Agricultural producers use a variety of refrigeration systems to extend the shelf life of perishable materials.
Fruit and vegetable farm refrigeration systems are operated most intensively during the warmest months of the year, often when electrical costs are at their highest levels. Improving energy efficiency of refrigeration systems can therefore lead to significant savings. This can be accomplished by:
- Precooling produce with cold water before putting it into refrigerated areas;
- Improving insulation of the refrigerated cold storage area;
- Reducing infiltration of warm air through the doors, cracks, and other openings;
- Regular maintenance and servicing of refrigeration equipment;
- Utilizing energy-efficient compressors, heat exchangers, and refrigerants; and
- Taking steps to prevent and detect refrigerant leakage.
Dairy farmers also rely heavily on refrigeration equipment, but on a daily rather than seasonal basis. Refrigeration systems with scroll compressors are 15 to 20 percent more efficient than traditional reciprocating compressor systems. These compressors can be used for cooling milk or for space conditioning, such as a walk-in cooler.
Heat-recovery units can scavenge the discharge heat from refrigeration equipment to supplement water-heating needs while increasing the efficiency of the refrigeration system slightly. A refrigeration heat recovery unit consists of a 50-, 80-, or 120-gallon jacketed water storage tank and a heat exchanger. The refrigerant inside the jacket is cooled while the water in the tank is heated.
Agricultural producers can invest in an energy audit to determine whether an investment in more energy-efficient refrigeration equipment or other energy-saving technology offers an acceptable economic payback.
Updated Friday, April 19, 2013