Commercial refrigeration like any other appliance at your disposal requires a specific atmosphere in order to operate optimally. The evolution of a modern fridge has seen many changes and additions to the design, all in an effort to make it better and improve performance and efficiency. The fridge you are using now is nothing like the one that was being used 20 years ago. It is more energy-efficient, offers more space and can probably preserve food better than its predecessors.
Each piece of commercial refrigeration is now designed to not only serve different purposes but to also operate in different spaces and in different parts of the world under differing conditions.
This has created the need for regulations which require that manufacturers include proper labelling in the form of Minimum Energy Performance Standards (or MEPS) as part of responsible manufacturing and usage for efficiency purposes. Such labels should include the designated climate class.
Climate class in this situation is the maximum conditions in which equipment can operate effectively and efficiently.
Types of Climate Class
There are different climate classes which dictate the temperature and humidity that a fridge will work in. A quick look behind the refrigerator/freezer will reveal the climate class designated to the unit. This allows one to properly pick a fridge/freezer that will serve according to their relevant space.
There are four major climate classes that you are more likely to encounter on your fridge. They include:
This is designated for equipment that can run in a normal ambient climate range of +16C to +32C. This climate class supports the energy-saving class of refrigerators. These use small amounts of electricity and are more popular in domestic installations.
This is designated for fridges that can operate in tropical (dry) areas of temperatures ranging between +18C to +43C. With these kinds of fridges, you will most likely find plenty of thermal insulation. This means that the walls will be thicker in order for them to properly maintain low optimum temperatures. Additionally, they usually have a strong and high performing compressor and are more likely to use biologically stable elements in order to prevent fungus and rot. You are more likely to find these in a commercial kitchen.
These are suitable for Subnormal climates with temperatures ranging between +10C to +32C. Fridges that come with this rating are better equipped to operate in colder rooms, or places with lower temperatures than normal. This characteristic makes such a unit ideal for a basement. This kind of fridge is mostly used in industrial processes.
This denotes fridges that operate in subtropical climates. These are usually climates that have hot and humid conditions. They can operate in temperatures ranging between +18C to +38C. They do not do well in cold areas.
Given the different climatic conditions around the world, and the fact that some areas experience a wider temperature range, it is at times hard to unanimously appoint a certain climate class to a fridge.
Most manufacturers have to account for these variables. They have, therefore, created the need to develop refrigeration that meets different climate classes for both economic and efficiency reasons. These classes include:
This rating denotes fridges that operate in ambient temperatures of between +16C to +38C
The temperature range for this refrigeration model is +16C to +43C
This labelling is mostly found on universal refrigerators, those that can be used in any kind of climate. They can operate in ambient temperatures ranging between +10C to +43C.
This is usually assigned to refrigerators that can operate in subnormal and subtropical climates. They can easily operate in ambient temperatures of +10C to +38C.
In commercial refrigeration, climate classes are also assigned numbers, with each number designed to represent the ambient temperature and relative humidity (RH) conditions the fridge or freezer can operate in. This helps business owners make the right choice depending on their commercial kitchens where maximum preservation of food is needed at all times. The classes are divided into three namely:
Climate Class 3 - This fridge can operate in maximum ambient temperatures of 25C with 60% RH
Climate Class 4 - This fridge can operate in maximum ambient temperatures of 30C with 55% RH
Climate Class 5 - This fridge can operate in maximum ambient temperatures of 40C with 40% RH
Top Tip: if you are running a busy kitchen where ingredients and food items need to be preserved yet kept close at hand for efficiency, always choose a climate class 4 or higher rated fridge or freezer.
Determining Climate Classes and what it means for the Equipment
Every refrigerator is designed to operate in different conditions. Before any labelling is done, a fridge has to go through a series of tests to ensure that they can effectively operate in their designated environment. Manufacturers carry out these tests within a climatic chamber which mimics the different climatic conditions that the equipment will be subjected to.
Normally, this involves manually controlling temperature and humidity. The testing for climate class is not in any way related to any testing that might be carried out inside the fridge. This kind of testing only aims at determining whether the fridge or freezer can operate in a pre-determined environment.
The fridge is tested over a period of 48-72 hours during which it is periodically opened and the temperature logged into the testing software. Conditions inside the climatic chamber vary from one fridge to another due to the difference in materials. For example, a fridge built for ST and T climatic conditions will have more insulation, a bigger condenser and more powerful compressor.
Proper labelling of the climate class is important for the following reasons.
- It allows for more efficient usage of the equipment. Placing your unit in an atmosphere is not intended for can cause damage to the unit. For example, a fridge designated for tropical climate will fail to properly preserve your food if placed in a cold room.
- It prevents excessive energy consumption. Placing equipment in the wrong atmospheric conditions will mean it has to work harder to compensate for the difference thus using more electricity.
- It helps reduce maintenance cost. Refrigeration is more likely to fail in the event they are overworked. Considering that your fridge could be one of the most expensive pieces of equipment you have, getting it repaired could cost you a lot of money.
Relationship between Climate Class and MEPS
MEPS otherwise known as the Minimum Energy Performance Standard works to limit the maximum amount of energy a product consumes during operation. MEPS is widely being accepted by different countries across Europe as a standard quality measure to ensure that the use of fridges, freezers, and other cooling equipment does not lead to excessive wastage energy.
During testing, manufacturers check the energy and temperature performance of the units before designating a scale of A+++ to G. G represents the lowest energy performance while A+++ represents the highest-ranking product.
It is important to note that while most units might look alike, they might not have the same MEPS rating due to the nature of the testing and differing underlying features and construction.
There are many factors that could affect how efficiently a refrigerator runs in a commercial kitchen. From human factors to environmental factors, all these come together to determine how much energy the unit will consume at the end of the day.
Left unchecked, these factors can greatly affect energy usage and lead to excessive energy consumption which will, in turn, lead to high energy costs.
The climate class relates to the atmospheric, or ambient conditions outside the fridge or freezer. These conditions determine how much energy the unit will utilise in specific environments. For example, having a unit that is designed for subnormal temperatures in an excessively hot kitchen will affect the way the unit works thus affecting the minimum energy performance.
It is possible to avoid this by buying equipment with the right climate class label for your intended positioning. Additionally, having a unit with the right MEPS rating will help reduce energy consumption.
Why Adhere to Climate Class Guidelines?
There are a number of guidelines related to climate class and how you use your fridge or freezer in a commercial kitchen. These have been put in place to ensure that you are able to enjoy the efficiency that comes with having the right unit for your requirements. Investing in the correctly rated equipment for your intended purpose is vital.
It is possible to ignore the energy class guidelines and work with whatever fridge you come across, however, there are a number of reasons why you should always be adhering to these guidelines
- It reduces the amount of energy the unit consumes thus saving you money in energy bills throughout the year.
- Your fridge will fail to properly cool your ingredients and food items if placed in the wrong environment. This will lead to the loss of stock.
- Your fridge or freezer’s parts are designed for specific environments. Placing them in the wrong environment exerts more strain on components leading to them breaking down which raises maintenance cost and could cause lasting damage to your fridge.
- Adhering to these guidelines help maintain the lifespan of your fridge or freezer.
A lot can happen in your commercial kitchen in a day. Considering the conditions your fridge or freezer will be subjected to and having a properly rated unit will save you money. It will also ensure that you continue to provide the best services to your customers at all times without negatively affecting the environment.