Reduce refrigeration costs in your business

Every business uses a fridge. Even if it’s just a small one for milk and lunches.

No matter how big or small your system is, there are ways you can reduce the amount of energy used to run it.

Upgrading and maintaining your refrigeration system can:

  • reduce your electricity bill
  • lower your maintenance costs
  • increase productivity and performance of the system
  • improve safety and work conditions
  • decrease your impact on the environment.

The figures on this page come from our Boosting Business Productivity program. We worked with more than 300 businesses to explore their energy use and minimise their energy cost.

Assess your current refrigeration use

Install an electricity meter to your refrigeration system to track and monitor use. The data can be analysed to identify opportunities to save energy. If you need a hand analysing the data, hire a refrigerant technician or refrigeration consultant.

Every business is different. The best way to get a clear idea of what’s using the most energy in your business is by getting an energy audit. An energy auditor can review your energy bills and the way your business operates, to identify where you’re losing energy and what you can do about it.

Find an energy auditor near you >

It’s always good to seek advice and knowledge from similar businesses and industry groups.

 

 

Meet David. After upgrading processes and equipment at his dessert-making business, he saw significant energy savings.

Read David’s story >

Ways to reduce refrigeration costs

We’ve broken down our tips for reducing refrigeration costs by small and medium-to-large businesses.

Go to:

Reduce refrigeration costs in small businesses

1. Upgrade your refrigeration system

Old refrigeration systems are less energy efficient. They also use refrigerants that are being phased out. If your system is over 10 years old, it’s time for an upgrade.

Replace the system if:

  • you’ve already replaced a phased-out refrigerant with another synthetic refrigerant
  • it’s more than 10 years old
  • it’s in a poor physical condition, corroded or damaged
  • your site is expanding.

When upgrading, look for the energy star rating.

2. Set your fridge at efficient temperatures

Set your fridge at the food safety standards of below 5°C, and freezers between -15°C and -18°C.

For every degree cooler, you’ll increase your running costs by 2–4%.

If you’re not sure what the right temperature levels are for your business, ask a refrigeration specialist.

3. Regularly maintain your refrigeration system

Regular maintenance makes sure your fridge is working efficiently.

Look for:

  • temperatures
  • oil leaks
  • compressor levels
  • motor function
  • seals
  • door hinges and catches.

Another way to maintain your refrigeration is to defrost your freezers when more than 5mm of ice builds up. This acts as an insulator leading to increased running costs. Newer freezers tend to have in built defrosting cycles.

4. Upgrade to LED lighting

Lights in fridges and cool rooms not only light the space, but also produce heat. This heat needs to be cooled down, causing the system to work harder.

LED lighting is much more efficient than fluorescent and halogen lighting, as it doesn’t heat up as much. LED lights also last a lot longer, reducing maintenance costs.

Make sure you switch the lights off when they’re not needed. Timers and operational controls are an easy way to take the effort out of this for you.

5. Keep the space full

When the refrigeration system is full, it doesn’t need to work as hard to cool down the space.

If you have multiple fridges that aren’t all full. Fill one and switch the other off to save money.

6. Keep the door closed

This goes without saying, but when you leave a fridge or cool room door open, you lose cool air. The system then needs to work harder to cool the space down again.

Add a timed alarm to your system to make sure the door is never left open.

If you have an open display case, you could be losing up to 75% of energy. Add a glass door to your cabinet to save that wasted energy.

7. Have a loading and unloading policy

A loading and unloading policy will make sure you efficiently handle your product.

For more information about how your refrigeration system works, watch our refrigeration video series.

The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) have fact sheets on cool room efficiency:

Reduce refrigeration costs in medium and large businesses

1. Measure and assess your refrigeration demand

Start with understanding where your energy use is going. Install an electricity meter to your refrigeration equipment.

The meter can show you how much energy the equipment uses and when. This data can be analysed to see if the equipment is working efficiently.

Review your temperature settings to make sure they’re appropriate for your purpose.

An operations manager will be able to make this decision. If you don’t have an operations manager, call a refrigeration technician.

2. Reduce and avoid heat gain

When your refrigeration unit heats up, it needs to use more energy to cool down.

Reduce heat gain by making sure cool room doors aren’t left open unnecessarily. Add a timed alarm to your system to make sure the cool room door is never left open.

A loading and unloading policy will make sure you efficiently handle your product.

If you have more than one refrigeration unit, consider whether you can consolidate the product into one.

3. Insulate coolant pipes

Insulate coolant pipes to stop them from absorbing heat from their surroundings and affecting the performance of your refrigeration system.

Make sure insulation isn’t damaged. Regularly inspect insulated pipes for moisture. This can form ice on pipework and damage insulation.

Ice on pipework is an indication something isn’t working.

Benefits

On average, insulating piping will:

  • cost less than $15,600 to implement
  • save more than $4500 annually
  • take less than 3.5 years to pay back
  • save more than 25 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

4. Install operational controls and a variable speed drive to the system

Operational controls and variable speed drives work together to make your system more efficient.

Operational controls can switch the system on or off and adjusts the temperature. Make sure you regularly review your controls, set points and heat rejection.

Variable speed drives adjust the speed of compressors and pumps according to the load.

Benefits

On average, operational controls will:

  • cost $12,000 to implement
  • save more than $7500 annually
  • take less than 2 years to pay back
  • save more than 55 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

On average, a variable speed drive will:

  • cost $16,500 to implement
  • save more than $6000 annually
  • take less than 3 years to pay back
  • save more than 35 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

5. Regularly maintain refrigeration equipment

Schedule regular maintenance with a refrigeration technician to make sure your system is working efficiently.

Whenever you make changes, measure the impact to continuously improve the performance of the system.

Benefits

On average, regularly maintenance will:

  • cost less than $6500 to implement
  • save more than $3000 annually
  • take less than 2 years to pay back
  • save more than 17 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

6. Design a new system

The phase out of refrigerants might force you to design a new system. This is an opportunity to consider how your current system works and how a new system could be designed to work more efficiently for your business.

Replace the system if:

  • you’ve already replaced a phased out refrigerant with another synthetic refrigerant
  • it’s more than 10 years old
  • it’s in a poor physical condition, corroded or damaged
  • your site is expanding.

Benefits

On average, updating your refrigeration system will:

  • cost less than $46,000 to implement
  • save more than $13,000 annually
  • take less than 4 years to pay back
  • save more than 85 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually

For more information about using your refrigeration equipment efficiently:

What you need to know about the refrigerant phase out

Most commercial refrigeration systems will contain a refrigerant that is being phased out.

This is because a lot of refrigerants release greenhouse gas that’s significantly contributing to climate change. Refrigeration systems leak – there’s nothing we can do about that.

Natural refrigerants are much more energy efficient and have no impact on climate change.

The phase out will mean that the synthetic refrigerants available in Australia will decrease over time. Eventually, there will be none left for your refrigeration system.

This gives you an opportunity to put in new systems.

Synthetic refrigerants that are being phased out are:

  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), including R11, R12, R502 and R13: Have been phased out
  • Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), including R22 and R123: Have been phased out
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), including R134A, R404A, R410A and R507: Was phased out on 1 January 2018
  • Hydrofluoro-olefins (HFOs), including R134A, R404A, R410A and R507

Call a refrigeration technician if you need advice.

For more information about managing the energy use in refrigeration and cool rooms, download the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage guide to industrial refrigeration (PDF, 4.77MB).

What else can you do?

Get recommendations for an energy upgrade project

Our energy upgrade tool does the hard work for you. It recommends opportunities and funding options, and calculates return on investment for your business.

Use the energy upgrade tool >

Upgrade your refrigeration system at a discount

You may be eligible for discounted energy-efficiency products and services, including refrigeration, through the Victorian Energy Upgrade program.

To get started, contact an accredited provider.

Then, you can pay for the remaining cost with energy-specific finance

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