Know When To Replace Your Commercial Refrigerator Or Compressor

When it comes to repairs, think of your commercial refrigerator like you would your car. Imagine the compressor in a cooler is like an engine in a vehicle. If the compressor goes bad and is replaced you get a new compressor, not a whole new cooler. The same way the garage doesn’t tell you to get a new car just because you need a bit of engine work. In other words, all the other components including coils, fans, controls, piping, and  gaskets (door seals) are still old. This is similar to an engine in a car going bad and being replaced. You end up with a new engine in an old car. There are a couple of key factors to consider when trying to decide whether or not to do a major repair on a piece of refrigeration equipment. Here are a few things to ponder before pulling the trigger on an expensive repair.

1. How old is the cooler? If older than 10 years it is advisable to price out a new one.

2. What kind of refrigerant is used in the cooler? If the answer is R12, R502, or R22, consider pricing out a new cooler. R12 and R502 have been banned by the EPA for years and R22 is currently being phased out by the EPA.

3. What is the overall condition of the cooler? Check door seals, hinges, floor in cooler, coils, and fans. If everything looks like it’s falling apart, it may be time to price out a new cooler.

We are happy to perform repairs for customers, but don’t want to see them throwing good money after bad.

Commercial Refrigerator Condensing Unit

Last week a customer in Chicago had a large walk-in freezer compressor go bad. The condensing unit that the compressor was part of was around 18 years old. The system was set up to run on R502 gas which is now obsolete, since it has been banned by the EPA. There were two options for customer: 1. Get same compressor and convert the  system to a newer style gas called R404A,  or 2. Replace the entire condensing unit including compressor, condenser coil, fans, controls, and enclosure with a new unit set up for R404 gas. The new unit is far more efficient than the old condensing unit.

Our customer ended up going with option #2 and we installed a new R404A condensing unit for their freezer. That was a good choice.

If your commercial refrigerator is set up to run on obsolete gas it’s time to replace it when any major repair comes up. The unit is most likely very energy inefficient.

EPA Helps Businesses Transition to GREEN Practices with GreenChill!

GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration Partnership is a program recently introduced by the EPA to assist  those in the hospitality industry by alleviating the guesswork in making the transition to more environmentally friendly refrigerants in the upcoming years. The EPA describes GreenChill as an “EPA Partnership with food retailers to reduce refrigerant emissions and decrease their impact on the ozone layer and climate change.”  The ultimate goal of this partnership it to help improve air quality through the reduction of emissions that contribute to ozone depletion.

This team effort was brought about by The Montreal Protocol, which began in 1987 as means to reduce and eliminate the use of CFCs and HCFCs.  This includes a globally mandated ban on Freon, and other CFC and HCFC gases, set to be at 99.5 percent below the determined baseline by the year 2020. We are currently at 75 percent below the determined baseline. These numbers alone can prove confusing, as well as the acceptable options for complying with The Montreal Protocol, so the EPA initiated GreenChill.

To date several well known corporate giants have climbed on board to help promote cleaner air through the use of less harmful refrigerants. Local retailers that participate and are corporate partners include: Jewel, Target, Whole Foods, and Albertsons.

To become GreenChill Certified a business must follow specific guidelines and submit an application to the EPA. Any business may apply and  “GreenChill’s Store Certification Program for Food Retail Stores recognizes individual stores for using environmentally friendlier commercial refrigeration systems.”  Retailers can gain various levels of  GreenChill certification (platinum, gold, or silver) dependent upon their refrigeration practices and policies.

To gain the highest level of GreenChill certification a retalier must adhere to the following EPA mandated guidelines:

Platinum-Level Store Certification:

To qualify for GreenChill’s Platinum-Level Store Certification, a store must meet the requirements under either A or B:

A. HFC-Based Refrigeration Systems

• The store must only use refrigerants with zero ozone-depleting potential;

• The store must only use refrigerants that have been found acceptable by EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy Program (SNAP) for use in retail food refrigeration end-uses;

• The store must achieve an average HFC refrigerant charge equal to or less than 0.5 lbs. of HFC refrigerant per MBTU/hr. total evaporator heat load;

• The store must achieve a store-wide annual HFC refrigerant emissions rate of 5% or less; and

• All newly constructed stores must be leak tested at installation according to the standards in GreenChill’s Installation Leak Tightness Testing Guidelines

B. Refrigeration Systems using Low-GWP Refrigerants

• The store must only use refrigerants with zero ozone-depleting potential;

• The store must only use refrigerants that have been found acceptable by EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy Program (SNAP) for use in retail food refrigeration end-uses; and

• All refrigerants used in the store’s commercial refrigeration system must have global warming potentials (GWP) lower than 150.


  • Please support you local GreenChill retailers as they strive to make changes to improve and sustain the quality of our environment! Be sure to look for the GreenChill logo on the refrigeration equipment at your favorite retailer!
  • GreenChill now has a LinkedIn group called GreenChill Partnership. You can follow updates and engage in conversation about the latest GreeChill updates and practices.



Greenchill Platinum Award

View more webinars from US EPA

Einstein Takes Refrigeration Green

Would you believe that in 1930 Albert Einstein invented, and patented, a refrigeration system that uses ammonia, butane, and water instead of environmentally damaging Freon gases? This invention uses no electricity, has no moving parts, and could reduce greenhouse gases if replicated today!


It seems many people are not even aware that Einstein, along with his colleague, Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard, developed this practical refrigerator in 1930. The invention was in direct response to a 1926 incident involving a family in Berlin that had been killed by poisonous gases leaking from a refrigerator. Einstein and Szilard were then inspired to invent a safer alternative to current refrigeration systems.  Their ultimate goal was to invent a refrigerator that required no electricity and no moving parts. They believed this would alleviate the chance of seals leaking and gas escaping, thereby providing a safer in home refrigeration unit.

In 1930, they were successful in designing, and building, a refrigerator that had ­­­no moving parts and used only pressurized gases to create low temperatures. The premise of this design was used in the first domestic refrigerators; however the concept was abandoned when more efficient and affordable Freon compressors became popular in the 1950s.

Current refrigeration systems are notoriously damaging to the environment. They work by compressing and expanding man-made greenhouse gases called Freon. Freon is a huge contributor to The Greenhouse Effect and the depletion of the ozone layer. This process is far more damaging than carbon dioxide (also a useful, and less damaging alternative, for refrigeration). Einstein and Szilard’s refrigerator completely eliminates the need for Freon. Their design uses ammonia, butane, and water to take advantage of the fact that liquids boil at lower temperatures when the air pressure around them is lower. Inside the unit there is a container of butane, if you introduce a gas above the butane, the liquid will boil at a lower temperature, as it boils, it uses energy from its surroundings. As the butane burns, the ammonia evaporates and is absorbed by the water. The condenser pressure liquefies the butane, and as it passes back into the evaporator to start the process again, the ammonia provides the cooling for the unit. This interaction is what creates and maintains the lower temperatures.

Pressurized gas refrigerators based around Einstein’s design were replaced by the Freon compressor refrigerators that we use today, primarily because Einstein and Szilard’s design was not very efficient on a large scale. Many scientists and environmentalists believe that with a few tweaks Einstein and Szilard’s refrigerator could become markedly more efficient, and may make a comeback to help protect the environment. Since the only energy needed is the heat pump, some scientists are even looking into powering the pump with solar energy.

Einstein and Szilard’s 81 year old invention may very well be just what the planet is in need of in terms of refrigeration. No greenhouse gasses. No moving parts. No electricity required. Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer.



Avoid Refrigeration Break Downs During Chicago Blizzard Weather

A large storm system is approaching Chicago.  Word on the street is that this could be the biggest Chicago blizzard in a long long time.  While this type of weather can be fun for kids who are looking for a few days off of school, it can be a nightmare for Chicago restaurants.

Here are a few reasons why.

These winters are often typical to Chicago, and they can lead to big problems with commercial refrigeration equipment.  Extremely cold weather can cause coolers and commercial freezers to run warm.  Large amounts of snow fall can also cause equipment to break down and lead to costly repairs.

This is especially true when the compressor units of your commercial refrigeration are located outside where drifting snow can get drawn into cooling condensers.  When this happens the compressors can shut off due to an internal safety switch.  During times of snow accumulation and or drifting snow, care should be taken to insure outdoor compressor units don’t get buried in snow.  This will result in warm product temperature in the conditioned space.

We recommend that after a snow storm, you and your restaurant should have an inspection of outdoor compressor units.  This inspection will help to ensure that they are not buried in snow.  If they are on a roof, a service company should be called out to perform the inspection for safety reasons.

Be sure to keep an eye on cooler and freezer temperatures during and after heavy snow fall.  You should also call for service if there is a rise in cooler or ice box temperature.

Northeast Cooling would be happy to help keep your valuable and important equipment running smoothly during this Chicago harsh winter weather.

For other tips on how your restaurant can save energy and money, be sure to follow Refrigeration on Twitter, and Fan Northeast Cooling on Facebook.

R22 Refrigerant Is Being Phased Out. Start Thinking Retrofit!

What type of gas does your commercial refrigeration equipment use?  Is it time to consider a change?  Northeast Cooling is here to help!

R22 Refrigerant is being phased out by the Montreal Protocol Act.  This ozone depleting refrigerant is is used in many air conditioning and refrigeration applications world wide, and this type of  gas is very commonly used in the Chicagoland area.  The sale of new R22 equipment is no longer allowed.  As of January 1st, 2010 the consumption and production of R22 gas has been reduced by 75%. By the year 2015 it will be 90% reduced.  The gas will be 99.5%  phased out by the year 2020. (source EPA HCFC Phaseout Schedule)

This has happened before, one of the first gasses to be completely phased out was R12 in 1995.  After the production of R12 stopped the price rose by hundreds of dollars.  It was used in air conditioning and refrigeration. Retrofit (replacement gasses) became available. This allowed technicians to convert the equipment to newer more ecologically friendly refrigerants.   R409A & Mp66 are two examples of R12 replacement gasses.

In refrigeration, there are two main choices to deal with the phaseout of R22 Gas.

1: Replace the equipment with newer systems that run on different refrigerant.

2: Retrofit existing system to run on new approved gas.

There are several types of gas available to be used in replacement of R22. One is M099, this gas is compatible with the existing oil in the system.  Using a replacement gas that is compatible with existing system oil can speed up the retrofit procedure. Another gas that can be used is 407C. This gas is requires the use of POE oil in the system. The old oil must be flushed out of system and replaced.

The price of R22 gas is already climbing fast, which makes now a perfect time  consider retrofitting or replacing your old R22 Air Conditioning or Refrigeration System.  Most new Air Conditioning equipment is now using R410A gas.  These systems are more efficient and far less harmful to the ozone.  There are some great government tax saving incentives when  buying  HVAC equipment. There are great incentives for Refrigeration upgrades too!

Do you own commercial refrigeration or HVAC equipment? We would like to offer a 2 step program to drastically green up your footprint.

1:  The next time a major repair is needed on your existing R22 Cooler or Freezer have us retrofit it to an ozone friendly gas, or replace it with new energy efficient equipment.

2: Have Northeast Cooling perform a building energy audit & show you the potential savings that could be had by installing WiSuite wireless building management system.