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Testing times for coolers

The test regime for the Energy Related Products Directive governing temperature and energy performance is set to cause problems for bottle cooler manufacturers, says Judith Evans

Is there a crisis brewing for bottle coolers? The ubiquitous bottle cooler seen in all pubs, clubs and restaurants is a common sight, but will all bottle coolers comply with the Energy Related Products Framework Directive?

The ErP, formerly known as the Energy Using Products Directive, will be applied to all retail/commercial cabinets in the future. The Directive  will effectively prevent the sale of any cabinet into Europe that does not meet defined ‘Minimum Energy Performance Standards’.  It seems likely that these MEPS will be applied around 2015 and so it will be essential in the next few years to ensure that retail/commercial cabinets comply with the new regulations.

Currently the work to develop MEPS and energy labels for commercial refrigeration is being managed by the European Commission or Joint Research Centre in Seville. The JRC is currently consulting with industry and collecting information to develop the MEPS.

In addition, cabinets may be energy -labelled in a similar manner to domestic refrigerators and so there is a clear incentive for manufacturers to optimise performances and obtain an ‘A’ rating. Both the MEPS and labelling will relate to the temperature and energy performance of the cabinet.

It seems fairly certain that the test standard used for assessment of MEPS will be EN23953:2005 (probably with 2012 amendments).

This will mean that in the future, to sell cabinets in Europe manufacturers will need to ensure that their cabinets are tested to EN23953 and meet the required temperature and energy performance requirements. However, this regime will create  a major problem for bottle  coolers specifically.

At RD&T (Refrigeration Developments and Testing) we regularly test all types of commercial display cabinets but have found that bottle coolers  rarely operate well when tested to the EN23953 test specification, unless modified.

This can be due to several issues. Bottle coolers, as their name suggests, are designed to cool bottles.

In the EN23953 test, the cabinets are loaded with test packs that are made of a cellulose gel called Tylose. When loaded to test requirements, these brick-like packs fill almost the entire loading area of the cabinet. But the bricks form a solid mass that can block air flow, unlike bottles that allow air to flow freely around them.

Therefore there is often an issue that bottle coolers cannot maintain the required temperature levels.

Bottles also obviously contain a liquid. However, the EN23953 test packs are made of a solid gel. Thermal currents are generated in liquids that help even out differences in temperature, but such currents can not occur in the solid gel packs. This means that temperature variations within a bottle cooler may be greater in the EN23953 test than they would be when filled with bottles.

Therefore bottle coolers cannot always operate within the temperature classification tolerances of an EN23953 test (typically -1 to 5 deg C or -1 to 7 deg C).

To comply with the ErP requirements, the energy used by the bottle cooler must be less than threshold values defined by the MEPS. But bottle coolers are not always designed for efficiency (as they need to reduce the temperature of drinks rapidly) and so energy consumption is also often too high.

We think manufacturers should be concerned as almost all bottle coolers we have tested exhibit one or more of these issues. However, solutions are available. We have had considerable success in modifying cabinets and improving their performance. In fact many are now listed on the ECA (Enhanced Capital Allowance) web site as energy efficient models. An example of a cabinet modified is shown in the table below.

The modifications required to ensure bottle coolers are able to maintain temperature and operate with low energy consumption are not always the same. Initially modifications to improve air flow are the simplest option. Alternatively some relatively simple cabinet construction changes are often beneficial.

However, sometimes a greater level of work is required and more detailed analysis of performance using techniques such as Computational Fluids Dynamics (CFD) modelling to understand air flows is necessary.

For further advice on whether particular bottle cooler cabinets will comply with the upcoming MEPS or getting onto the ECA Energy Technology List then please contact the author at RD&T.

Judith Evans is director of research firm RD&T

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