Many NAFEM Show exhibitors on path to propane equipment

By Janaina Topley Lira, Feb 25, 2015, 10:11 4 minute reading

While not all the foodservice equipment exhibitors visited by journalists at the 2015 NAFEM Show in Anaheim were as far along with hydrocarbon conversions as True and Fogel, many showcased a sample unit or spoke about being committed to transitioning to propane equipment in the U.S. market in the near term to meet coming regulations. Here is part two of the’s NAFEM coverage. +PHOTOS

Any easy transition, for now
Manitowoc was among the exhibitors at the NAFEM Show displaying a sample propane unit - a small foodservice refrigerator that represented “an easy conversion from an existing R404A model to propane,” said Darrel Walker, the company’s director of engineering.
The propane unit reduces energy consumption from 1.88 KHW/day to 1.15 KWH/day, saving about $30 annually. It carries a slightly higher cost than the HFC model. 
Near the display was a sign reading “Enerlogic: Talk to us about the transition to responsible, environmentally friendly, energy efficient R290 refrigeration equipment.”
The propane refrigerator was designed in response to a large foodservice chain that “wants to use natural refrigerants,” Walker said, declining to name the chain. But Manitowoc is still waiting for an early adopter of the system.
A conversion to propane is “the way to go on most of our systems,” though larger models will be harder to execute, he said.
Like many NAFEM Show exhibitors, Manitowoc has experience making propane systems for the European market. One such unit, an ice machine refrigerator that blends “smoothies,” is supplied to McDonald’s in Europe, said Walker, adding, “We will sell them here when customers are ready for it.”
Traulsen field tests concept unit
In its first step toward transitioning to hydrocarbon refrigeration, Traulsen, which shared a booth at the NAFEM Show with its sister companies Hobart and Baxter, demonstrated an “eco-Traul” commercial concept unit that uses propane. 
The refrigerator is being field tested by a “large chain restaurant operator,” said James Piliero, Traulsen’s sales development manager, who declined to name the company without its authorization. The unit has the 2014 Energy Star rating and is close to meeting the DOE’s 2017 efficiency requirement.
The concept unit gave Traulsen a chance to highlight natural refrigerants, which Piliero called “a hot topic” at the NAFEM Show.
Up until now, I don’t think [U.S. end users] really knew what was going on,” said Piliero. “But this show is natural refrigerants’ coming out party.”
Traulsen aims to take advantage of the growing U.S. interest in natural refrigeration by making its entire refrigeration line available in propane or HC blend models by January of next year, Piliero said. To that end, the company can leverage the experience of Foster, its European refrigeration brand, which has been selling propane-based systems for almost 20 years.
Traulsen has chosen propane as its natural refrigerant option because it is readily available and inexpensive, has excellent cooling capacity and is “almost a drop-in solution,” said Piliero. And despite its rating as a flammable fluid, in regulated quantities (under 150 grams), propane is “perfectly safe,” he added, observing that where propane systems are used “we haven’t heard on CNN about any commercial refrigeration disasters.”
In the lab
Some other NAFEM Show exhibitors were not showing any sample hydrocarbon equipment, but were hard at work transitioning their HFC equipment to propane:
  • Brema is switching all of its commercial ice makers from R404A to propane or CO2, according to Alex Dumaine, regional sales manager for Eurodib, a Canadian distributor for Brema.
“R&D is starting this year and we are already testing prototypes in Milan,” he said at Brema’s booth at the NAFEM Show. The new line will be showcased at the HOST Show in Milan this October. 
The natural-refrigerant-based ice makers will be sold in the U.S., the type of refrigerant based on region, said Dumaine,
  • Minus Forty Technologies redesigned its lineup of stand-alone, glass-door ice cream freezers to operate with propane a “couple of years ago,” but is now putting them through a new redesign to comply with the 2017 Department of Energy efficiency requirements.
Production of the units will depend on the ruling handed down by the EPA on the delisting of R134A and R404A, said Julian Attree, CEO of Minus Forty. “We would complete it in the next 24 months, but sooner if mandated.”
The U.S. marketplace’s attitude toward hydrocarbons has done a “total about face” in the past two to three years, going from “taboo to the only choice,” observed Attree. He would prefer a longer period of adoption for hydrocarbon units in the U.S. – more in line with European phasedown plans – that would allow repair technicians to gain more expertise. 
  •  Hoshizaki America is working on making its ice maker and reach-in lines compliant with the 2017 DOE energy requirements (2018 for ice makers), which includes incorporating propane.
We have engineering people running tests on propane as we speak,” said Gary Weyhausen, vice president, sales and marketing. “We’re excited about it. I think we’ll see nice improvements and meet the requirements.”



By Janaina Topley Lira

Feb 25, 2015, 10:11

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