very good reason?), it should effectively weed out the cheap, yet inefficient imports, as products not meeting the G class will not be able to be sold in Europe.

A spinoff benefit of transparent ratings is it should also signal the end for spurious claims from over-exuberant marketing departments.

It is a view that Williams Refrigeration – one of the biggest players in the field – has good reason to subscribe to.

The Kings Lynn-based company is running all its new cabinets with R290, which has the benefit of a GWP of 5 while being an energy-efficient refrigerant in its own right.

“We think it will be the refrigerant of choice in the future,” says the firm’s sales and marketing director Malcolm Harling, “and we like to think we are ahead of the game on technology.”

The manufacturer believes that the MEPS requirements, although burdensome to set up, will establish a process of continuous improvement among cabinet firms.

From July 2016, all professional storage and counters will have to carry energy labels, with commercial display cabinets due to join them in January 2017.

“There is no doubt that it has been a great burden on the manufacturing industry,” says Mr Harling, “but the way the EC has set the regulations up, the bar will continue to rise – it is not a static ranking.

This will put the pressure on component manufacturers to raise the bar too.”

At the same time, Mr Harling says that liaison with customers will be essential to explain the new benchmarks and how they are derived.

“There will be circumstances where equipment will not be the highest energy rating, but it will still be the best for the job – perhaps because of where it needs to be sited – and we have to ensure that the customer understands that,” he says.

Equipment siting

Another key element in the customer conversation with regard to the MEPS is ensuring they understand the siting of their equipment, Mr Harling stresses.

“As the MEPS will require products to be optimised to particular ambients, it will need the customers to specify the correct product for their application’s ambient – we believe the ambient of choice will be 30 deg C.

But the customer will also need to optimise their ventilation to ensure those ambients are achieved, as well as specifying the best locations to site the equipment. It will mean working more closely with end-users.”

Williams is also convinced that other foodservice equipment will have to fall into line as well: “There is no doubt the labelling requirement will be extended to other areas, such as blast chillers and coldrooms, as well as non-refrigerated items like combi-ovens and dishwashers,” Mr Harling says.  

The Cooling Awards has a new category in 2015 called Excellence in Foodservice to reward best practice in this sector. There is still time to enter. See page 20-21 for details

Space demands

In the same way that convenience stores have put an emphasis on reduced footprint equipment, the growth of coffee bars and pressure on seating space has seen the same demands placed on foodservice manufacturers.

Williams’ Prep Well is designed to offer mobility for where space is too restricted for a conventional prep station. “You could even store it in the cupboard when you are not using it,” adds Mr Harling.

Another example is the Jade Slimline Counter (above), which boasts a depth of 500 mm, compared with the standard counter depth of 700 mm. “That 200 mm makes a lot of difference to a small kitchen,” notes Mr Harling.

Similarly the Amber Slimline Cabinet offers a 20 per cent reduction in depth over the standard cabinet, while enabling a capacity of 400 litres of storage – and the ability to fit in an standard stairwell.

The cabinets come into their own where access is restricted, Mr Harling notes.

“With the pressure on access as well as restricted footprints, we think the demand for this size of equipment will grow and grow – they can go where the bigger units can’t go.”.

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