SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Big Y Supermarkets here has installed direct-drive refrigeration systems in five stores over the past year as a result of guidance from West Sacramento, Calif.-based Raley's stores, according to Tony Coppola, Big Y's director of construction and maintenance.
"Without the willingness of [Raley's senior director of facilities] Ed Estberg to share information, we wouldn't have come around to using a direct-drive refrigeration system," admitted Coppola. A direct-drive system is notable for its motor being positioned external to the refrigeration system so that a failure in the motor can't contaminate the system.
Coppola's collaboration with Raley's was detailed during Food Marketing Institute's Energy and Technical Services Conference last month at the Adolphus Hotel, Dallas.
Big Y, which operates 50 stores in Massachusetts and Connecticut, explored refrigeration alternatives after its existing system became difficult to maintain. "We needed a system that was easy to service, reliable, energy-efficient, cost-effective and required minimum training," said Coppola. After being presented with this list of requirements, Coppola's boss suggested that he visit Raley's on the other side of the United States.
"My boss' history is in direct-drive systems," stated Coppola. "He thought that Ed Estberg's refrigeration system really matched our requirements."
After arriving at one of Raley's stores to inspect its direct-drive system, "I looked around and I thought I was dreaming," Coppola marveled. "Ed [Estberg] must have shined everything up and painted the floor." Coppola experienced similar reactions when visiting other Raley's stores. After speaking to the system's service technicians, he was convinced that direct-drive refrigeration systems were right for Big Y.
"I knew I could sell the idea of the [direct-drive] system to the board because it never breaks, but I'd have to convince my mechanical team" that it was a good idea, he said.
Concerned that his mechanics would be hard to persuade, Coppola offered to take them to the West Coast to check out the system. Then, on the way back to the airport, they could decide if they wanted to use it. "After seeing [the direct-drive systems], they were just as impressed as I was," he revealed.
Big Y currently has a direct-drive system, with principal parts from Tyler Refrigeration, Miles, Mich., in place in five stores. The chain plans to install them in new stores and evaluate putting them in stores undergoing remodels, said Ken Soto, HVAC/R specialist for Big Y. Each direct-drive system consists of six compressors and an evaporative condenser, according to Coppola. The six compressors are made up of high-, medium- and low-temperature groups. The evaporative condenser is comprised of one tower with variable-speed fan control and a redundant motor.
"We've installed a redundant motor in case one of them breaks," said Coppola, even though "Ed [Estberg] told me that it's a waste of money."
Coppola related that Big Y's recently installed direct-drive systems have "met all our criteria to date. They are dependable, simple and efficient."
The systems have also proved to be easier to service. Aside from reducing the refrigerant charge by an average of 1,000 pounds per store, less training is required for new technicians to learn the system, according to Coppola.
Soto observed that the direct-drive system is less expensive for a connected load than a conventional rack system.